On-line Comprehension

February 14, 2008 at 12:12 am | Posted in Content Area Literacy, ICT, literacy | 31 Comments

For the past 3 weekend sessions we have been exploring a plethora of strategies (pre, during, post) for developing content area literacy including vocabulary instruction, think-alouds, reciprocal teaching, Socratic seminars, note-taking skills, and use of graphic organizers just to name a few. Identifying alternative, more authentic sources to a textbook to use within the content areas has also been a focus, but the more I reflect, the more I feel we need to design specific strategies for developing on-line reading comprehension skills. We are still stuck in the “book” mode even with incorporating alternative text sources.

Session handouts from the 2008 TRLD Conference are available
on-line and one I found that connects with the need for a closer examination of on-line reading comprehension can be found under the Friday session keynote: How Reading Comprehension Has Changed While We Weren’t Looking, Donald Leu.

Leu is also part of The New Literacies Research Team at the University of Connecticut where research is being conducted on the new reading comprehension and learning skills required by the Internet and other emerging information and communication technologies. For further information on this research, go to the Publications page where many articles can be downloaded for personal use.

What have you discovered about on-line reading comprehension? Will the tried and true literacy strategies still be effective or even relevant in an on-line environment? What do we need to create, what can we modify, and what should we discard to develop our students’ literacy skills?

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  1. I was only planning to comment on one part of this to begin with but I guess I got a little caught up in it. I have always heard that it is more difficult for most people to read off of a computer screen than a paper copy. When I looked around I found some research, or at least an article based on research, that confirmed what I have heard. The article I looked at was one I found at Science Daily that directly addressed the topic.

    The reasons for this are not determined by the study. Perhaps it is only because our computer literacy instruction is still poor that it is an issue at all. It would be possible to take the reading strategies that are in place and adapt them to the computer screen. I was able to find an article that directly addresses the issue that we are discussing in this blog. The title of the article is Reading Comprehension on the Internet and it discusses in depth the issue of changing literacy.

    As far as alternative ideas are concerned I have sometimes used a simple way of coding text while I am writing and I assume this could be applied to reading without much trouble. Microsoft word has editing features that allows highlighting, callouts (just like our think-alouds), inserting comments and various other tools which is very similar to coding a paper text. If anyone is unfamiliar with this they can try to use this techtorial that I found. It explains it very nicely. Obviously not all documents online are found in word, but they can be copied and pasted without much hassle. I am sure that other word processing programs have similar functions, but word is what I am familiar with.

    Well it looks like I’ve written enough for now. I hope these ideas and resources help everyone.

  2. I was only planning to comment on one part of this to begin with but I guess I got a little caught up in it. I have always heard that it is more difficult for most people to read off of a computer screen than a paper copy. When I looked around I found some research, or at least an article based on research, that confirmed what I have heard. The article I looked at was one I found at Science Daily that directly addressed the topic.

    The reasons for this are not determined by the study. Perhaps it is only because our computer literacy instruction is still poor that it is an issue at all. It would be possible to take the reading strategies that are in place and adapt them to the computer screen. I was able to find an article that directly addresses the issue that we are discussing in this blog. The title of the article is Reading Comprehension on the Internet and it discusses in depth the issue of changing literacy.

    As far as alternative ideas are concerned I have sometimes used a simple way of coding text while I am writing and I assume this could be applied to reading without much trouble. Microsoft word has editing features that allows highlighting, callouts (just like our think-alouds), inserting comments and various other tools which is very similar to coding a paper text. If anyone is unfamiliar with this they can try to use this techtorial that I found. It explains it very nicely. Obviously not all documents online are found in word, but they can be copied and pasted without much hassle. I am sure that other word processing programs have similar functions, but word is what I am familiar with.

    Well it looks like I’ve written enough for now. I hope that these ideas and resources help everyone.

  3. Ted, could you re-link the two articles you posted?

    I think I found Reading Comprehension on the Internet but I couldn’t find the one from Science Daily.

    This is my first try at the hyperlinking thing… so let’s see if it works!

  4. After I read the topic of this blog, I was thinking exactly what Ted said: “I have always heard that it is more difficult for most people to read off of a computer screen than a paper copy.” It got me thinking about why people feel this way. Reading online really takes us out of the realm of what we are used to. We 20th century folks have grown up with reading strategies that work on paper. We can highlight, underline, and follow text structures. There are no links on paper that lead us all over the place. We have become accustomed to interacting and comprehending paper text.

    Unfortunately, when it comes to online reading, I cannot pick up my highlighter and color all over the screen, nor can I jot notes in the margin (Yes, you can do this in Word, but most of the time I am just reading webpages and don’t normally copy them into a Word Document.) So ultimately, to be successful readers, our students need (at least) two sets of strategies: strategies that work with paper texts, and strategies that work with online texts. Some strategies will overlap, and with some modification will be useful for both places.

    I found a brief presentation by Debbie Abilock that discusses some online reading behaviors and strategies that can be used as a result of each particular behavior. A few strategies that still work online include: previewing, recognizing text structure, think alouds, group discussions, and jigsaws. Other strategies can be modified for online use. Concept maps can be made right on the computer using programs like Inspiration. Note- taking is still a valuable skill for students to have. They can take notes on paper, or use chunking and cut/paste skills. Then, some new strategies students will need include: recognizing types of hyperlinks, effective searching strategies, distinguishing between ads and content, and determining the validity of their resources.

    As teachers, it is essential for us to notice the difference between reading on paper and reading online and teach appropriate strategies for both.

    Also, after reading the links that Wendy posted I found a few interesting quotes that I think are worth mentioning:

    “Our weakest offline readers are sometimes our most proficient online readers.”

    Source: Session Handouts, Donald Leo. “How Reading Comprehension Has Changed While We Weren’t Looking.”

    “Traditionally, industrial-age organizations were organized vertically. Decisions were made at the highest levels and then communicated to lower levels, where they were simply carried
    out without the need for much thought by bottom-tier employees. This wasted much of the intellectual capital within an organization, limiting productivity (New London Group, 2000).
    With restructuring, workplaces have sought to achieve greater productivity by organizing themselves horizontally, empowering teams within lower levels of an organization to make important decisions related to their work (Mikulecky & Kirkley, 1998; New London Group, 2000). Members of these teams must identify important problems, locate useful information related to the problems they identify, critically analyze the information they find, synthesize this information to solve the problems, and then quickly communicate the solutions to others so that everyone within the horizontally structured organization is informed. By requiring all employees to use their ability to read, communicate, and solve problems, economic organizations have increased productivity, allowing some to flourish within intense global competition (Friedman,
    2005).”

    Source: Session Handouts, Donald Leu. “What is New about the New Literacies of Online Reading Comprehension?”

    Online reading comprehension will be such a huge part of the lives of our students. That is why it is so important that teaching all kinds of reading strategies is a part of all of each and every classroom.

  5. I wish there was a way I could go back and edit a blogpost… The whole html thing drives me crazy. I can’t preview anything to see if links work. Obviously the one above doesn’t, so let me try again:

    a brief presentation by Debbie Abilock

  6. Third times the charm? The Debbie Abilock presentation:

    http://www.noodletools.com/debbie/literacies/basic/readstrat/readingstrategies_files/v3_document.html

  7. I have read two articles by Julie Coiro, “Rethinking comprehension strategies to better prepare students for critically evaluating content on the Internet” and “Making Sense of Online Text”. In the opening paragraphs of the second article it compared one student who knew his way around the Internet and a home page to another student who obviously did’t have the Internet skills. I said this is me.

    As I have taken courses, the content has not been as difficult as has been utilizing technology. I was educated when there were no computers and calculators were just getting their start (pretty old, huh?). I can envision a new teaching specialty as the use of the Internet and Web- Based education takes hold. This position will be an Internet Specialist. This will be the person who will collaborate with teachers and students to evaluate data taken from the Internet.

    If we are going to utilize these technologies as adjuncts to education we have to teach our students to be critical thinkers.. At what age do we teach critical thinkig or is it integrated throughout each grade level. There is no question that textbooks are not the only source of information. They may act as a platform to start from, but the Internet opens vast horizons.

    I think the tried and true stategies will still work. We will need educators to modify them to fit technology. As with text books, these stratgies for learning to read and write will act as the foundation for our students to move to the next levelof education. The students will watch as teachers use technolgy to modify the strategies to fit a modern society. The teachers will then challenge the studets to be creative and do the same thing. The teacher will give the parameters and now it is up to the students to create. This will get easier as todays generation of students become teachers. They will have been brought up in an educational enviroment where they had to modify stategies to make it work for them.

    A stumpling block that I see is we are assuming all students have access to computers and are computer savy. This may be a problem in todays economic environment. Another stumbling block may be parents who do not understand how computers and the Internet can aid education. Again, I see this dwindling as todays students become teachers and parents.

    We need to take the visionaries, the ones who envision Internt Based Education to get together to start to form protocols and standards that educators can look to as guides. We need to start establishing a sequence of ways to teach our students to be critical of the material they are reading. We must teach them to question that which they are unsure of until it can be supported by repeatable data, at least on a scientific level. We need to question those who publish on the Internet and claim to be authorities. What makes them an authority?

    I think we will see Internet Based Education get better and better as time goes on. There will be set backs but corrections will be made to move on. I think we need to be open minded about the direction literacy is taking, We must continue to teach tried and true fundamentals. They may need modifications to fit 21st century thinking but the fundamental principle is stiil there. This will take time. Each generation of teacher will make the system better because we are not a society of mediocrity. History has proved this for us. We have gone from figures etched on stone walls to the Internet. Thats pretty good!

  8. I have to tell eveyone this has been frustrating because I had to do these blogs a couple times. I either left the site and lost everything absentmindly or tried to save my work but it never saved it . Anyone have any suggestions?

  9. Mike – I find the easiest way to get all my thoughts how I want them is to write my response in Word first and copy and paste it into this space. That way you can save it there first.

  10. Tracy,
    I’ll work on fixing that link. For some reason I can find it either now. It may have been old and is now gone from the site. I’m hoping that isn’t the case. I’ll try to find it because I really do think it would be good for everyone to see.

  11. yeah, I really wish there was a way to preview links to make sure they work before hitting “post!!” Maybe there is… idk

  12. Both Ted and Tracy mentioned that they have “heard that it is more difficult for most people to read off of a computer screen than a paper copy”. And I agree. I personally have trouble staring at the screen for long periods of time and understanding what I am reading while the page indicator at the top of the screen reads 2/46 laughing at me because I still have 44 more pages to go. So I find myself trying to read the article faster because I want to get through it, and I tend not to understand it as well since it is sometimes difficult to find again or return to. Another influence in online reading is the glare of the computer screen. Not that it necessarily relates to literacy (or I would link some health articles here) but the brightness of the screen, the glare, and the tendency for small text size makes it actually physically painful to read or concentrate for long periods of time… which is obviously detrimental for reading comprehension.

    Some of the strategies will still be able to work in an on-line setting, however some of them will prove to be too difficult to be useful. Many of the “during reading” strategies will be difficult, particularly the coding strategy as Ted and Tracy both mentioned. One of the beauties of the Internet is that it allows students to browse for material that they are personally interested or engaged in. Many of the pre-reading strategies would also be difficult to incorporate into a classroom if each student had free range of what he or she wanted to read or research. Even giving students a choice of three or four web pages introduces the possibility of hundreds of articles and links to more and more web pages.

    One literacy strategy that must remain the same, whether printed word or on the computer, teachers must model their thought processes and strategies out loud for students to internalize them. Students must see and hear how they themselves should be thinking and what they should be doing while they read. Since this the most important part of literacy, the biggest difficulty for educators is staying ahead of the curve of students. We need to understand how to use Internet features and programs in order to transcribe our “pen and paper” literacy skills into Internet-friendly and appropriate skills. Rachel Karchmer describes this importance and also how “technology and literacy as integrated components of education” in her article “The Journey Ahead: Thirteen teachers report how the Internet influences literacy and literacy instruction in their K-12 classrooms”. (you will have to sign into SJFC to view the article) Whether the strategies are modified or used in the same way, teachers need to be ready.

    A positive part of online literacy is the availability of new interactive online strategies. I came across one website that used games online to introduce science, math, and English concepts, have the students work with the concepts while reading introductory paragraphs and instructions then they can take a quiz to assess what they learned. They also had games specific for spelling and grammar that may help a student who is having difficulty with comprehension because of punctuation. Here is the link to the site if you are interested: http://www.woodlands-junior.kent.sch.uk/interactive/literacy2.htm

  13. Okay, so I was having trouble with my hyperlinks as well. Here is the link to the SJFC article. I know its a long url. Again, you have to sign in to view it.

    http://libdb.sjfc.edu:2585/view/00340553/ap020147/02a00080/0?currentResult=00340553%2bap020147%2b02a00080%2b0%2c00&searchUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.jstor.org%2Fsearch%2FAdvancedResults%3Fhp%3D25%26si%3D1%26q0%3DRachel%2BKarchmer%26f0%3Dau%26c0%3DAND%26wc%3Don%26sd%3D%26ed%3D%26la%3D

    -She is very pro-internet to promote literacy!

  14. I couldnt agree with Laurie more! One of the worst parts of reading from the computer is the page numbers at the top saying 3/32. To me it is the most discouraging thing! When I read, I dont want to know how much I have left! But now lets get to the real issue~
    I am agreeing with everyone here when they say they do not like reading from a computer screen. There are a couple reasons why. First, the glare kills my eyes. I find myself getting dizzy 3 pages into the reading. Second, I like to read when I am comfortable. Usually I sit in a chair, or ly in bed. It helps me focus. But when I have to read from the computer, I am stuck at my desk. My neck and back end up killing me.. on top of my eyes burning. Its just not the best scenario. I did some research online and I found a website that gave some tips for reading from a computer! It’s http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/eyestrain/WL00060

    They give the classic symptoms, such a dry eyes and blurred vision, and then it gives tips for helping those. They talk about taking eye breaks, which means give your eyes a chance to focus on something other than the computer screen. They say to focus on near and far objects. Also they talk about changing the pace. By this they mean to get up and move around every so often. They say to give yourself a 5 min rest every hour. They also give tips such as using artificil tears and getting appropriate eye wear. I must admit, I am suppossed to wear glasses, but I never do. And ths especially hurts me when reading off of the computer screen. I do like this site though. It is helpful, especially for people infront of the computer all day.

    I think what Ted said about Microsoft word is very important. It has so many useful tools that can help a reader. I know me personally, I get distracted by all of the advertisements that you sometimes see when reading from online. If I can save the document in Word, then they arent there, which really helps me. Also, by doing this I can highlite and keep notes. That was always something I hated about online reading. I could never highlite or write ideas I had when reading. But Word lets you do that and its so helpful!

    I agree again with Laurie when she says a positive of online literacy is the different features. One of the site I posted on the wiki, http://www.sciencenewsforkids.org , has such great features, such as games, puzzls and labs. I know this is just a sience site, but it has so many fun things for students to do which involve learning. With these tools, they will be learning and not even know it! And I’m sure they have sites like this for other subjects as well.

    One last thing, I came across an article about e-books and reading in a digital age. It talks about the benefits and downfalls, and I think it would be a good article to look over if you get the chance! Here it is!!!
    http://ijklo.org/Volume3/IJKLOv3p239-250Buzzetto.pdf

  15. So… I think we all agree that reading from a computer screen hurts our eyes…

    I think we’d also agree that computer literacy and online reading is an inevitable part of our classrooms. My question for you all to consider is: How will this change the way you teach literacy in your classrooms?

    I am used to teaching the tried and true methods. Think alouds, jigs saws and text coding are second nature for my students. But as the amount of online reading our students do increases, our teaching needs to reflect that. Can anyone think of interesting ways to modify the strategies we’ve learned in class so that kids can use them online??

    Are there any other neat strategies you’ve seen for reading on the computer besides copying something into Word so you can highlight?

    I think this is a really good forum to discuss that. 🙂

  16. Yeah, I’m a dork… I keep adding to this thing. I think maybe I am avoiding some other work *tehe*

    But I was scrolling through this very blog thinking to myself- What strategies would my kids need to read a site like this??

    A strategy that becomes HUGELY important is recognizing structure (text structure, web page structure etc). Our kids need to be able to look at a webpage, and decide whether they want to read the content, skim the side links or go someplace else.

  17. Ooh! Here’s another one… I am working on my book talk and I realized that I folded over like 20 corners of my pages. Kids can do this while they’re reading online too- as long as they know about the bookmark feature in most toolbars!

    Ok, I’m done… for real!

  18. If we are going to utilize computers in education which seems inevitable, will there be courses designed for students to teach them how to use computers? Do these courses already exist or do the students learn computer use on their own.
    I think that there can be online teaching strategies such as word games, fun quizzes, puzzles that will teach both reading and vocabulary. Just like the Sidoko trend that has taken hold, I believe that educators can come up with attractive challenges for students that not only challenge them but are also educational and fun to do.
    I do think sitting at a computer for long periods of time are difficult. We have a problem now with inactivirty of students because they sit in front of the computers or TV’s for long periods of time. This could be a contributing factor to limiting use of computers for students.
    Literacy is all around us. We can help our students by asking them to read things they see on a daily basis and give a report to the class by utilizing a journal or diary.

  19. Mike,
    I know that there are some courses offered in schools for students to use computers, but I think that many are specific and some are out of date. They do offer some programming, design, wordprocessing, etc. but I have yet to encounter one class where the students were focused on strategies that we have gone over in our class (wikis, blogs, etc.)

  20. Personally, I do not enjoy reading off a computer screen. It bothers my eyes after a while, and I cannot use my standard techniques such as annotating on a computer screen (I like to underline). I end up printing any text I need to read online so I can use traditional strategies. However, for a student still in the process of developing these literacy skills, strategies for reading online text would be beneficial.

    From doing a little bit of research it is apparent that reading online text is quite different from traditional text. Most online texts incorporate new features like hyperlinks and other multimedia aspects not found in traditional print. The article I found is Reading Comprehension on the Internet: Expanding Our Understanding of Reading Comprehension to Encompass New Literacies by Julie Coiro. I believe it’s the same article Ted found but couldn’t link. Coiro states that online text is typically nonlinear, interactive and uses multiple media forms. Because of hyperlinks, readers are able to choose their own path through the information. Readers must be aware of the advantages and disadvantages of controlling their direction through the text.

    The multimedia aspect of online text also provides exciting and engaging extensions to text. Coiro describes a PBS website, Hidden New York: Virtual Reality, where the reader can take a virtual tour of NYC, provided they can use Quicktime Virtual Reality. For those literate in computers and the internet, this is an interesting extension. To prepare readers for online reading, we need to develop instruction that incorporates strategies to deal with these “extras”.

    In an article I found by Leu et al with the session notes from TRLD conference, an important point was raised. Locating information on the Internet requires at least four types of reading skills; knowing how to use a search engine, how to read the search engine results, locating information on a web page, and making inferences about where related information is located and what links will get there. All of this occurs before comprehension of that information. We need to expand or emphasis more the strategies that strengthen these pre-reading skills that are essential for online reading.

  21. here is the url for Julie Coiro’s article i referenced. I fail at hyperlinks.

    http://www.readingonline.org/electronic/elec_index.asp?HREF=/electronic/rt/2-03_Column/index.html

  22. Brian- I like your last paragraph there. The pre-reading aspect of online reading is essential! Kids really do have to know how to search and find appropriate material before they can even begin reading! Nice point!

  23. tracy I agree with you when you say that online reading will change the way we teach literacy in the classroom. First of all, we can use some strategies that we have been talking about the past 3 weekend classes, but we must also come up with diffrent strategies to accomodate!
    I think a few strategies we could still use are the think alongs and think marks. We cn have think marks made for the students before they read, and we can make think bubbles on articles and then email the articles to our students.

  24. Ted,
    You mentioned how the article, Reading Comprehension on the Internet, discusses in depth the issue of changing literacy. It would be helpful to summarize and evaluate the main points of the article.

  25. Tracy,
    Yes – kids do need strategies for different types of text! I love the way you keep adding your thoughts to this post.

    You added a few quotes to your first comment. What struck you as interesting about these? What is your take on comments?

  26. Mike,
    I’m curious, how do you think the tried and true strategies will work for on-line reading? Can you be specific on which strategies will be effective, which should be modified, and which will not work in this environment? I also think there is a big difference between on-line reading and Internet-based education. For this discussion we are focusing on the types of texts students will be reading on-line (multi-media, hyperlinked, etc.).

  27. Laurie,
    I agree with you that no matter what type of reading (printed or on-line) modeling of thinking strategies (metacognition) is essential. I’m wondering about the pre-reading strategies. Wouldn’t it still be essential to front-load students on a topic before reading on-line? Even if they read different articles or websites, a pre-reading strategy would assist their comprehension.

  28. Caitlin,
    I’m glad you added your thoughts about the strategies you still think would work with on-line reading. What strategies would need to be modified? What new ideas do you have? Also, it would be helpful if you summarized and evaluated the article you linked at the bottom of your comment.

  29. Brian,
    When you included the quote, “To prepare readers for online reading, we need to develop instruction that incorporates strategies to deal with these “extras,” you hit the nail on the head. What strategies that we’ve discussed in class would you still use? What would you modify or create to assist with this non-linear, multi-media reading experience?

  30. “What strategies that we’ve discussed in class would you still use? What would you modify or create to assist with this non-linear, multi-media reading experience?”

    I feel that any strategy that develops comprehension will always be valid and necessary for literacy, regardless of the medium. To address the non-linear, multi-media aspects of online text (read: distractions) I think it is important to emphasize filtering skills. Strategies such as texbook analysis or scavenger hunts could easily be modified to website analysis, or webpage scavenger hunt. In fact, many aspects are the same, like pictures and charts/tables/graphs so the modifications would not be difficult.

  31. Hi guys.. Just thought I would give you a little info on the article I posted in an above post. This article is all about ebooks, and how they have many benefits compared to regular books. These benefits include hyper linking, nonlinearity, data density, customizability, greater distribution, low costs, search ability, and other multimedia features. There are so many cool things your students can get from these ebooks. The popularity of these books has been slow, but that has to do with the whole “I dont like reading off the computer screen” mentality. But I think the benefits of these ebooks completely outweighs the negatives. We have all been talking about 21st century learning and web 2.0, and these ebooks are a big part of that. With ebooks, there are so many options right at our students fingertips.


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