Special Report
Reading & Literacy

Editor’s Note: Learning to Read in a Digital Age

By The Editors — November 09, 2016 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

There has never been a generation of young people more immersed in digital media than this one. From computers to smartphone apps to e-books, electronic media has permeated the lives of many of today’s students since babyhood.

A survey from Common Sense media, a research and advocacy group, finds, in fact, that 72 percent of children ages 8 and younger have used a mobile device to play a game, watch a video, or use an app—and that’s from a survey conducted three years ago. The proportion of children using mobile has undoubtedly grown since.

The ubiquitous use of digital technology raises important questions for educators, especially those charged with preparing students to be literate in modern society. Of course, students must know how to read and write text, whether on a computer screen or on paper. But do they also need to learn to be “digitally literate?” And what does that mean?

In this report, “The Changing Face of Literacy,” Education Week explores those questions and attempts to show how the digital revolution is transforming literacy instruction throughout K-12.

As it turns out, experts and educators define digital literacy in various ways. For many, though, the term encompasses a wide range of skills beyond reading and writing, including reading on an e-reader, assessing the credibility of a website, or creating and sharing YouTube videos. As Audrey Church, the president of the American Association of School Librarians, notes in this report, “children are digital natives, but they’re not digitally literate.”

A 3rd grade student reads online at Indian Run Elementary School in Dublin, Ohio. The school integrates tablets, laptops, and print books into reading time.

Experts do agree, however, that even the youngest children should be learning literacy with a mix of print and digital texts. The Common Core State Standards, now used by 39 states, also give teachers a gentle nudge toward teaching digital literacy. Yet, while some of those standards explicitly call for technology use, others still leave it to teachers to decide whether to incorporate electronic media.

Some teachers have stepped up to that challenge, including one high school teacher in Mineola, N.Y., who is using 21st century technology to teach “Macbeth,” a play written nearly 500 years ago by William Shakespeare.

“My sense is that we’re not going to lose Shakespeare,” remarked another educator, a literacy coach in Revere, Mass. “He’ll remain forever young because of technology.”

A version of this article appeared in the November 09, 2016 edition of Education Week as Editor’s Note

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Attend to the Whole Child: Non-Academic Factors within MTSS
Learn strategies for proactively identifying and addressing non-academic barriers to student success within an MTSS framework.
Content provided by Renaissance
Classroom Technology K-12 Essentials Forum How to Teach Digital & Media Literacy in the Age of AI
Join this free event to dig into crucial questions about how to help students build a foundation of digital literacy.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Reading & Literacy Opinion Students Are Struggling With Literacy. The Public Library Can Help
An early-childhood educator makes the case for partnering schools with local libraries to improve students’ reading and writing skills.
Marjeta Bejdo
5 min read
Tree growing from a stack of books. Concept art of education, learning, reading, wisdom, study, school and imagination
Jorm Sangsorn/iStock
Reading & Literacy Q&A Can Taylor Swift Get Students to Love Poetry?
A college professor will train middle and high school teachers on how to use Swift's lyrics in their curriculum.
8 min read
Singer Taylor Swift performs on stage during her Eras Tour at the Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh on June 7, 2024.
Taylor Swift performs on stage during her Eras Tour at the Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh on June 7, 2024.
Jane Barlow/PA via AP
Reading & Literacy Photos Drama and Delight: The Faces of the National Spelling Bee
The 2024 Scripps National Spelling Bee came down to a high-stakes spell-off. Here's a look at the faces behind the event.
1 min read
Shrey Parikh, 12, of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., reacts to a fellow competitor's word during the finals of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, in Oxon Hill, Md., on May 30, 2024.
Shrey Parikh, 12, of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., reacts to a fellow competitor's word during the finals of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, in Oxon Hill, Md., on May 30, 2024.
Nathan Howard/AP