Reading the Internet


We spend so much time talking about the technology, and all of the great new apps, programs, tips and tricks. Undoubtedly it is a literacy unto itself. But do we really teach our kids how to ‘read’ the internet?

How do we harness literacy skills as they specifically relate to the technologies available to us, including how to conduct proper internet searches. How do we help our students improve their reading skills in the digital world?


Many of our students are reading about the Paris attacks. But where are they receiving this information? What context is this information presented in? Is the information shared in Canada the same as the information shared from another country or perhaps third world nation? How do we teach our students to monitor how the story develops online?How do we help students identify and understand difficult vocabulary?

Are we only teaching our students to read books?  Who are they as readers? How do we harness our library and classroom reading resources and move beyond to the ability to effectively read the internet?

We need to help students transform their work with traditional texts to align with digital reading that they inevitably engage with more and more as they get older. While also keeping in mind that the digital divide is still very real. Next, we need to support the critical thinking that is essential in our digital environments. Perspective, bias, stereotypes, language, comprehension – it all applies online, but in very unique ways due to the ways we conduct our searches. However, most of us don’t really know how to read the internet. 

We cannot assume that technology itself is the magic bullet that improves literacy skills. And according to Alan November, we cannot just apply our traditional work to the new technology – otherwise we are just using a very expensive form of a pencil!! iPads are so much more than $1000 pencils!

We have and programs are excellent at providing instantaneous formative feedback as well. There are always key interactions that take place between readers and text. Our traditional strategies for understanding traditional texts can still be important, but in new ways to  understand digital texts. However, do we pay as much attention to digital texts as we do to non-print texts in our classrooms and learning environments? Are the key interactions that take place between a reader and the text change based on whether a student is engaging on social media, reading an ebook, or reading a print novel?

What strategies are students using to access text online? How are they verifying information? Do students know how to look beyond the first page of a Google search? How long do they stay with text? How often are distractions occurring? Do features such as ‘dictionary’ on ereaders providing new opportunities for accessing text? Do student use these features? Blogging, texting, how are these types of text impacting reading ability? How are we measuring this, assessing it, and using it to reinforce reading skills?


With new reading habits forming from our use of ever-expanding technologies, we are faced with new opportunities and constraints as readers. We need more than those who are well versed in technologies, and need those who can bridge the gap between the technologies and the key reading skills and strategies that our students desperately need. I greatly fear that if we stray too far from those skills and strategies to focus solely on the tech, we risk losing many opportunities for our students to become excellent readers.

For instance, in the digital world we see embedded videos, hyperlinks, opportunities to share. We see non-linear reading paths, and many possible distractions, and opportunities to connect with others. We may ask ourselves as one possible inquiry, what strategies do we need to promote effective collaboration and connectivist experience that build literacy with digital texts?

The reality is that many of us in education, work in digital spaces every single day. But – are digital texts marginalized in our learning spaces? Do we need to re-consider how we teach reading skills and strategies to our students? Always, of course, being mindful of the vast experiences, interests and motivations that our students have.

A simple reality of our digital world is the fact that our reading is also non-linear. It is also not free from bias, stereotypes. Information literacy skills are very important. Students need to learn how to use these even when we are not there for them.

Aside from blogging, tweeting, reading news online, and choosing where to conduct appropriate searches, how do you harness these texts to teach key reading skills and strategies? How do you assess this?






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