Page to Pixel: Improving Digital Reading for Students Begins By Understanding How We All Read on Screens

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What should digital reading for students look like now? Part of the answer can be found by looking at what changed when the printed word switched to pixels on screens. 

I find myself wondering, what should digital reading for students look like now? And, also, what does digital reading instruction look like? Most of us read digitally, all the time. But how were we taught to navigate an online environment? I didn’t have any undergraduate or graduate classes on it. Just kinda figured it out. 

Most of us learned to read paper texts. We teach the littles how to take the “reader’s stance.” Both feet on the floor. Sit up straight. Text flat on the desk. Left hand at the bottom corner of the left-hand side of the book to stabilize the text. Right hand in the upper right-hand corner, fingers tabbing and ready for the page turn. Take a breath. Scan the page. Begin reading with expression and prosody. 

But when the printed word switched to pixels on screens, what changed? What experiences, skills, and strategies shifted? Perhaps nothing changed but the format. (Pfft. I could hardly write that sentence.) Again, I find myself wondering: what does digital reading instruction look like?

Experiments on how to Read Digitally

  • Take out your cell phone. Read some stuff in your text messages, your emails, and some of your other apps. What are your hands doing? How are your eyes moving? What are you thinking or distracted by? 
  • If you have a Kindle or iPad eBook reader, take that out and read some stuff. Ask yourself the same questions. 
  • Now take out your computer. Read some stuff online in a browser. Read some emails. Watch a video. Listen to an audio text. 
  • Pull out a book, magazine, or newspaper. Read for a while and compare with how you read in other formats.

When you notice and name some of the things you are doing, you’re getting closer to figuring out important strategies that you use to keep focused on your tasks and to monitor your comprehension to meet your needs. Some of our kids need to know that same stuff, and it would be a good idea to think about incorporating this stuff into digital reading instruction. for online test prep.

What do you do when you read digitally? Share your thoughts so we can collect ideas that might empower others.

TEKS Commentary for Digital Reading Instruction 

  1. Introduction. A lot of folks never see these ideas in the introduction to digital reading for students, but they contextualize how the standards are to be applied meaningfully according to best practices: 
    • 1: All TEKS are about all domains of language plus thinking. All TEKS strands connect to one another reciprocally. TEKS progress in complexity and nuance to cause critical response to the evolving (vs. static) nature of language and literacy. 
    • 2: TEKS are not written in any particular order and aren’t meant to be taught one at a time, but integrated with one another and in a recursive manner. Students should be using all domains of language, all content areas, and choosing texts daily. 
    • 3: Text complexity is about “vocabulary, sophisticated sentence structures, nuanced text features, cognitively demanding content, and subtle relationships among ideas” within and across the grade levels. The goal is to develop “self-directed,” “critical,” and “collaborative” learners. 
    • 4: ELLs will need additional supports to meet the ELAR standards. Use of the first language and connected, meaningful discourse are critical for their success.
    • 5: Content area subjects accelerate learning and language development. Knowing the ELPS is part of effective ELAR instruction. 
    • Learners must talk about and be exposed to the academic language of the discipline and content areas. 
  2. Foundational Language Skills: Oral Language 1A,B.
  3. Foundational Language Skills: Beginning Reading and Writing: 2Di,ii. Note that the TEKS explicitly reference print materials. There is an absence of information regarding how to teach digital text features. When you see references that miss digital references, this is a red flag for curriculum development. Where are these lessons and distinctions explicitly taught in the classroom to students? This is important when thinking about digital reading for students. 
  4. Foundational Language Skills: Vocabulary: 3A,B. Note a specific reference to use of digital resources to explore various features of word knowledge in context with connected text. This means that readers/writers are using the resources to develop and communicate meaning. 
  5. Foundational Language Skills: Fluency: 4/3 A,B. Note that fluency is not addressed in the TEKS after 8th grade. All references to fluency are based on the reader’s purpose and use. Specific distinctions between print and digital texts are not referenced, but are critical components of online reading success. 
  6. Foundational Language Skills: Self Sustained Reading: 5/4 A. Most curriculum resources do not differentiate between physical and digital texts for independent reading time. Both have their own routines, processes, and procedures. 
  7. Comprehension Skills: Metacognition: 6/5A-I. While digital skills are not explicitly mentioned, they are implied for all reading acts in all content areas. 
  8. Response Skills: A-I. Note that the knowledge and skills statement references texts that are read, heard, or viewed. This language explores the definition of text and implies specific digital literacies. The absence of digital literacies is a red flag for curriculum needs as students will need to consume, critique, and compose digital media. 
  9. Multiple Genres: Genres: 9/8F. Note that multimodal and digital texts are referenced throughout the K–12 continuum. All previous TEKS, A-G can also be digital and multimodal. The term “multimodal” is also new to many teachers and curriculum writers. Staff development and curriculum materials are needed to expand student exposure to this type of media. 
  10. Author’s Purpose and Craft. No specific mention of digital literacies is referenced in the TEKS, but nuanced decisions ARE being made for digital tests based on mode of delivery: viewed, read, heard, genre, and purpose (propaganda, entertainment, assessment, etc.). Again, an absence of digital references is a red flag for curriculum purposes. 
  11. Composition: Writing Process/Genres. Note that the TEKS do not specifically mention digital composition other than vague references to multiple texts and in publishing for specific audiences, and genre characteristics. Since students will be expected to compose and respond digitally, specific skills in typing fluency, formatting, editing and revising, and the digital composing process itself may not be present in curriculum materials.
  12. Inquiry and Research: 13/12E,H, J, I. Note that the TEKS do not specifically mention digital research skills other than vague references to the research plan and mode of delivery. Curriculum materials may or may not have references to using updated tools and resources to manage digital research and document management for content or citation references. 

Up Next:

Now that you’ve done some thinkin’ about digital reading instruction and what digital reading for students should look like, let’s dive into an overview of the videos and content that’s next as we continue to talk about what it means to read digitally for our students. 

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About the Author

Dr Shona Rose

Shona Rose

Dr. Shona Rose, passionate about literacy and improving student experiences, researches and presents solutions to cause displays of learner growth. These displays become tools for teachers to provide support and intervention to accelerate the impact on student performance.
Dr. Rose uses her experiences as a baker at Kind House Ukraine Bakery, gardening and music, and budding interest as an outdoorswoman and overlander to make concrete connections to literary processes. Her rescue mutt, Joy, and ugly Cornish Rex cat, Youglie, often appear in her writings and activities.
When not researching and reading, Dr. Rose revels in being a “Nona” to her three grandchildren. 
Connect with Shona: 
Or by email to shonarose67 at gmail