As a teacher and a reader, I love to learn new words. It expands my vocabulary and my understanding of things. I was blessed to learn new words and expand my understanding of the reading brain as I read the book, Reader, Come Home, by Maryanne Wolf. And as an added bonus, this book also amplified my view of teaching readers in the digital age.
I learned that I want my students to be “biliterate”, which means they will become “expert, flexible code switchers between print and digital mediums”. By teaching the students this skill, I will give them an important tool as they grow up in the Information Age.
This skill is important because the devices in our digital age can be a distraction – children spend a LOT of time looking at screens on phones, computers, iPads, etc. They attend to their devices and then to their environment in “continuous partial attention”, a term coined back in 1998 by Linda Stone at Microsoft.
This is type of behavior is challenging our children’s development of cognition, which is important, right? We know that children learn to focus their attention with ever more concentration and duration from infancy through adolescence. Sadly, learning to concentrate is an ever more difficult challenge in a culture where distraction is omnipresent.
So, I want to give my students the skills to address this challenge. I can do this by creating a curriculum that includes both print and digital:
- Print: I have always preferred reading in print to text on a screen, and I notice that the majority of students feel the same way. As mentioned in her book, Wolf says that “reading in print . . . adds important tactile associations in the young reading circuit, and provides the best possible social and emotional interaction.” We want children to think and read deeply in order to develop their capacity to form their own ideas and form a foundation of knowledge.
- Digital: But I also want to give my students something called “digital wisdom”, which Wolf explains is “learning how to make good decisions about content and also how to self-regulate and check their attention and ability to remember what they have read during online reading.”
My goal is to guide students to develop the capacity to allocate their time and attention to deep-reading skills regardless of the medium. That would be the best of all possible worlds.