Working with Digital Texts and Digital Tools

Many students are already using digital devices to read what interests them. Inherently, this type of reading is connected, but as many students note, digital reading can quickly lead to distraction.

  • How can we help students learn to move past that distraction when they read digitally?
  • How can we help teen readers work diligently to make meaning from what they read and to share their thinking with others?

The element of being "critical" begins with awareness of texts, contexts, and attributes that influence reader choices.Through mindfulness, students can develop the practices of Connected Readers.

This chapter presents a variety of instructional ideas that help us make the shift from traditional, print-based strategies for reading to a more pro-active stance toward digital texts, not just the PDF versions of texts meant for print that were discussed in the last chapter.

Lessons from the Book

Who am I as a (digital) reader?
Using RSS to Fuel Your Reading
Popping the Filter BubbleMaking Decisions During Web-Based Reading (Editable sheet with several of the tasks)Curating Digital Texts

Digital Reading Sources

Other Resources

As a tool for annotating the open web, readers can "[u]se Hypothesis to discuss, collaborate, organize your research, or take personal notes."

Diego allows you to take notes and highlight on web pages, save these for future reference, and tag work for easy organization. It allows you to share notes with others to view and to add additional annotations for easy collaboration.

Ponder is useful for scaffolding the critical reading process. It allows students to identify passages that stand out and pushes them to analyze the text and apply class themes to it. It works all over the web, so students have freedom to find relevant articles and essays.

(Description taken from the Ponder website)

Curriculet allows teachers to deliver customized, Common Core aligned learning and digitally create and share their curriculum and lesson materials. It allows school districts to purchase ebooks at a lower cost, which enables teachers to broaden their reading lists.

(Description taken from the Curriculet website)

Subtext is a reading app that is collaborative and designed to help students tackle complex texts. It allows you to highlight texts, create groups for students, and collect evidence for writing.

Shelfari allows you to create a virtual bookshelf, discover new books, connect with friends and learn more about your favorite books. It allows for group discussions of books, perfect for continuing conversations outside of the classroom.

(Description taken from the Shelfari website)

Goodreads allows you to track the books you have read and the books you'd like to read. You can review books, suggest books to friends, receive book recommendations from others, and find literary quotes.

Book Builder
Book Builder can be used to create, share, publish, and read digital books that engage and support diverse learners according to their individual needs, interests, and skills. Students can use this site to create books as well.

(Description taken from the Book Builder website)

Edmodo allows teachers to discover new resources and collaborate with educators across the world. It allows teachers to create digital discussions for student participation, assign homework, schedule quizzes, and manage student progress.

(Description taken from the Edmodo website)

Schoology is a learning management system that helps digitally organize your classroom and teaching. It has resources to help build courses, teach lessons, create assignments and discussions, grade, and conduct testing.

Some Definitions and Lesson Ideas

Push" technology
Setting Up RSS for Educators

Searching for Digital Texts: Popping the Filter Bubble

Students access the Internet assuming that it is a blank slate and that their search will yield only the best results, but sadly, this is not the case. For instance, whether you are logged in or not, Google uses a variety of data points to customize your search. While this may be good for marketing, it is not necessarily good for the free flow of information on the Internet. In his book, The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You, Eli Pariser (2011) outlines the perils associated with being confined to "an Internet of one."

Curating Digital Texts

Citelighter, a tool that allows a reader to capture information from the Internet, import it and the bibliographic information into the platform, comment on the captured quotation, and organize the information before exporting it into a document, is a useful tool for curating digital texts. For adolescents who face an abundance of information each time they search the Web, curating is a crucial skill.

Thinking about Ebooks

Screen Shot 2015-03-28 at 3.12.40 PM.png

The features of ebooks can be summed up as follows:
  • Basic search and annotation:
  • Readability features
  • Use of external computing functions

Enhanced ebook features include all the functions just listed as well as:
  • Basic interactivity such as video and audio clips or animations that begin to work when clicked
  • Quizzes or other components that must be completed before moving on in the ebook
  • Obvious and inviting links to external content

Digital Reading and PLNs

Teacher Rebekah O. models to her students how she uses Twitter to learn, to engage, and to contribute. She offers her students the opportunity to use a percentage of their weekly independent reading to curate Personal Learning Networks (PLNs), to synthesize their reading using Storify and to share that reading with their networks. They connect their work to their Genius Hour projects, which allow them to explore their passions in order to develop academic skills.

What is a PLN?
As Penny Kittle notes in Book Love: Developing Depth, Stamina, and Passion in Adolescent Readers (2013), "A system will not create readers, but the books that keep a reader seeking will." (p. 37) Use social networking to keep your readers seeking and learning, not to institute a new system that demands reading logs of minutes spend and book reviews of a minimum word count.

Evaluating Digital Texts

In the early days of the Internet, determining credibility was a relatively straightforward task. Examples of "fake" or misleading websites were used to show students that they couldn't trust everything on the Internet, most notably a website about Martin Luther King Jr. created by an organization affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan.

Website credibility is no longer about whether the authors have credentials or the site looks nice- it requires a deeper level of reading, in which students are comparing existing knowledge to the information presented online.

These skills improve judgement of the quality and evaluation of the value of a digital text. Recently, Hagerman and White (2013) proposed the [(PST)2 + (iC3)] Framework, which includes a variety of strategies that support students as they synthesize online reading.


As we teach our students how to be critical consumers of not only websites but of all digital texts, we recommend that they ask questions such as those listed below:
  • How did I encounter this digital text?
  • What is my immediate purpose for reading? What can I gain from engaging with this text?
  • What is the purpose of this text? Who is the author? What is the perspective he or she takes?
  • What have I read previously and how does it connect with what is presented in this text?
  • What are the claims presented? How does the evidence support the claims? Are there links to other sources?
  • Should I bring this text into conversations with peers in my networks? What might other readers help me understand if I share this text with them?