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Wednesday
Sep192012

From Print to Reading Digitally: What is and Should be Afforded?

 

Against the backdrop of a relatively large body of research that clearly defines the challenges of skilled reading of print, we are now at the turning point, where much, and soon most, of students’ reading of both informational and narrative texts will occur in digital environments either apps, e-books, or online. (For links on the wiki on digital reading practices http://tinyurl.com/6mx6vwl).

Although literacy researchers know a lot about reading print, we are just embarking on research programs involving digital reading that will allow us to complement or supplant what is already known about reading print in general and reading-to-learn in particular.  Leu and his colleagues (Leu & Kinzer, Leu, 2002, Leu et al., 2011) have aptly termed this relatively new phase of research deictic to acknowledge that these new digital literacies are elusive because they are so rapidly unfolding and evolving.  Just when we start to figure out a particular digital context and tools that make it possible, and study them, the whole milieu changes.

Here, we discuss digital reading by first discussing the features of digital texts that distinguish them from print texts.  We then use these differences to describe the literacy practices needed to read these texts.  Finally, we  use our description of these literacy practices to describe the use of apps designed to foster uses of these literacy practices.

 

1. Digital texts are often multimodal and increasingly more so.  Print occurs with other media in creative juxtapositions, with accompanying links or  navigation tools allowing readers to rapidly traverse modalities by linking to pictures, other graphics, and video.  For example, Wesley Fryer’s e-book, Playing with Media http://www.speedofcreativity.org/ebook includes links and videos about uses of a wide range of different digital media in the classroom.

As noted, these multimodal texts still include print and require the skills necessary in reading print, but it is likely that the proportion of print text to other media texts will decrease significantly in the immediate future. The key design decisions in creating educational apps and online tools will be selecting the balance of modalities to best represent information, position ideas within a conceptual domain, and incorporate ways of engaging learners to maximize their comprehension.

 

2.  Textoids are replacing longer printed discourse.  In online textbooks or course systems, as well as in more recent standalone e-textbooks, the amount of longer print discourse is decreasing as pieces of text are written more concisely or condensed into segments.  Originally, the term textoid was a negative one used to label short contrived texts used for comprehension tests.  These little texts were considered to be ecologically invalid--that is, they occurred only in tests, not in the real world of texts, contained too much information, and were not logically or linguistically linked to any other texts.  Now textoids are taking on a whole new life as integral reading bits presented to more flexibly introduce print with other media.  Text messages are textoids, and sms texts can be multimodal textoids.  

 

3.  Portable texts on portable devices are replacing static, standalone texts.  Up until now, students bought or rented textbooks and carried them back and forth to school.  Even the typical online versions of these have been merely electronic duplications of the pages using, for example, the .pdf format.  But with the more interactive digital reading and writing environments it is increasing likely that readers will assume writers’ stances, write responses to existing texts, or write texts in response to things they read, including peer texts and share their texts online.  

The term portable text eludes a standard definition.  Indeed Adobe’s portable document format, .pdf, embodies the original affordance.  A document that previously took the form of a printed stack of pages could be turned into an electronic document, an image of the print document, that could be easily transported as a file.  So a key part of the affordance of portable texts is being able to easily transport a text to others.  But the complementary and more compelling affordance is that you can continue to change the document, edit it, embellish it, insert queries into it, annotate it and then send it on.  The portable text is evolving as it “travels.”   

These portable texts are already everywhere--look no further than texting.  And look at how they appear and are elaborated upon and reconstructed in social networking.  Portable texts, like the more commercially written counterparts, are usually textoids rather than longer discourse.  But the fact that they are communally constructed, reconstructed, and shared is a huge contrast to static standalone texts that have prevailed for centuries.  

The other affordance is that portable texts can be accessed and changed via portable devices (For an Infographic on uses of digital textbooks in the classroom

http://educationaltech-med.blogspot.com/2012/02/infographic-on-digital-classroom.html

For an Infographic on iPads versus textbooks

http://educationaltech-med.blogspot.com/2012/02/ipad-vs-textbooks-which-is-best-for.html).

 

         4. Readers prefer to acquire news on their mobile devices over print newspapers.  Readers also increasingly acquiring their news on their mobile devices, particularly iPads and iPhones.  A survey http://tinyurl.com/7xcomxw found that 88% of users prefer the iPad over all mobile devices for consuming news (Fidler, 2012).  For users 18 – 24 years old with iPads, 84% read news on their iPads for an average of 7.3 hours per week.  60% of all age-group iPad owners preferred reading news on their iPads over reading a print newspaper.

         This shift in how readers, particularly younger readers, are acquiring the news suggests that as school-age students become young adults, that they will also be using their devices for news consumption rather than print newspapers, requiring new and different ways of processing information than is the case with print text.

 

5.  Intertexts are becoming the nexus of meaning.  With the increase in textoids and the portability of these texts, for example, short news summaries on an iPad or iPhone, previous theories and frameworks for how readers comprehend what they read will be turned upside down since those theories relate to reading extended print organized in artifacts like chapters and textbooks.  In traditional notions of reading emphasis is placed on both the content and authority in single texts.  An important framework that we discuss in our book with relation to digital reading, reading e-textbooks and texts in apps, is intertextuality and intermediality.  

Historically, intertextuality considers any print text as part of the larger sociocultural context--the social textuality,  from which is was created.  Each text is both the absorption of and the transformation of another (Kristeva, 1980).  No reader interprets a single text without this broader social textuality and increasingly, readers are likely to change texts they encounter.  In the case of reading digital textoids in apps or online, or hyperlinking to texts, linking from print texts to media, and using as-you-go note taking and annotation tools in apps, the notion of intermediality--intertextuality with print and other media, applies.  

Understanding and learning are not simply the result of interacting with a single text, or even considering the text within the world of all texts that could have influenced it; rather, the construction of meaning happens from two sources, what Still & Worton (1990) called the double axis of intertexts: new texts enter the intertextual field via authors or via readers.  With portable texts, the number of authors and readers could increase almost exponentially.  So what a student learns and understands is more and more likely to be an intertextual composite rather than as something represented in a single text.  Put more technically, an individual learner’s understanding in this multimodal space, is the integrative, and transformative construction she or he makes from all of the multimodal texts--print, visual, video--read in the learning space (an e-book, an online site, an experience across sites) and interjects into the textual field based on her or his total textual experience.  The learning ramifications of this intermedial transformation are huge.

 The days of delving into a single, linear text are not gone, but they are on the wane.  The key to reading proficiently henceforth is more likely to be the ability to read intertextually, to integrate understanding, across web pages or sites, across e-textbook pages and media spaces, and to construct a new permanent representation via multimodal intertexts (van Meter & Firetto, 2008).  Put another way, reading proficiently, during the actual intermedial reading is the ability to maintain a coherent multimodal intertextual loop (Hayes-Roth & Thorndyke, 1979; van Meter & Firetto, 2008) building on one’s knowledge and understanding, and organizing that knowledge, as one read from text to text across modalities.  In the book we show how this proficiency is so new, and readers have so little practice at it, that it will need carefully planned support from knowledgeable teachers, especially given the wide range of design issues in new apps and other digital texts that might actually impede maintaining the loop.  

 

6.  Digital texts are situated and participatory. An important aspect of so-called new literacy studies (NLS) (Barton, 1994; Gee, 1996) is that reading, as well as writing and any other literate enactment, is a socially situated practice (Barton, 1994; Barton, Hamilton, & Ivanic, 2000; Gee, 1996) and is automatically linked to the social institutions and power relations that sustain it.  A text, then, is both an artifact of a practice that created it and a dynamic component of a situated practice in which it is read.  A chapter in a biology book represents officially approved, “scientifically based” research and accumulated knowledge synthesized and reported, in an officially approved and adopted textbook that is aligned to a school district’s standards.  

These “official knowledge” texts (Apple, 1993) comprise the bulk of what has been the key artifact of school curricula--textbooks.  In reading traditional textbooks, both teachers and students have implicitly agreed to one take on an immense, complex knowledge domain through one textual lens.  Against the backdrop of this institutionalized notion of reading, depending on the teacher, the lesson structure, the social dynamics of collaborative groups and the purposes and activities aligned with the reading, the practice of reading a text can be a very rich experience that varies across settings.  Digital reading, portable texts, and intermediality all question and critique the idea that officially represented knowledge is enough or even possible when learners-as-participants constantly construct new texts and modify existing texts even transforming printed renditions into multimodal forms.  

 

7.  e-book affordances enhance learning.  There are also some digital affordances of e-books not available with print texts that can serve to enhance learning (Gleeson, 2012).  Students can bookmark and highlight sections of a book for later reference and sharing with others.  They can then annotate these highlighted sections to create a repository of these annotations as well as share these annotations with others.  They can search a text for certain words or topics linked to outside reference texts such as Wikipedia, as well as look up word definitions.  And, in using PDF files, they can share and store files using DropBox or Google Docs, as well as employ different annotation tools such as GoodReader or Notability to add comments or drawing on these PDF files.

 

Within 5 years, give or take, the features of digital texts and digital reading will be at the forefront of curriculum planning in school districts and, hopefully, factor strongly into how we assess students’ proficiencies in school.  These features and the processes they engender will also be the topic of a lot of exciting research.  We can’t wait and will plan to post a lot of it here or otherwise connect you with it. 

 

 References

Apple, M. W. (1993). Official knowledge: Democratic education in a conservative age. New York: Routledge.

Barton, D. (1994). Literacy:  An introduction to the ecology of written language.  Cambridge, MA: Blackwell.

Barton, D., & Hamilton, M. (2000). Literacy practices. In D. Barton, M. Hamilton & R. Ivanic (Eds.), Situated Literacies:  Reading and writing in context (pp. 7-15). London: Routledge.

Fidler, R. (2012). Survey description: 2012 RJI Mobile Media News Consumption

Survey. Columbia, MO: Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute, University of Missouri.

Retrieved July 19, 2012 from http://tinyurl.com/7xcomxw

Gee, J. P. (1996). Social linguistic and literacies:  Ideology in discourses (2nd ed.). Bristol, PA: Taylor & Francis.

Gleeson, M. (2012). iPads (or other devices) and literature circles – co-starring Edmodo. Mr. G Online. Retrieved April 7, 2012 from http://mgleeson.edublogs.org/2012/04/03/ipads-and-literature-circles

Hayes-Roth, B., & Thorndyke, P. H. (1979). Integration of knowledge from text. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 18(1), 91-108.

Kristeva, J. (1980). Desire in language:  A semiotic approach to literature and art. New York: Columbia University Press.

Leu, D. J. J., & Kinzer, C. K. (2000). The convergence of literacy instruction with networked technologies  for information and communication. Reading Research Quarterly, 35(1), 108-127.

Leu, D. J. (2002). The new literacies:  research on reading instruction with the internet. In A. E. Farstrup & S. J. Samuels (Eds.), What research has to say about reading instruction (pp. 310-336). Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

Leu, D. J., McVerry, G. W., O'Byrne, I., Kiili, C., Zawilinski, L., Everett-Cacopardo, H., et al. (2011). The New literacies of online reading comprehension: Expanding the literacy and learning curriculum.  Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 55(1), 5-14.

Still, J., & Worton, M. (1990). Introduction. In M. Worton & J. Still (Eds.), Intertextuality:  Theories and Practice (pp. 1-44). Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press.

van Meter, P. N., & Firetto, C. (2008). Intertextuality and the study of new literacies. In J. Coiro, M. Knobel, C. Lankshear & L. D. J. (Eds.), Handbook of Research on New Literacies (pp. 1079-1092)). New York: Lawrence Erlbaum.

 

 

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Reader Comments (12)

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January 6, 2015 | Unregistered Commenternew formulla

This post is from 2012- so nearly 3 of those 5 years predicted at the end have passed! I think the part about digital planning in curriculum is coming true. I'm not sure about testing, however.

I love multimodality, especially as it functions in picturebooks and graphic novels. These formats are doubly interesting when digital. The digital versions are combining the multimodal affordances of the visual and digital formats to create some wide-open storylines and inference-based, often interactive narrative that hasn't been a thing since choose your own adventure books. As far as I can tell, they are only getting more complex and taking better advantage of the digital format. David Weisner's "Spot" app, for instance!

June 22, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterEmily

I'm particularly interested in how intertextuality and portable digital texts critique the power structures created by "official knowledge". Long gone are the days of the teacher as a "sage on the stage" and comprehensible input viewed as the metaphorical "filling of a bucket". I wonder if the increase in engagement we see in students as they interact with digital multimodal texts can be attributed to learners being empowered and viewed as experts with knowledge to share that's equally as important as that of their teacher or peers. This seems to align with the studies done in England by Dylan Wiliam where he banned hand raising in classrooms to make access to knowledge and feedback more equitable.

June 22, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterAlyssa

Something really interesting is to look at when this was written. This was written a few years ago- and the writer seems to be pretty positive that by now we would have moved over to mostly digital reading. And I still do not think that is happening. Nooks/Kindles/iPads are abundant, but the book refuses to die. Many still claim that the book has better readability. People do not like staring at a screen for so long, or they prefer to highlight and take notes... no matter the reason- print is still a dominant force in the academic world. E-books have yet to take over.

I find all the research behind multimodal texts to be somewhat lacking. It seems everything is moving too fast to see what is effectively working or not.

And finally something I find interesting is how many people prefer to get their news from digital sites. The newspaper seems to be fading away as digital media takes over. But that does not feel to me to be the case with leisure reading. So what is it about reading the news that is different than leisure reading or reading for school that makes people desire the different medias?

June 22, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJosephine

I appreciate the article's acknowledgement that "The days of delving into a single, linear text are not gone, but they are on the wane. The key to reading proficiently henceforth is more likely to be the ability to read intertextually, to integrate understanding, across web pages or sites, across e-textbook pages and media spaces, and to construct a new permanent representation via multimodal intertexts (van Meter & Firetto, 2008)." It seems like this is what the concept of bridging supports-- not simply doing away with print texts, but adding to their complexity and complicating thinking through multimodality.

Regarding Josephine's question about younger generations accessing the news on portable devices more than via printed press these days, it might have to do the immediacy and the continual refreshing and updating that the digital format allows. When reading a news article online, you are able to locate the to the minute most updated/current information, as opposed to waiting until the next morning for the latest update on the previous day's developments. This immediacy seems to be an affordance of digital reading that sets itself apart from printed text.

June 22, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterTessa Flynn

As an educator I especially found the idea of "intertexts becoming the nexus of meaning" interesting and important. According to the article the number of authors and readers could increase exponentially through portable texts. Therefore, it is important that students understand how to interact with multi modes of technology. Students also need to understand and think critically about the audience that they interact with through these digital spaces. There needs to be a level of academia and an understanding of what is appropriate in these spaces. Students interact with one another, but they also interact with anyone who can access these digital texts. Students must be conscious of how they are using text to create meaning for themselves, but also how they are using text to create meaning for others.

June 22, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca Ney

I really related to point 4 as I have been receiving an email newsletter called theSkimm for almost two years now (and I'm a Skimmbassador!: theskimm.com/?r=2VPV6) that I guess you could call a multimodal textoid-- it synthesizes world news into a 3 minute email with accessible language, pop culture references, and hyperlinks to articles that can tell you more about the topics in question. Most of my friends are Skimmr's but we have received some resistance online from others-- they feel like we are dumbing down the news. I would argue that I have never felt more informed and I certainly click through the added links with additional information whenever I can. If anything, theSkimm sparks further interest in countless topics!

Additionally, I am interested in the first point, when it discusses how text is linked to pictures, other graphics, videos, accompanying links, navigational tools, etc. I just finished up my ESL/ELL minor here at the U this spring and those classes discussed in length how anything "extra" (pictures, videos, easy-acess definition tools) could better support our ELs. Since I am a fresh-from-undergrad teacher candidate in the M.Ed program, I am still new to this educational world. Am I right in thinking that digital multimodal texts can especially benefit ELs, granted they have equal access (and a chance to build digital skills) to these texts?

June 23, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMadison Paul-Critchley

Digital texts are situated and participatory, but does that mean that when educators invite students to "academize" digital texts that they deem not part of academia, they see a disconnect? For example, bringing in Twitter into the classroom for learning and not just for social purposes.
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"Within 5 years, give or take, the features of digital texts and digital reading will be at the forefront of curriculum planning in school districts and, hopefully, factor strongly into how we assess students’ proficiencies in school." I am not sure how true this is, but our district has done this in our 9-10 social studies curriculum. We wrote our own textbook and augmented our curriculum based on it. So this is true in my reality.

June 23, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterYeng

In section 3 on portable texts, I had not thought too much about what portability really entails. According to the above text, the "compelling affordance" of portable text is that we can change, edit, embellish and alter in a variety of ways, and then send it on its way. The authors describe this process as "evolving as it travels," which is true, I just hadn't really considered the ramifications of that. What it means for me, is sort of a new appreciation for the term portable. I would have restricted the idea of portable text to simply the fact that it can be accessed from many places, not just my home computer. But thinking of portable text in terms of 'evolving as it travels' involves kind of a new way of thinking about the text - as less permanent, perhaps? I think of wikis, for example, that are constantly being added to in an intelligent fashion. It's amazing really.

June 23, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSonja

With all the affordances of digital texts, I find it interesting to see which of my 11th and 12th grade students still prefer print texts. Personally, I like print texts for academic purposes, but I like reading novels in either format. Some of the things I hear from students is that those who prefer digital texts like the portability, integrated dictionary, and searchability. Those who prefer print texts often state that they like the tactile elements and the ability to see one's progress visually by seeing how many pages have been read or remain to be read.

June 25, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSarah L.

Literacy and its instructional practices have been significantly impacted by the emergence of digital tools. Traditionally, literacy has been defined as having the ability to read and write. But for me, literacy is more than that; it is the process of making meaning of the world, of giving students the ability and the strategies to make sense of themselves and their experiences. Which, my teacher friends, is a really big job. I am proposing using a new Dynamic Literacy Framework, one that guides us in the use of new digital tools for instruction of 3 elements of literacy learning that are key for today’s students:

Visualize, Close Reading, and Culturally Relevant Teaching.

Visualize

Teaching with a Dynamic Literacy Framework leverages the visual literacy elements that digital tools facilitate. Now, the “text” we have students address can be a video, an image, or an infographic. A visual can supply background knowledge required to make meaning, which is the purpose of literacy and learning.

Close Reading

“Text” is only half the story. When students comment on the video, image or infographic they share insights and observations as well as connections to other ways of learning the concept. One comment begets another response. Just as text modalities have shifted, so too have the standards that students strive to achieve. Close Reading is one way the Common Core Standards require students to think differently. Close Readers study the structure of the text by looking at the text as a writer would. A close reader will analyze the text by focusing on elements of craft and technique; like imagery, word choice, tone and voice or sentence structure and synthesizing the information with their own experiences.

Culturally Relevant Teaching

A Dynamic Literacy Framework should also include Culturally Relevant Teaching as an approach that creates the conditions for equity in the classroom. We make meaning based on our cultural context. Our culture is our Frame of Reference, the way we interpret the world. Collaboration is Culturally Relevant and our literacy practices should offer learning opportunities and collaborative work that develop relationships. Developing relationships is one of the ways we can create the conditions for equity in learning. Collaboration makes relationships meaningful and relevant.

June 29, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterLynnea West

On this site:
1. Links would be more attractive if when I clicked it opened in a new tab automatically.
2. "Textoid" could use a link, or better yet, a few example images (though I'm sure you purposefully wrote a text-heavy blog for reading purposes).

I think students would love (well, love may be a hyperbole) to read an etextbook where they could comment on the same text, like the use of annotated sticky notes in a shared Diigo space. This too may be a distraction, but it could be a feature of engagement as well.

June 29, 2015 | Unregistered Commenter@abbyrombalski

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