As a member of the this Online Book Club you are expected to post to the book blog at least once per week between now and July 11 -- that's six weeks. You should finish your book before then, and you will meet during the Institute in your groups to extend the discussion and plan how to present the book to the others in the Institute.

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Thursday, July 7, 2016

From individual to connected reading in FYW

Obviously one of the key takeaways from this text is that digital texts afford opportunities for connected reading that exist, but only to a much lesser extent, with print texts. In thinking about how I use reading in my First Year Writing class, it's apparent that I think of it from a very individualistic, linear framework, even though many of the texts I assign are online and I have students do online research. So how can I make better use of the opportunities for connectivity afforded by digital texts? I usually have my 121 students research "a topic." You know, pretty standard comp class stuff. I think a lot of what Hicks and Turner are talking about doesn't really work in that sort of environment.

This year, I want to move more towards focusing in on a specific set of topics, particular aspects of communication and rhetoric that students just starting out in college should be thinking critically about. I think I want to focus on issues of free speech--where to draw the line between freedom of speech and freedom from speech, which institutions, if any, should be involved in policing that line, what role individuals play in making that distinction, how to deal with hate speech, how to persuade institutions to act ethically, how to persuade people engaging in hate speech, etc.

If students are all focused on a topic, it will be easier to form reading groups, because they'll be able to talk with one another about what they're finding and offer observations on one another's writing, informed by a collective understanding of the topic and the material. I think I'll assign a few key texts near the beginning, and with those model some of the critical reading and response skills that I want them to have, but then let them find digital texts in reading groups and share information and responses to the texts with one another. Figure 7.1 on page 135 is especially useful in thinking about ways to make my students' reading more connected next year.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Fair Use

As I'm reading further on and thinking about the suggested lessons, I'm wondering about how to teach students about fair use of material they find online. The authors' claim that screenshots of copyrighted text is allowable is something that I was not aware of. They claim that because it's "transformative" it's allowable. This surprises me, and I'm not sure that that would be true of all material. While it seems much easier to just discuss transformative use in class, it seems like a lengthier discussion would be necessary. This is a murky area for me but a necessary one to cover, especially in a research class like 121.

On different note, I really like the idea of group annotations and literature circles for complex reading. I've had students blog their individual reactions to readings, and this always most effective when classmates reply to the blog posts. I'm now thinking about ways to place them in reading groups with specific roles and posts for some readings. I think this would also enhance class discussion of essays and articles.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Chs. 3 & 4: Supporting mindful & effective literacy practices

As I read through chapters 3 and 4, the ideas for classroom activities that have popped into my head seem more appropriate for WRTG120 than for 121. It makes me really wish 120 were required. 121 is much more focused on research on a specific topic, whereas 120 has more freedom to explore personal experiences and practices.

I think it’s important for all college students to be able to name their literacy practices (what is reading? what am I reading? how am I reading it?) and to develop more effective and mindful literacy practices online (using tabs, apps, shortcuts, etc.). This seems like an extension of the literacy narrative that we do in 120.

The narrative can have the student think about, in broad brush strokes, how they got to where they are now as readers. This book has got me thinking of something more in the moment and specific. Have them take note of and analyze their own literacy practices for a day. Or for a few hours. Have them take note of and analyze someone else’s literacy practices for a few hours (this might be a little difficult logistically). A diary and one’s browser history could be useful tools for this. Give them names for the different ways they might encounter a text (stumbling, etc.), give them names for what kinds of texts they are (short, mid, long-form, etc.), and they can start to think more critically about their own literacy and become more mindful. 

I also like the idea of sharing more explicitly some of the tools that I’ve developed as a more experienced reader of digital texts. It’s one of those things that I’ve started to take for granted--of course everyone knows how links work, how tabs work, how to save something for later, how to find interesting articles, etc. But as the book says (p. 69-71), and as I’ve come to realize as a teacher how little my students know about the internet, it’s become apparent that I need to spend more time helping students find and utilize some of these tools in order to become more effective readers. It’s like with my preschoolers, I always have to remind myself that so many things that are obvious to me are completely foreign concepts to them. 

Monday, June 27, 2016

Something I'm thinking about as I read chapter four is the mismatch between school literacy practices and those students enact on their own. The book cites a study showing the discrepancy in students reading print material for school and digitally for everything else. I read a more recent study that discussed this discrepancy in writing practices as well. That study showed students did not see a correlation between writing for school assignments and writing for personal purposes. The chapter reinforces that concept by claiming that students interviewed did not see the reading they did digitally as real reading. I wonder if the students don't consider this real reading because it is what the authors call "short form" versus the "long form" reading we need them to do in an academic setting. So far this text spends a lot of time noticing, but not really suggesting any instructional practices. I'd like to know how to move students from  "short form" reading to stronger comprehension of complex, lengthy reading. I'm hoping the text will soon offer ideas.

Monday, June 20, 2016

I have often thought that teaching reading skills is inseparable from teaching writing skills, but chapter three helps to clarify that by discussing how reading digital text often includes replying or responding to text. As I teach FYW, I notice that many students struggle to engage with required readings.  Encouraging students to engage with these readings in manners similar to the way they engage with digital texts or social media they read outside of school may offer us opportunities in a writing classroom to work on integrating these reading and writing skills in meaningful ways. I liked the discussion on writing reviews on Goodreads as a possible class assignment.
I also notice that I am frequently distracted by choices when reading digital text. The chapter mentions the student, Trevor, who finds digital reading more "alive" but more distracting.  This is where teaching mindfulness comes in. I can imagine whole-class brainstorming on techniques of mindfulness that we can share to help stay focused.
Trevor also talks about looking up information on social media posts he finds interesting. This seems like an incredibly important discussion to have in class, particularly in our polarized political climate. Students need to be able to find information that is personally important to them, but also to be able to question that information and determine how factual it is. I wonder how we teach this type of research and suggest ways of vetting material that has likely not been vetted. While we have access to so much information, it seems harder than ever to research for trustworthy information.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Something I kept thinking about as I read the second chapter is the importance of choice by readers of digital text. We often talk about choice in terms of encouraging students to self-select text, but it seems to me that this idea of choice really explodes with digital text. Within one "text" students are faced with a multitude of choices about hyperlinks to follow and different routes to take through the reading. It does seem like Rosenblatt's ideas on reader response and interaction with text to create meaning become much more complex when readers can take their reading of a digital text down different paths.  I'm curious about the challenges this creates for the instructor and instruction. If some readers choose not to follow certain hyperlinks, will it become difficult to have whole-class discussions of readings? In theory, students may be reading different texts based upon the paths they select. Actually, as I think about this, I can imagine it leading to richer conversations in class. It would allow students to discuss which links they chose to follow, and they could share the additional information they gathered by following these links. This could also lead to an interesting discussion in class about reading process and how/why they selected to follow certain links but not others.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

My thoughts on the first chapter

It’s really interesting to think about digital reading while doing digital reading. I see myself doing the reading from sort of a bird’s eye view, thinking about how my fellow book group members or my students might see me doing this reading. So when my eyes glaze over or I check Facebook or I skim over some lines, I’m conscious of how I might describe that moment in my reading process to another person, and I am likewise conscious of how I think students often think of reading, like it’s, ideally, this linear process of absorbing information—that distractions, connections, etc. (i.e., normal parts of reading) interrupt the flow of reading and indicate that they’re not good readers. 

I’m also conscious of how important a reader’s sense of purpose is. We talked about this in WAC. Jackie LaRose has this acronym—PESTILENCE—I have no clue what each letter is supposed to represent, but it’s something along the lines of, purpose (I think that’s the “P”) leads to engagement in reading. So when I get to the parts of this text that appear to be more oriented towards K-12 teachers (Lexile level, Common Core, etc.), I tend to drift off and pay less attention, skimming for the next line that looks like it might be relevant to me. So I’m aware of my multiple purposes in reading this: it was assigned (in a manner of speaking), I have to do this blog, I want to improve my pedagogy, I want to keep up with my book group. And as a reader, I am optimizing my time by focusing on the parts of the text that help me to accomplish most of those goals and skimming the parts that don’t. I’m also aware of the conflicts between those purposes and the other things I want to be doing: I want to be reading the fourth book in Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series, which I just got from the library yesterday; I want to read articles about politics or current events; I want to look over my family’s finances (we just bought a car this week, ugh); I want to do just about anything besides read a book on literacy, honestly. Would I call those things purposes? Maybe we can say there are “pro-homework” purposes and “anti-homework” purposes? That might be an interesting exercise actually… 

I was really glad to see this fact stated clearly:  “We cannot assume that adolescents today are digital natives’ (Prensky, 2001) who naturally gain close reading skills on a screen” (CR, p. 13). Over the last year or so, I’ve thought about this a lot in terms of writing, research, and tech usage in general, but I guess I’ve never really thought about it explicitly in terms of reading. So for instance, I assume that students don’t know how to do a lot of the things that are possible with word processing software, I assume that they don’t know all the different things they can do with search engines, with website design, etc. But I’ve never really paid specific attention to digital reading. So, like Laura, I often encourage students to print and highlight, because I don't know how to support effective digital reading. Meanwhile, I'm taking notes on Google Docs, saving quotes easily, looking things up, writing about the reading in a different tab—in short, all of the things I'd like my students to be doing—and I can only do so because I'm reading digitally. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of this book. (And yes, I recognize that there's a contradiction between that statement and what I said in the last paragraph: that I'm not actually looking forward to reading it. I think I'm looking forward to having read it? But reading for work isn't super fun, especially during the summer.) I assume I'll have something more substantive to say once I've gotten further into this book. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Reading/writing connection

As I'm beginning to read this text, I'm thinking about how it will apply to my instruction of college writing. I've found that reading instruction is an important part of teaching first year composition. Although I encourage my students to print out assigned articles and annotate to improve their comprehension of complex material, I often feel guilty about the expense, and waste, of printing so much material. I'm hoping that this book will offer suggestions for achieving better reading comprehension of digital texts. I haven't been able to offer my students advice on reading digitally, so at this early point that is what I'm reading for.

I'm also curious about the digital composing my students do. Will this text offer methods of teaching that make digital writing/multimodal texts more readable? These are my thoughts as I begin the book.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Hello and good day to you

Hello humans.
I am excited to read this book and share ideas and insights with you for a few of reasons.

A. I am a total fangirl over Troy Hicks. He is my hero!
B. So many students read online texts, research using online articles, respond using online blogs... I would be remiss if I did not face this challenge head on and learn all I can.
C. The world is digital, and while I love the smell of "real" books, I need to meet my students where they are.

I brought the book with me today to get started. We shall see if I get to it during the day. My ToDo list is growing by the moment.

Much love and light to each of you.
Erin Umpstead

Tuesday, May 31, 2016


Reading digital text is different from reading text  printed on dead trees. I wonder how truly different different it is and how my teaching needs to change as I encourage my students to see words as their friends and take ownership of their reading development.

I have been given the challenge of teaching the lowest 20 freshman English 9. I know this group is the disaffected. I am hoping to learn ways to use digital texts to engage them in their own learning.

Karen Chi (not EMWP)