Inquiry and Advocacy

There have been numerous calls to action for adolescent literacy. A number of teacher-researchers have worked to remind us that reading is not and should not be, a chore, as seen in their recent books:
  • Readicide: How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do about It (Gallagher, 2009)
  • Book Love: Developing Depth, Stamina, and Passion in Adolescent Readers (Kittle, 2013)
  • The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child (Miller, 2009)
  • So What Do They Really Know? Assessment That Informs Teaching and Learning (Tovani, 2011)
  • Reading Unbound: Why Kids Need to Read What They Want—And Why We Should Let Them (Wilhelm & Smith, 2014)

Teens are online more than ever, which we can utilize to our advantage. A love of reading today requires more than just a connection to books; it requires us to teach Connected Reading. In this article, Jerry Blumengarten discusses the advantages of using Connected Learning.

Professional Development as Inquiry

Inquiry places teachers as agents in their own development, and we believe this view mirror the "organic and democratic" nature of Connected Reading in which readers engage with text suggested by others, participate in conversations about those texts, and contribute to questions through a network.

NCTE, as outlined in their "Principles of Professional Development" position statement, believes that "professional development relies on a rich mix of resources, including a theoretical and philosophical base; a research base; and illustration of good practices" (2006).

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Puentedura (2010,2014) has helped us think about technology and its role in teaching and learning.

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Though states and districts can mandate requirements, the heart of PD depends on an individual's active participation.

Richardson (2010), who argues for the redefinition of classrooms through the use of technologies such as blogs, wikis, and podcasts, reveals an important aspect of professional development.

Richardson and Mancabelli (2011) state that personal learning networks alter our "fundamental understandings of how learning networks work" and document a number of "guideposts" for this type of learning, including:

  1. Uncovering passion to learn
  2. Sharing
  3. Reflecting
  4. Growing face-to-face network

After interviewing 9th grader Samantha Rizzo, I created a diagram of her life as a Connected Learner and the PLN she has created in each area of her student involvement:

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Figures 8.2 and 8.3 summarize a number of research-based recommendations for teaching reading. We have condensed and highlighted some:

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If you look beyond your local school, you will find many opportunities to connect with other educators to conduct collaborative inquiry. At the national level, NWP offers a variety of resources to both foster PD and disseminate teacher research. Of particular note here, we point out the Digital Is Website, where you will find countless resources devoted to uses of digital reading and writing, as well as to principles of connected learning.

Other national organizations with which you might develop connections to support your PLN or your classroom practice are:

Call to Advocacy

As we redefine reading instruction, we need to consider how technology is adopted, how teachers develop their understandings, and the policies that guide acceptable use. Though we are encouraged by news that districts are providing one-to-one device access or adopting BYOD, we know that without consideration of how those devices allow teachers to redefine tasks and students to learn in ways not imagined before, these efforts will not amount to much.

Teachers must work together to understand the evolving nature of literacy and how instruction affects learning. We recommend that administrators consider three areas as they create budgets and plan curricular initiatives:

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Pew Internet reports that more students have devices and access than ever before - our role as advocates must move well beyond helping students get tablets or laptops.

Budgets for instructional materials must be reallocated to purchasing devices as well as the applications and subscriptions to access digital texts. We can use limited funds to purchase devices that mirror tablet screens wirelessly, such as the Apple TV and iPad or the Chromecast, without making huge investments in SMARTboards.

A few resources to consider as you investigate possibilities:

Reading Instruction for All, by All: Toward a Model of Connected Reading

As we reflect on our own inquiry into Connected Reading, we are left with a number of lingering questions:
  • What components of our Connected Reading model might evolve as technologies change and students develop reading skills independent of school?
  • Within schools, how will assessments such as the SBAC and PARCC that require online reading affect instruction?
  • What will happen as more and more states adopt open, online textbook projects (such as the type of program already in place in California)?
  • How can we map—through eye-tracking software, MRI scans, and technologies yet to be invented—the actual process of reading digital texts and what happens in the meaning-making process?
  • Ultimately, as teachers, how do we effectively develop the practices of Connected Readers?

We also have specific questions about multimodal texts and the practices of Connected Readers.

We believe that devices mediate interactions between the text and the reader and that specific text features have influence on the reader's comprehension. We urge teachers to adopt a stance of inquiry in their classrooms and to share their learning with others. The Literacy in Learning Exchange, a component of the National Center for Literacy Education, is a good place to find other teachers who share their stores, their practice, and their thinking about literacy and teaching.

From linear texts to nonlinear texts with links to multimedia, and across many devices and platforms, we know that students have ever-increasing opportunities for reading. We must, as we always have, teach students to monitor their own comprehension, yet we now must also teach them to be mindful and intentional in the ways they encounter, engage with, and evaluate what they read.