Digital Reading What's Essential #cyberPD

I am joining educators from all over as we read and discuss Bill Bass and Franki Sibberson's Digital Reading:  What's Essential for Grades 3 - 8 hosted by Cathy Mere, Laura Komos, and Michelle Nero.  If you are interested in reading more, stop by the Google Community to read and comment on others' reflections.

The advancement of technology and digital tools has made me think more deeply about my reading and writing workshops.  It's forced me to look closely at what changes and what stays the same.  Through talking with others, (which include virtual conversations, thanks to technology), reading professional books, blogs, online articles, and attending professional development (again, some of which is virtual), I am convinced that the foundation of reading and writing workshop stays the same.   Franki's statement below sums it up beautifully.

"Fast forward twenty-plus years.  I believe ore strongly than ever that workshop matters and that students will need time, ownership, and response if they are to grow as readers."  pg. 17

And yet, there are still differences, which this book is helping me dig deep into my own reading process to help me define what those differences are.  The introduction of technology and digital tools opens the world of choice:  choice in media, choice in texts, choice in how to share, choice in with whom to share, choice in how to reflect and respond to one's reading.  It's mind boggling for myself as an adult reader.  When I think about the implications for what we need to teach kids, it becomes even more important to me that I am very purposeful in my teaching.  It become paramount that I am watching kids closely, analyzing their reading behaviors, having conversations with them, and helping them be metacognitive about their own reading/thinking so that they can be purposeful and intentional about their reading lives.

As I read, I began to recognize holes in my repertoire of resources and mini-lessons.  One of those areas is explicitly modeling my thinking as I navigate a web based article.  Figure 1.3 on pg. 10, "How digital reading expands traditional reading skills" helped me see where I might need to create some resources to help my students.

Because I am going to be teaching 5th grade next year, I also know that I need to begin to gather some content area texts.  It's no secret that my go-to website for many different purposes is Wonderopolis.  I found a Wonder that goes with our science curriculum to demonstrate my thinking as I read.  I used Explain Everything as my tool of choice.  It allows me to add the live website, write on the document and add my voice.  I can then add this final project to a digital bulletin board for my students to access.

In my classroom, I would probably record this lesson, add the chart we complete after the lesson, and put it on the digital bulletin board (Padlet) and my website.

There are still some things to work out on this's not perfect!

So, what did I do as a reader? (I would chart students' thinking at this point)

  • I set a purpose.  I am reading to get more information about a science topic, forces and motion.
  • I asked a question.  Why were my cousins' cannon ball splashes always bigger than mine?
  • I previewed the article by skimming through the text and looking for key words, headings, etc.
  • I began to read.  
  • I clicked on hyper-linked words I wasn't sure of.  The links provided me with a definition and helped me better understand what I was reading.
  • When my understanding broke down, I reread.
  • I asked questions as I read.
  • I underlined text.
  • I created a mental image of what happened when someone does a cannon ball dive.  I drew that mental image to the side of the text.
  • I paraphrased what I read to see if I understood the text.  
  • I determined what was important to my understanding.  I did not click on each and every link.
  • At the end I summarized what I learned.  My thinking grew as I gained a better understanding to my question.

I feel like I've just touched the tip of the iceberg in this chapter.  So many, many things to think about, which gives me more questions to ponder:

  1. What is the best place to create a space to help match kids to digital texts as well as print?
  2.  What digital texts can I add to pique kids' interest?  Where can I find those digital pieces?
  3. Does watching a video count as reading?
  4. If it does, how do I balance the needs of kids who need extra support in print text?
  5.  How do I read websites differently than I read blogs?  How do I read multi-media pieces?  What's important to teach kids about those reading practices?
  6. How do I support students in being intentional when reading and choosing reading material?
  7. How can I use formative assessment to analyze student reading behaviors?
  8. What are the skills I my students need to learn and how do I ensure that I am embedding technology into my instruction without making it all about the tool?
  9. Where do I begin to support students in making meaningful connections with other readers inside and outside our classroom walls?
  10. How does in the introduction of technology change reader's response?
  11. How do I ensure student ownership and help parents understand the important work their kids are doing?
I'm sure as I read more and dive into the reflections from others in the #cyberPD community, I will have even more questions to consider.


  1. Phew, I have had to read this fast to go out with the girls but my head is spinning. How do you know how to do all of this. Thanks for the great explanation that I'll return to later today to help my own learning.

  2. Julie,

    I was thrilled to read that the foundations of literacy instruction and the RW workshop will remain in the forefront of our thinking and planning. But you said it best: "It become paramount that I am watching kids closely, analyzing their reading behaviors, having conversations with them, and helping them be metacognitive about their own reading/thinking so that they can be purposeful and intentional about their reading lives." And this is true in our students' traditional and digital reading lives! So much to think about here!

    And way to "jump in" with the cannonball wonder! True learning in practice and reflection! I did not watch the entire video (my computer wasn't loading it ...) but as I read through the list of reading behaviors, I'm amazed at all you included ... and then you created a list of great questions to continue to ponder -- for you and me both!

    Thanks for adding to the conversations, Julie!

  3. Wow! You knew I'd be so excited about seeing your thinking come to life. Super smart as always and now I have some more thinking to do from learning from you!!

  4. Julie, I'm loving this book and your post. As you know I've been pondering the same question what is changed in my teaching and what is changed and student learning with the addition of digital tools? Franki and Bill are doing a nice job and helping me think this through. I'm looking forward to reading more

  5. Hi Julie,
    I loved your cannon ball example! I also loved how you prepared a lesson to demonstrate how digital reading helped you explore a science topic and your own related personal wonder. I think we need to do more of these authentic learning examples with our students. Thanks for making me think.

  6. Julie,
    Like you, I was pleased (but actually not that surprised) to discover that the essence of reading workshop does not change. I still have to give kids that time, ownership and response. That also presents huge challenges, in that there is already soooo much to teach, and now I have to teach them how to navigate digital tools as well. I loved your piece on the Cannonball article. Soooo important for kids to see us model our thinking. I want to try this myself with a Wonderopolis article! I don't know EXPLAIN EVERYTHING and I want to check that out too. Like you, I was left with a million questions after I read. I am hoping that I will get some of those answered in the next chunk, which I really need to start reading today! Thanks for all this great thinking! Carol

  7. Julie,
    Thank you so much for sharing your thinking. I was intrigued by your conversation of what is different. The foundational structures of our workshops and many of our core beliefs are the same, but I think we need to start talking more about what is different. I think the "what is different" part of this is what makes it so important we continue to move forward. Digital tools/texts seem to expand choice (you shared several examples above), audience, purpose, and ownership. There are also more opportunities to connect with others.

    I appreciated the time you took to walk us through your process as a digital reader. Your questions about digital reading were thought provoking. I was reading your seventh question about formative assessment, and wondered specifically how we use formative assessment in relation to digital reading. I also think digital tools open doors that expand our abilities to use formative assessment in our classrooms in new ways (photos, video, etc.).

    I'm looking forward to thinking about this more in the coming weeks. I'm so glad you've joined the conversation.


  8. I want to do more with Explain Everything. You have inspired me!

  9. If you've used this sentence or one like it to paraphrase a statement, concern, objection, comment or suggestion then you could be sending a message to your client that you are not listening. You were probably told the best way to understand and connect with a prospect is to listen actively and paraphrase what you've heard. I'm sure you never gave it a second thought. online paraphrasing tool


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