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Connected: Digital Literacy for Gen Z

Dr. Julie Wood

Julie M. Wood, a former public school teacher and reading specialist, is a nationally recognized educational consultant with a special interest in digital learning tools. Join Julie in 2012 as she shares best practices in using educational technology and media in the classroom and at home.

Meet our new edtech blogger, Dr. Julie Wood

May 7, 2012



I look forward to your Reading Rockets contributions! I teach 4th, 5th and 6th grade Resource students who are 2 years and more behind grade level in reading skills. I'm looking for ways to access and teach the 3 grade levels' literacy standards while also remediating their decoding, fluency and comprehension skills! Yes, they're all together in one class. We do a good job of remediating, but not covering the grade level standards. I often use a video to teach setting, character development, plot, etc. since they don't have to deal with text to access the story. I'm looking for more ideas! Thanks in advance for your posts.__Hi Pattie,Good for you for exploring every possible avenue for your Resource students. Yes, you should definitely let the standards guide your instruction, as you are. Also great that you emphasize decoding, fluency, and comprehension skills. To that list I would add a daily (20 minutes, if possible) focus on vocabulary instruction. If you do, you will watch your students’ comprehension skills soar!Here’s an idea. Why not have your students create their own books to share with each other? It would be a great way to put the writing process into play—with creative brainstorming, drafts, edits, paired critiques, and so on. Ultimately you could have the books bound and/or post them on the Internet on websites that publish student work. My hunch is that students will work hard for their peers and will love reading each other’s works. What do you think? - Julie

I am looking forward to reading your blog. I have a son in grade 8 who is several years behind but is able to decode and understand a text once he has read it several times. I have asked about giving him an e-reader that plays audio books or using other technology but she has refused citing that when he gets to the government exams he is not allowed to use these devices. This could very well be true in our jurisdiction. She is concerned that he will become dependent on them and then not be able to perform for the exam. Are her concerns legitimate or would he gain some fluency along the way? Should I encourage my son to read a book along with the audio version? Thanks.__Hi Christine,I can definitely understand why you want to give your son every possible advantage in becoming a strong reader. It’s also great to know that he comprehends texts well after reading them several times. I assume the “she” in your post is your son’s teacher, yes? Why not meet with her and ask if she would be open to a combined approach—lots of practice with traditional texts combined with audio books, e-readers, and other digital tools. While I agree that your son needs practice in the types of tasks he’ll be asked on tests, is it really an either/or proposition? What do you think? - Julie

I am very happy that you are blogging about this topic. My students use Kurzweil to access texts that are beyond their decoding level. It helps them access the ideas, builds fluency, and enables them to be part of the thinking and discussion that goes on in the classroom. However, there is a difficulty in access to the program within their own class. And, teachers are not always able to get enough computers ahead of time to load and prepare each students' folder. Training is important for teachers and students in order to use the books in electronic form. And Kurzweil is awesome, but takes time to learn how to use the features. Also, our students have access to Tumblebooks and TumbleReadables. I am interested in other available books on line. __Hi Donna,Thank you for jumping in! Yes, Kurzweil readers are a great way to go. I used to work on a competing product and was really impressed by the power of what Marilyn J. Adams calls “giving the computer ears.” Such tools can be a real boon for children with individual needs and those who are reading below grade level for a variety of reasons. I’ve been hearing a good deal about Tumblebooks lately. In fact, check out the enthusiastic post from Jacqulyn Owens on the blog website. As for free e-books, have you checked out one of the most long-standing digital resources for older readers, Project Gutenberg, The site provides over 36,000 titles that are in the public domain. Have others of you found great resources for free e-books? Let’s hear from you! - Julie

Trying to find which tool is best for non high school readers to be able to do SSR/download books for required reading? Nook? Kindle?__Hi Karen,Happy to meet you out here in cyberspace. Wish I could answer your question but I don’t know the ins and outs of SSR/download books. You would probably enjoy the library-focused group that meets on EdWeb (free), created by Lisa Schmucki. Check out www.edweb .net and consider joining one of the groups and taking in a few webinars. Let us know! - Julie

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"Children are made readers on the laps of their parents." — Emilie Buchwald