So far in our coursework in the IT&DML program we have been building up our digital identity through blogging about our Network Learning Project and educational articles, social networking via Google+ and Twitter, and most recently creating our Cooking with TPACK video. This is all done on the Internet, supporting our professor Ian O’Byrne’s notion that “the Internet is the dominant text of our generation.”
This statement attests to how educators teach and how students learn in today’s digital age. Years ago, the main source of information for students was receiving a textbook and/or photocopies of a newspaper or magazine article on a certain topic. Today, this still occurs, but not as often as the Internet has become a huge source of information for education and personal use. The Internet is the biggest repository of information in the world, and is available to us in the click of the mouse. Students have access to information on class topics at any time, and can save the links to create their own personal repository in several different outlets, such as Google Drive.
Where this plethora of information on the Internet creates endless possibilities for education, it also creates some challenges for how students learn and process information. I will discuss my experience teaching at the high school for the remainder of this post in regards to the second phase of the ORMS model, online reading comprehension.
From my experience teaching high school business, I have observed that every student has the opportunity to own a device to use for educational purposes. In Meriden at the high school level, we have a 1:1 ratio of students to devices. Every student has the opportunity to own a device; some students choose not to for their own personal reasons. By the school district investing in this blended learning model and going 1:1, we are telling the students that this is the way you are going to learn best.
Michael Manderino, in his excerpt, “Reading Digitally Like a Historian: Using Multimedia Texts to Facilitate Disciplinary Learning,” discusses three strategies for improving online reading comprehension of our students. Students are constantly on the Internet searching for information, but how well are they reading this online content? Manderino discusses that students learn best when they can read, see, and hear the information. This can be done using video(s) to support the text provided to students, as students can analyze the video and use it as background knowledge for when they read.
Next, students should be exposed to not only one piece of digital text, but also an entire set of digital texts, creating a repository of information for students to sift through for information. The best way to do this is create a class website, where the teacher posts several articles that support the current topic in class in a designated area on their class website.
Manderino’s third and final strategy to improve online reading comprehension is to teach students how to critique the digital text for its credibility. I see students go online and just type their question into Google, receiving all sorts of results, usually from sites such as Ask.com. Now I am not shooting down the site, but students need to understand how to search for reliable sources. I urge my students to only take information from domains such as: .org, .gov, .edu., and some .coms. I stress that if the page is full of ads, move on to the next one.
Manderino’s article echoes what we read from chapters 9 ad 10 in the New Literacies Handbook. In chapter nine, “The Web as a Source of Information for Students in K–12 Education” by Els Kuiper and Monique Volman, they discuss the importance of teaching effective keyword search strategies to find valid information on the web. The Internet is an amazing place where anyone can create content, but unfortunately the information we find is not always credible.
We have seen the web change dramatically in the last 5-10 years, and there is no reason that it will not continue to change when our students are all grown up. Lawless and Schrader spoke about navigation in their work from chapter 10 of the New Literacies handbook, “Where Do We Go Now? Understanding Research on Navigation in Complex Digital Environments.”
I believe by empowering our students to be in charge of how they sift through content and what makes information valid will help prepare them to navigate through the web no matter how drastic it changes over time. We are “sharpening the blade” that is their skill set for reading and comprehending online content. Part of that process is being able to tell good quality from not so good quality (much like you would good vs evil in the movies or a book). By continuing to expose our students to different multimedia and sources of information, we provide them with different visual characteristics that help them adapt to different sites and platforms, similar to what we are doing in our IT&DML classes (BlackBoard, Google+, Wikispaces).
In today’s digital age, we need to teach our students how to be in charge of their own learning as well as the content of the course. Providing students with a class website and blog that holds a repository of credible sources will serve as model for students to use in their future endeavors, no matter how drastically the web changes.