ONLINE READING COMPREHENSION: DIGITAL OR NEW LITERACIES?
In the readings we have explore in class so far, literacy is used both in the singular and in the plural. The singular indicates a particular kind of knowledge in an area, such as digital literacy, computer literacy, academic literacy, etc. The plural is used to encompass a wide variety of practices and texts that exist across these disciplined areas. For example, under the umbrella of digital literacy, we have websites, online magazines, videos, podcasts, recordings, games, and more literacies.
Castek, Coiro, Henry, Leu, and Hartman describe new literacies as deictic and multifaceted. The internet is the widest example of what is new about literacy because it is a new technology that requires new skills to fully access its potential. The central elements of the internet are social practices, strategic knowledge, critical thinking and diversity of content. You need to learn how to use a computer, search the internet, validate information and interact in a global community.
It was beneficial to talk about these processes as online reading comprehension or digital inquiry when the Internet was first becoming an established fixture in people’s lives. In the late 1990’s there were two takes on digital literacy. Lanham saw it as the ability to understand information however presented, and Gilster defined literacy use information in multiple formats from a variety of sources. The home computer and reliable access to the internet was just starting to show up in every American household. Gilster used the phrase, “mastering ideas not keystrokes,” to explain what a rich learning tool we have at our fingertips, and how important it is to use the tool to think critically and communicate.
Moving into 2003, when Coiro wrote Expanding our understanding of reading comprehension to encompass new literacies in 2003, digital texts and tools like the Internet were still very new, because the technology was advancing so rapidly. The author grounded the new ideas to the RAND framework, to make for an easy transition to the digital conversation. However, as we move past the year 2020, I think we’re reaching a point where it’s creating more confusion and we should weave one tapestry of literacy and reading comprehension.
Speaking from the point of view of an MBA student, I perhaps bought a handful of books and novels for my classes over the last three years. Most of the texts and articles were online, and people are using online books more than ever. While I understand that instructional strategies differ, and there are caveats to digital versus traditional, I do believe that they need to be thought of as one cohesive unit of learning and teaching, grounding the digital while elevating the traditional.
I prefer the term “multiliteracies” because I believe it is one step closer to including traditional and digital literacy into one concept. I would avoid using “new” because it can not be new forever. I believe that “digital literacy” neglects the focus on all types of literacy.
No matter what you call new literacies, I think the online reading/digital literacy skills are equally important for today’s students compared to offline reading comprehension skills like vocabulary and fluency, if not more. Simply from the point of view of an adult who loves to read, I think it’s incredibly important for children to learn traditional skills that enable them to get lost in a great book and love reading for self growth and discovery.
However, being able to engage with technology to incorporate new information into their lives is also critical. Lankshear and Knobel wrote about a three dimensional model of literacy: operational, cultural and critical. Ultimately reading comes down to a purpose, whether I am trying to find an answer, stay up to date on current events, correspond with my team at work, or read a book for entertainment, I need an operational command of the language to read and write, cultural competence to infer and grasp meanings, and critical thinking skills to not only participate by to transform and produce content. When I produce content for my audience at work moving forward, I will try to take a more sociocultural approach, and ask for feedback from a more diverse audience in an effort to make my communications clearer.
- Hammerberg, D. (2004). Comprehension instruction for sociocultural diverse classrooms: A review of what we know.
- Lankshear, C., & Knobel, M. (2008). From ‘reading’ to ‘new literacy studies.
- Alvermann, D. (2003). Exemplary literacy instruction in grades 7-12: What counts and who’s counting OR Mirra N, Morrell, E. & Filipiak, D. (2018). Digital Consumption to Digital Invention: Toward a New Critical Theory and Practice of Multiliteracies, Theory Into Practice, 57:1, 12-19,
- Coiro (2003). Expanding our understanding of reading comprehension to encompass new literacies.
- Castek, Coiro, Henry, Leu, & Hartman (2015). Research on Instruction and Assessment in the New Literacies of Online Research and Comprehension.
- Coiro (2013). Video of online reading comprehension challenges.