The New York Times recently published a thought-provoking article by Motoko Rich titled, “Literacy Debate – Online, R U Really Reading?” which outlines “what it means to read in the digital age.”
Rich notes that while some reading experts have found that spending significant amounts of time on the Internet has little impact (or may even diminish) literacy, other scholars state that spending time surfing the Internet actually improves literacy (especially within groups of children that would otherwise not read if it weren’t for the appeal of the Internet). Despite the spectrum of opinions on this topic, it is a bit difficult to wade through the research, as everyone has a slightly different definition of what literacy is. Furthermore, very few schools actually assess digital reading in any systematic way, although this trend is changing as Rich points out:
Next year, for the first time, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which administers reading, math and science tests to a sample of 15-year-old students in more than 50 countries, will add an electronic reading component. The United States, among other countries, will not participate. A spokeswoman for the Institute of Education Sciences, the research arm of the Department of Education, said an additional test would overburden schools.
Regardless of whether or not the US participates in such assessments any time soon, I think most of us agree that it is important that we teach children from an early stage how to assess, synthesize and utilize digital information. So, as you are thinking about how to incorporate digital literacy lessons into your curricula this fall, take a look at this diagram (provided by the New Literacies Research Lab at the University of Connecticut). The diagram provides a great overview of the skills children (and adults) need to become competent digital readers. For example, online readers must learn to: open a web browser, locate a search engine, type key words or phrases, scan the search results, assess the source, open multiple windows, etc… Take a peak at the diagram and pass this article along to a friend!