e-Reading and e-Responses

Larson, L (2010) Digital Readers. The next chapter in e-Book reading and response.  The  Reading Teacher. 64(1) 15-22

Larson, L. (2009) Digital Literacies: e-reading an e-responding. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 25

Liu, A., Aamodt, S., Wolf, M., Gelernter, D., & Mark, G. (2009, October 14). Does the brain like e-books?. Retrieved from http://roomfordebate.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/10/14/does-the-brain-like-e-books/5-258.

Weigle, M. & Gardner,  H. (2009) The best of both literacies. Educational Leadership. 38-41.

In order to facilitate 21st learners, we are going to have to become 21st teachers.  One of the ways we as educators maybe able to accomplish this are to incorporate digital literacies through multimodal means.  The meaning of what constitutes text has been altered as e-reading has expanded.  Up until recently, text was considered written material using symbols in forms such as books, magazines, and newspaper (Larson, 2009).   Now text is considered

“ a unit of communication that may take the form of something written down but also a chunk                 of discourse, for example speech, conversation, a radio program, a TV advert, text messing, a         photo in a newspaper, and so on (Larson, 2009).

Because of this broad interpretation of what text is, we are going to have to expand acceptance of text and find a way to incorporate this into teaching.  Literacy instruction is being altered by the introduction of information and communication technologies (ICTs).  Today’s students are being fed on a diet of instant access to information and communication with an audience with “no facial markers of facial expressions, voice or body language” where messages can be blurred unintentionally (Walther & Bazarova, 2007).  As educators we are going to have to learn how to adapt traditional teaching while teaching appropriate social etiquette and a sense of good/bad information when dealing with online material and other multimodalities (Weigel & Gardner, 2009).

While I feel that we as teachers are going to have to adapt our way of teaching to incorporate technology I also feel that we have to be careful how we teach with e-readers.  I feel that young readers need to become rooted in traditional text to help develop those reading circuits that go beyond merely decoding words.  According to Mary Ann Wolf, the human brain was not created to read, and it is the constant exposure to printed text that helps create those reading circuits over years.  It is the ability to go back and re-read, flip through actual pages to allow those milliseconds of automaticity to be established with young readers that in turn free the brain to comprehend and think and develop opinions and inferences of its own (Wolf, 2009).  The effects of long term constant exposure and learning to read using multi modal devices  has not been researched because we have not had the this type of technology around long enough to assess these results.

According to Weigel and Gardner, there are both caveats and benefits to digital reading.  The downside to using digital reading as an only means of accessing and learning information is that it does not allow much deep reading of material.  Often on line material may be biased, based on who published the article, the information may be untrue and could possibly change on a daily basis (link there today, gone tomorrow) (Weigel and Gardner, 2009). Other dangers of e-reading is the constant beckoning of hyper links, advertisements and just being distracted by the thought of what else can I look up?   This constant hopping through text creates what Seymour Papert (1994) deemed the grasshopper mind.  The grasshopper mind can also be a challenge for educators because they feel they have to constantly “entertain” their students in order to keep them fully engaged and on task.   In the debating article, Does the Brain like e-books, David Gelernter, gives the argument that as long as books are cheap, they will remain.  He also reminds us that “ It’s up to us to remember that the medium is not the message; that the meaning and music of the words is what matters, not the glitzy vehicle they arrive in (Gelernter, 2009).  With that in mind, e-readers should not replace books or quality teachers, but be use to enhance reading and learning for both students and teachers.

With that being said, I also feel that there is a place for digital learning to enhance education.  E-books in general have the possibility to be able to give extra support to be able reach students on their individual levels and increase their interest in reading.  e-Books gives the reader an ability to interact with text with the use of highlighting features, sticky notes and other ways to manipulate the text such like the read aloud features. (Larson, 2009).   Students are also able to adjust the font size, access built in dictionaries, take notes as they read, and activate text to speech for unknown words in a passage.  These features helped the students in the small study discussed   in Larson’s article (Larson, 2010).  I also think these interactions may be an effective way to of hooking the students into reading.

Another appealing feature of e-books for late elementary, early adolescent readers is the fact that the books are constantly entertaining and more interactive than standard paper books.  But is this feature of e-books/e-readers also the caveat that is making our society, especially young children more attention deficit than ever?   Socrates was worried that exposure to written text would impair society’s ability to think on their own and be able to make intelligent decisions based on being able to decipher good/bad information.  How are we as educators going to have to adjust our instruction to meet the needs of students who are obliviously much more comfortable and accepting of the use of technology in order to read and obtain information?

As I read these articles I contemplate how e-Readers can give my students with disabilities access to information through audio and video that they could not otherwise access.  But does this make them better readers or just more informed students?  Students are so in tune and excited with using technology they see e-readers as a new tool to be constructivist learners that Weigel and Gardner mention in their article. But I will also deliberate whether it is the novelty of using a new cool, tool, rather than the true appreciation for the task of reading that sparks the student’s interest in e-reading, as was the case for Minnie and Amy in Larson’s article, where the girls were willing to forego the sentimental values and physical comfort (such as cozying up to a good book, discomfort of reading text on line, eye strain, etc.)  in reading traditional text for the “coolness factor” that reading on the Kindle afforded them (Larson, 2010).


As you may be able to tell from my response I am still on the fence about the overwhelming siege of technology through iPads, Kindles, Nooks, Active Boards and such.  I am on the boat, but not ready to completely set sail on the technology wave.  I do realize that I need to incorporate technology into my lessons, but sometimes get a little overwhelmed with the task of where to start into an already crazy juggling act of teaching four grades.  I take it as a personal responsibility to equip my students with technology skills that will be required of them to be able to access the world around them.  I personally do not have much experience actually using e-books or doing e-reading in my classroom.  I have used Tumblebooks in my classroom as a variation for a read aloud.  Our school system just recently purchased   iPads for some teachers and I was one of the chosen few to get this device.  I am still working on incorporated it into my lessons, since I have only had it for about a few weeks.  There are times I feel overwhelmed myself with the number of websites and apps that can be investigated and used in the classroom.  Sometimes I do not feel like I have enough time to really check out the enormous plethora of information that is out there, but I am working on it and trying to collaborate with other colleagues that I consider much more tech savvy than myself.

Response to Toon Books and Inanimate Alice

Both of these articles have features of e-books that the Larson mentions in the article Digital Literacies, e-Reading and e-Responding: New Tools for the Next Generation of Readers.  Both of these websites definitely use multimodal features such as video, audio and interaction and choices within the text.

Toon Books

I chose to read several of the Toon Books.  I felt that the characteristic that would interest my students is the fact that they are written in somewhat of a graphic novel form and the speech bubble is highlighted when it is read aloud.  I think I have students that would find the text being read aloud beneficial, and others would choose to turn it off.  One thing about the read aloud feature is that I feel the speed was fast for slower readers to truly following along in order to help them with fluency and learning how to read the words themselves.    Personally, I thought the content of the stories was a little unusual.  I chose to read Benny and Penny and the Toy Breaker by Geoffrey Hayes and Stinky by Eleanor Davis.    One interesting thing about these books is that they are read by the authors, which could be a neat feature to explain to students.    The other interesting feature is that is written in several languages, which would also be helpful for some ESL students to compare English to other languages.

Inanimate Alice

Although I think this story is dark and creepy, I could also see this appealing to adolescent age students, especially girls.  I may be missing something, but I do not fully understand where her parents are and what they do.  Is her father a spy?  The shaky text is sometimes hard to read and when to click to continue is not always clear.  The interesting thing is that she goes all over the world and gives a somewhat different perspective of different cultures and the story ages as she does.  I think this story would definitely be for upper elementary and older students.



3 responses »

  1. Lori,

    I am also on the fence about the abundance and variety of e-readers now available. I loved your description, “I am on the boat, but not ready to completely set sail on the technology wave.” I completely understand that! It can seem sometimes like there is just not enough time in the day. I am sure you really feel that way, especially since you are teaching four grades…wow! I am also trying to learn about the various technologies that students are accessing, so that I can utilize them in my classroom. I wonder if more schools will realize the importance of training their staff on new technology or even the technology that is already present. I know some teachers who have Smart Boards but have no idea how to use them because they have never been trained. It is great that you are already working with tech savvy colleagues.

    – Stacy Durham

  2. Lori-

    Reading for the “coolness” factor is exactly why some of my kids like to read on their e-readers. They say it’s cool, or makes you popular. Probably one of the coolest things I witnessed last week with one of my EC students on his e-reader was the “coolness” factor. He was showing off his new e-reader, and of course everyone loved it. It had a nice cover for it that had his name on the back…top dollar stuff here. Well he came to show it to me during break, and he pointed out how he was able to get online to my reading website I have paid for and read the books on his level anywhere he goes. He said all he needed was headphones and no one would know what I am reading or listening to because all they care is that I have a cool e-reader. I smiled at him and was so proud of him for wanting to show me his reading app and how excited he was to be able to read more. To me, this is the advantage of e-readers. You can read what you want without anyone knowing what you are reading. If you are actually holding the hardback or paperback book, people can see what you are reading. On an e-reader, they just see the case or just your e-reader. This could take leveled reading to another level, in a direction I think could be positive. I figured with you being in EC you could possibly relate to the fact of the kids being ashamed or embarrassed to carrying around a 1st grade book when they are in an upper grade.

    -Amanda Solesbee

    • Amanda,

      I had not really thought when my kids read on a e-reader that it is “private” so it would give them the opportunity to practice reading. We do not have access to e-readers at our school, just my iPad, and my kids certainly cannot afford them on their own. You are right, I can relate to my kids being ashamed because of their reading level, especially as the get older. They realize that they have been reading on the same level for several years.

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