"He did?" I asked. "Where is it? Did he put in your room?" J has talked to me about the books in her house before. "We have books everywhere," she had informed me in one of our first days together.
"It's not that kind of shelf," she replied matter-of-factly. "It's on his tablet."
"Duh," I thought to myself. I should've seen that coming. Of course, a shelf doesn't have to be a wood bookshelf anymore; it could be a digital bookshelf.
"I only have one book on it so far," she continued. "It's really good. It's about a girl who has lost something and you have to read to find out where it is. We're going to add more."
You'd think by now I'd be used to these reminders that our literate world is no longer just about paper, pencils, and printed books for our students, but still sometimes it makes me pause.
Like J, my literate choices are often digital. These days, my books are mostly on a digital shelf. Each morning before I head out the door I spend a few minutes browsing through Feed.ly for the newest posts. I'm still amazed by the amount of fresh writing available written by practicing educators. I use digital tools in my life to write, to collect ideas, to share with others, to connect and to collaborate. Whether I am snapping a picture to remember a writing idea, downloading books to my digital reader from our library's Overdrive site, or checking my Twitter feed, digital tools have become an integral part of my literate life. For this reason, it always has made sense that I find ways to allow my students to grow their literate lives with digital tools and applications.
For me it has never been a question of "why digital literacy." I've known it is essential. Instead I have wrestled more over the "how" of digital literacy with students. How do I create authentic digital opportunities for students? How do I make sure we have the tools we need for digital reading and writing? How do I help students to work with purpose? How do we connect with other learning communities? As I work with educators taking the first steps in a digital transition it's not hard to remember those first days of my own transition. It wasn't easy, but it was worth it.
Yet, I realize for many there is still the question of "why digital literacy."
The questions I am often asked cause me to really think about the "why" of digital literacy. Is it worth the time? What do students gain? Why is it important for learners? Our #cyberPD conversation and the work I do, has caused me to think about the reasons for digital opportunities. Here are some the reasons why I find it important to take steps toward creating digital opportunities for students:
- It's the world we live in today. If we are not creating digital opportunities we are omitting an important aspect of real literacy for our students.
- Digital spaces change the community dynamic.
- Gives students a voice now.
- Provides more choice to students.
- Encourages student ownership.
- Allows me to differentiate for learners.
- Makes learning more visual for students.
- Allows me to see inside the thinking of students in new ways.
- Provides opportunities for students to learn, work, and create in new ways.
- Makes authenticity and a purpose a real conversation.
- Connects us to other communities and learners.
What are the "whys" that push you to create digital opportunities for learners? How has it made a difference in your learning community?
Join us Tuesday, October 6th, at 8 PM EST for our #cyberPD chat. Our community will be talking about launching our workshops with a digital lens.
Cathy Mere has taught grades K-6, worked as a literacy coach, and a Reading Recovery teacher in Ohio. Currently she works as a reading specialist supporting young readers. A co-organizer of the #cyberPD community, she supports personalized opportunities for professional learning. Cathy is the author of More Than Guided Reading, and a contributing author for Choice Literacy. She shares her professional reflections at Reflect and Refine: Building a Learning Community and dabbles in poetry and personal essay at Merely Day by Day.