Online Reading Comprehension: Digital or New Literacy(ies)?
LABELING AND DEFINING LITERACY IN 2016
Regarding the use of the terms digital literacy singular or plural and the terms new literacies,my understanding of Hammerberg’s work points to an answer to the question of of plurality or singularity in that one should question, the scope of the media, the culture involved and the type of media itself that needs to be examined for decoding, coding and fluency. Hammerberg also sees that there are a set of assumptions that privilege certain media, primarily print media: “including, but not limited to, assumptions about (a) the power and necessity of a particular kind of print literacy…” It would seem to me that such a bias would reinforce the hegemony of the world view of the most literate of cultures (who also happen to have been superpowers in the last two hundred years), Great Britain, Germany and the United States.
Another reason for speaking in terms of plurality or singularity is addressed by Alvermann in which she makes clear that only certain types of studies are accepted in understanding literacy. So I think it’s clear that the plural language and modelling is more accurate because the cultural and professional bias is likely to not to enjoy the reality that life is messy and the non-antiseptic approaches certain theorists take, like my LEAP scholar Brian K. Street are onto something with their multimodal receptivity to literacy however it comes to the open minded researcher. Brene Brown’s TED Talk on the Power of Vulnerability is a good counterweight to the theorists and institutions Alvermann names as too selective. Brown wanted results for her research that could be organized and put into a Bento box. She discovered much more when the dust didn’t settle.
- What are some of the things that some people believe are “new” about literacy and would you agree or disagree and why?
I think one of the most powerful demonstrations of the “new” is what Julie Coiro and Elizabeth Dobler identify as the shift in reading from “not only purpose, task, and context but also as a process of self-directed text construction (Coiro & Dobler, 2007) that occurs as readers navigate their own paths through an infinite informational space” This is “intellectual capital” at a speed before unknown (I speak to the other side of speed later) but also in a most democratizing fashion. Whereas banks “lend money into existence” our online reading generates new texts into existence and that can be done in the service of the common good.
- Is there any benefit to talking about these processes as online reading comprehension or digital inquiry, or does it create more confusion?
I don’t think it makes more confusion to use either of these terms as they both describe processes that are unique in relation to each other and unique in terms of their outcomes. Julie Coiro’s presentation at Medellin included enough statistical evidence and rationale one might need to rightly judge that online reading comprehension has its own form, its own set of challenges and its own opportunity for learners.
- Does the use of uppercase and lowercase ways of thinking about new literacies (as described by Leu et al, 2013) add clarity or muddy the waters? Which term do you prefer and why?
I don’t think the two styles of naming this emergent discipline are problematic. In a world that has as many institutions of higher learning as it does, we need to name complex realities with complex sets of terms. The general principles listed as the main outline of New Literacies studies need to be enunciated by a group of scholars who want to think holistically and paradigmatically, hopefully with the willingness to adapt to what new technologies will bring in the future to fine tune or even invert assumptions. It seems to me the terms New Literacies and the lowercase counterparts are analogous to the struggle Brian K Street and other ethnographically oriented researchers have with the more ivory tower type theoreticians. Street and others like him are willing to do the same type of work lowercase new literacy practitioners do that ultimately inform.
IMPLICATIONS FOR TEACHING AND LEARNING
No matter what you call them, do you think the online reading/digital literacy skills, strategies, practices, and mindsets outlined in your readings from Week 4 and 5 are more, less, or equally important for today’s students compared to those related to offline reading comprehension, vocabulary, and/or fluency (as discussed in reading from Weeks 1-3)? Please explain your reasoning. How might your new thinking about these ideas impact the way you design and implement your instruction of digital literacy and/or online reading comprehension?
In order to answer that question I think it’s necessary to consider how little traditional reading students are doing today beyond that which is assigned to them by teachers. My context again, is an all boys Catholic high school in the Boston area. I have taught both honors and accelerated classes for the last seven years of my eighteen year career. Students I have encountered seem to read less and less each year. Asking them if they read anything during the summer for pleasure usually comes with the same answer in the negative. So I think that it is equally important to learn these new skills as it is to learning how to succeed offline reading comprehension and fluency.
When I look back at Duke and Pearson’s (2002) list of practices of good readers I see a very impressive list of skills, ones I know are within reach of the vast majority of human beings. But the New Literacies list of principles does not seem to recognize a single problem or trade off that constitutes the existence of the Internet. Stating that the Internet is deictic is descriptive and not evaluative in any philosophical or moral sense. Through certain moral lenses one could say that the Internet’s deictic quality is a form of relativism, where everything is dependent on everything else but there are no first principles where does that lead us? If the Internet is just one vast semi-organized digital encyclopedia, that does fit into one model of Alasdair MacIntyre’s Three Rival Visions of Moral Enquiry: Encyclopaedia, Genealogy, and Tradition. Is that a naïve assessment in that it does not take into consideration the power of certain search engines, certain websites and certain corporations to thinly veil their own intentions for such a large swath of humanity (considering the 2.4 billion figure quoted in the article by Leu, et. al.)
A second problem or dynamic not mentioned in the New Literacies list of principles is that accounts for spatial dimensions, and one time dimension “The Internet is this generation’s defining technology for literacy and learning within our global community.” But never mind the dimension of a generation for a moment and consider the Internet and the instant. And this goes back to my original point about my owns students. Is the Internet good, bad or both, when it comes to instant gratification and fostering or reinforcing impatience in individuals and society? I enjoy the benefits myself very much but I have had arguments with students who have been asked to use an online database with a peer reviewed article as opposed to just getting the first pdf of an article by someone who has an opinion and just maybe a scholar. That being said, I’m not looking to design curriculum, lessons or that would exclude online reading, but I would want students to see that the whole continuum of media currently remains worthwhile in having exposure to and that more up-to-date online sources with multimedia embedded may do a good job in highlighting the static or stagnant information found offline in older sources. My ultimate concern I think is not in the collection of data and how that may be highly efficient with access to the Internet, but rather that in taking to heart the work done by Duke and Pearson in formulating a clear set of human skills that absolutely crucial to strong comprehension, students are not given the opportunity to NOT take apparent short cuts in the acquisition of knowledge and skilled literacy. While Duke and Pearson do not delineate the time required to master any one of the skills they list, it is clear that it does not happen in the same manner or same speed at which we can find plenty of content on any topic, issue or interest. If there is a Slow Food movement http://www.slowfood.com/ and some have argued for a Slow Sex movement, http://www.commondreams.org/views/2008/02/09/slow-sex-moving-toward-informed-pleasure
Then why not have a Slow Online Read Movement that allows the traditional skills find their way through this kaleidoscope of online information.
Alvermann, D. (2003). Exemplary literacy instruction in grades 7-12: What counts and who's counting. In J. Flood and P. Anders (Eds.), Literacy development of students in urban schools: Research and policy (pp. 187-201), Newark, DE: International Reading Association.
Coiro, J. (October, 2013) Online reading comprehension challenges.
Brown, Brene. "The Power of Vulnerability." Brené Brown:. TED, June 2010. Web. 19 Oct. 2016. <https://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability?language=en>.
Castek, Coiro, Henry, Leu, & Hartman, 2015) Research on Instruction and Assessment in the New Literacies of Online Research and Comprehension.
Duke, N.K. & Pearson, P. D. (2002). Effective practices for developing reading comprehension. In What Research Has to Say About Reading Instruction, 3rd edition. International Reading Association.Leu, Kinzer, Coiro, Castek, & Henry, 2013. New Literacies: A dual level theory of the changing nature of literacy, instruction, and assessment