Proposal accepted 18th European Conference on Reading

Just received acceptance of my proposal to do a workshop at the 18th European Conference on Reading Jönköping, Sweden, 6-9 August 2013  ” On behalf of the Coordinating Committee of the 18th European Conference on Reading, we are very pleased to inform you that your proposal has been accepted. Type of presentation: Workshop”. One of the key note speakers will be Donald Leu. Very happy with that. Hope to be able to talk with one of the founding fathers of research on online reading comprehension. Join us at the conference!  Go here for more details.

Abstract proposal workshop
In our daily practice we experience that a lot of students find it difficult to find, evaluate, choose and understand information online. PISA (2009) tells us that, “ on average among 15-year-olds who have grown up in a “wired” world, 18% have serious difficulties navigating through the digital environment, (…). And in some countries these percentages are much larger” (OECD, 2011). In some countries the level of offline reading comprehension (reading texts on paper) is much higher than the level of online reading comprehension, while in other countries it’s the other way around. So online and offline reading comprehension seem to be a different ballgame. Already a decade ago the RAND Reading Study Group reported, “[E]lectronic texts that incorporate hyperlinks and hypermedia . . . require skills and abilities beyond those required for the comprehension of conventional, linear print”” — (Coiro, 2011, p. 3). And the International Reading Association tells us “ (…) that traditional definitions of reading, writing, and communication, and traditional definitions of best practice instruction—derived from a long tradition of book and other print media—are insufficient in the 21st century.” (International Reading Association, 2009, p. 2) The IRA tells us also that  “Literacy educators have a responsibility to integrate these new literacies into the curriculum to prepare students for successful civic participation in a global environment.” — (International Reading Association, 2009, p. 2)
OK, but how? Most teachers find it difficult to understand what’s different in Online Reading Comprehension and what we can do to make this a part of our curriculum. And that’s understandable, because there is not very much information available for classroom teachers. Donne Alverman tells us that for “classroom teachers, teacher educators, and researchers whose work is focused at the middle and high school level [online reading comprehension  JC] is rarely a topic of discussion in practitioner journals, or at least in the ones I read on a regular basis.” — (Alvermann, 2008, p. 9)

I would like to discuss Online Reading Comprehension with teachers in an interactive workshop setting. We will talk about the difference between Online and Offline Reading Comprehension, our challenges and fears, our daily practice, and the possibilities to include this in our classrooms and maybe even possibilities to collaborate.

Alvermann, D. E. (2008). Why Bother Theorizing Adolescents’ Online Literacies for Classroom Practice and Research? Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 52(1), 8–19.
Coiro, J. L. (2011). Predicting Reading Comprehension on the Internet: Contributions of Offline Reading Skills, Online Reading Skills, and Prior Knowledge. Journal of Literacy Research, 1–42.
International Reading Association. (2009). New literacies and 21st century technologies: A position statement of the International Reading Association. Newark, DE: Author.
OECD. (2011). PISA 2009 Results: Students On Line (Vol. VI, p. 395). OECD Publishing.

Is Online Reading Comprehension a different ball game?

Recently I was invited by Victoria Risko, current President of the International Reading Association, to contribute, as a guest blogger, to her Presidential Blog. She was very interested in what I had to say, as a teacher and researcher, about Digital Literacy or Online Reading Comprehension. My blog post came online on April, 4. You can read it online or you can read it here. Looking forward to you comments.

Is Online Reading Comprehension a different ballgame? Challenges for language teachers.

As a language teacher I get a bit nervous reading the 2009 Position statement of the International Reading Association “ To become fully literate in today’s world, students must become proficient in the new literacies of 21st-century technologies. As a result, literacy educators have a responsibility to effectively integrate these new technologies into the curriculum, preparing students for the literacy future they deserve ” I don’t really know what they are talking about and what I have to do.

In the research literature we find that students do not have the skills to understand and use properly digital information. PISA says in the PISA 2009 Results: Students On Line: Digital Technologies and Performance that, “ on average among 15-year-olds who have grown up in a “wired” world, 18% have serious difficulties navigating through the digital environment, which means that these students may find it difficult completing their studies and, later on, looking and applying for work, filling out forms to pay their taxes (…) . And in some countries these percentages are much larger” The thing that’s puzzles me here is that in some countries the level of offline reading comprehension (reading texts on paper) is much higher than the level of online reading comprehension, while in other countries it’s the other way around. So online and offline literacy seem to be a different ballgame. This means that we, as literacy teachers have to know what’s the difference and what we can do about it.

But what are we talking about? A lot of terms are coming up frequently: 21st century skills, new literacies, digital literacy, ICT literacy, media literacy, … It is getting confusing. Dough Belshaw wrote a very interesting thesis / dissertation on Digital Literacy in which he says that the concept of digital literacy differs considerably in different parts of the world and is very ambiguous. I agree with Donna Alvermann when she says ” Yet theorizing the role of these online literacies and the implications they may have for classroom teachers, teacher educators, and researchers whose work is focused at the middle and high school level is rarely a topic of discussion in practitioner journals, or at least in the ones I read on a regular basis.”

And we know that educational change doesn’t happen overnight. We, teachers, will only change our practices if we know what online reading comprehension is, why change is necessary, and what the obstacles and challenges are. For instance, in the Netherlands, nothing happens. In the attainment goals on literacy in education on all levels, digital literacy or online reading comprehension isn’t mentioned at all. There is only some mentioning of being ICT literate or using information skills, which is a very broad term, not related to literacy specifically and ‘ so 20th century ’. While tasks are digital and even the testing is online nowadays. How about other countries? Tell me.

The nice thing is that in the autumn of my professional life – I have been in education for over 30 years – I wanted to have a new challenge. I can see the rapid changes in the way people communicate in the 21st century. I also see that education is not ready to deal with these changes. Education didn’t step into the 21st century yet. So, I looked for grants and got a few. So I started a PhD research on Digital Literacy for two days a week. I will work as a language teacher for 50% of my time at Helen Parkhurst, and be a researcher for the other 50% at the University of Twente. I love combining both.

Studying Digital Literacy, new literacies and such, I decided to narrow things down, so I could better focus on the things I think a literacy teacher needs to know. Digital Literacy is to broad a concept for me, I want to look at Online Reading Comprehension.

I want to share two insights with you and give you something to read. 
First thing is what I learned from Julie Coiro, Donald Leu and a lot of their colleagues is that for online reading comprehension and new literacies in general one needs some new skills (like dealing with linked texts), but also many of the old (offline) reading skills and strategies, but in more complex ways. Coiro, Leu et all are looking at ways to assess these online reading skills by building a new assessment tool ORCA ( Online Reading Comprehension Assessment ) , and also looking at ways to teach online reading comprehension in the TICA Research Project ( Teaching Internet Comprehension to adolescents ) http://bit.ly/HaQsdr . They have written a lot of interesting articles on both subjects and edited a book that gives insight in recent research.
The second thing I want to share is what Rouet, Lowe, and Schnotz say about Understanding Multimedia Documents. They have edited a very interesting book in which they give an overview on research on this topic. It complements the handbook, mentioned earlier. One insight that helped me to get things more in perspective is looking at online reading comprehension as a complex interaction between individual, context and document characteristics. We know that we have many (1) new text genres (websites, blogs. ..), we know that’s there are (2) new skills and strategies involved and (3) the communicative tasks inside and outside schools are getting very ‘digital’.

I think here lays the challenge for the language teacher. Spend more time on different tasks students have to deal with, not only offline texts, work with the new skills and strategies we have to use in modern times and look at new text genres (work with blogs, websites ect ) This is a great challenge, but we have to learn a lot more about what it is and how to implement this in the classroom. And the researchers have to make new knowledge more accessible.
This means that we (and I’m in both teams now, language teacher and researcher) have share much more with each other. We have to leave the unclear terms behind us and focus on online reading comprehension. We have to listen to Donna Alvermann who says “ is rarely a topic of discussion in practitioner journals, or at least in the ones I read on a regular basis” and make some change here.
If we know what it is and what we can do, it’s a challenge. Otherwise it the new change we have to make. And then we don’t do it. I will be glad to participate.

References.
Coiro, J. L. (2011). Predicting Reading Comprehension on the Internet: Contributions of Offline Reading Skills, Online Reading Skills, and Prior Knowledge. Journal of Literacy Research, 1–42.
Coiro, J. L., & Kennedy, C. (2011). The Online Reading Comprehension Assessment (ORCA) Project: Preparing Students For Common Core Standards and 21st Century Literacies. Internal Publication The ORCA Project New Literacies Research Team.
Coiro, J. L., Knobel, M., Lankshear, C., & Leu, D. J. (2008). Handbook of Research on New Literacies. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Leu, D. J., Zawilinski, L., Castek, J., Banerjee, M., Housand, B., Liu, Y., & O Neil, M. (2007). What is new about the new literacies of online reading comprehension. In A. Berger, L. Rush, & J. Eakle (Eds.), Secondary school reading and writing: What research reveals for classroom practices. Chicago, IL: NCTE/NCRLL.
Rouet, J.-F., Lowe, R., & Schnotz, W. (2008). Understanding Multimedia Documents. (J.-F. Rouet, R. Lowe, & W. Schnotz, Eds.). Boston, MA: Springer US.

“Come, let us go down and confound their speech”

The last decade the world changed considerably. Very important changes are the digitalisation of information and the use of internet. This is a big challenge for education. In the media we read that we have to implement 21st century skills in our classrooms or improve the digital literacy of our students en ourselves. The EU, OESO, UNESCO, Pisa, White House tell us that. So it must be important.
But we know that educational change doesn’t happen overnight. And a teacher will only change his practice if he knows what it is we re talking about, why this is necessary, that it is not ‘ old wine in new bags’ as we say in The Netherlands and what the obstacles and challenges are.
Talking about incorporating ICT in the classrooms Ertmer & Ottenbreich say that teachers are reluctant (…) for a variety of reasons including the lack of relevant knowledge (…) , low self-efficacy (…) and existing belief systems (…)” .

Allen & van de Velden say in their Essay for the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science in the Netherlands ” The world is changing rapidly in a lot of ways, but the dominant change is in ICT. Changing technology has far-reaching implications for how we act and interact at work, in education, in civic life and at home. Furthermore, this change is in large part the driving force behind many of the other major changes, such as globalization, flexibilization and the polarization of the job structure. ” Allen, J., & van der Velden, R. (2011). Skills for the 21st Century: Implications for Education. We probably agree on this.

In the literature researchers say that students do not have the skills to understand and use properly digital information. In the PISA 2009 Results: Students On Line: Digital Technologies and Performance it says ” While the quality of online education is a subject of intense debate among educators, parents and students alike, what is no longer open to debate is the need for digital literacy. Are our children well-prepared to enter this technology-rich world? Not all do as well as you might expect from a crop of “digital natives”. The OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) [www.pisa.oecd.org] finds that, on average among 15-year-olds who have grown up in a “wired” world, 17% have serious difficulties navigating through the digital environment—which means that these students may find it difficult completing their studies and, later on, looking and applying for work, filling out forms to pay their taxes or even reserving a seat on a train. And in some countries these percentages are much larger.”

But which skills are we talking about? A lot of terms are coming up frequently: 21st century skills, digital literacy, ICT literacy, media literacy, …
The term 21st century skills is the broadest term. It relates to much more then to Digital Literacy.
Organisations like Partnership for 21st century skills (P21), OECD en Assessment and Teaching of 21st century skills (ATCS) have done research. Voogt & Roblin looked into the research and conclude that 21st century skills can be divided into 7 competencies: Collaboration, Problem Solving, ICT literacy, Creativity, Critical Thinking, Communication and Social and cultural skills. And ICT plays a central role in 21st century skills. Voogt, J. & N. Pareja Roblin (2009) (in Dutch)

Lets zoom in on ICT literacy. This is also not a term that is simple. There are at least two ways to look at this: Media Literacy ( skills / attitudes concerning new media like video, blogs and media wisdom: privacy, bullying etc) and Digital Literacy (skills to search, choose, understand and actively use digital information). The latter perspective I will use in my further research.

So we, as educators, get confused. When I speak to colleagues, read tweets and blogs it shows that many teachers don’t really have a good understanding of the problem we have to face, how important this is and how we can deal with this. I agree with Alvermann when she says ” Yet theorizing the role of these online literacies and the implications they may have for classroom teachers, teacher educators, and researchers whose work is focused at the middle and high school level is rarely a topic of discussion in practitioner journals, or at least in the ones I read on a regular basis.”

It looks like the problem of Babel in the Bible. God looked at a united humanity of the generations following the Great Flood, speaking a single language and migrating from the east. God came down to see what they did and said: “They are one people and have one language, and nothing will be withholden from them which they purpose to do.” So God said, “Come, let us go down and confound their speech.” And so God scattered them upon the face of the Earth, and confused their languages, and they left off building the city, which was called Babel “because God there confounded the language of all the Earth.” (Genesis 11:5-8). (Tower of babel)
But looking at the terminological confusion nowadays we have nobody to blame.

And as a language teacher I get a bit nervous reading the 2009 Position statement of the International Reading Association ” To become fully literate in today’s world, students must become proficient in the new literacies of 21st-century technologies. As a result, literacy educators have a responsibility to effectively integrate these new technologies into the curriculum, preparing students for the literacy future they deserve.” What shall I do?

So the first thing I have planned is looking at the WHAT question: what are we talking about. I have planned to write a booklet for teachers so we know what we are talking about. This means first a literature study.
After that I will ask the teachers what they know, their attitude, the obstacles and challenges they see, using a survey.

Feedback and help is appreciated.

Alvermann, D. E. (2008). Why Bother Theorizing Adolescents’ Online Literacies for Classroom Practice and Research Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 52(1), 8–19.
Ertmer, P. A., & Ottenbreich-Leftwich, A. T. (2010). Teacher Technology Change: How Knowledge, Confidence, Beliefs, and Culture Intersect. Journal of Research on Technology in Education (JRTE), 42(3), 255–284.
OECD. (2011). PISA 2009 Results: Students On Line. OECD Publishing.