Monday, March 17, 2014

Reading Workshop 2.0: Some Preliminary Thoughts

Currently, I am working on a manuscript for Heinemann Publishers on Teaching Reading in the Digital Age. Here are some thoughts as I begin to write this books:

I have been reading and writing about workshop approaches to reading instruction for the past 25 years. One might think that I should have run out of things to say about these instructional approaches and classroom frameworks a long time ago. Alas, that is not to be. I seem to have a few more things to say about the changes that have taken place in literacy education, in particular the changes in technology and digital resources that have affected the ways we teach children to read and write and how we organize classrooms to support this endeavor. Drawing on my previous work on the Reading Workshop (Serafini, 2001, 2008), this book will provide teachers and literacy educators with a new vision for the reading workshop, new resources for instruction, discussion, and analysis of texts, and some new ways to think about supporting students in their journey to becoming more engaged literate beings.
            Into my previous discussions and work on reading instruction and workshop approaches I am now inserting the concept of Reading Workshop 2.0 (Two-Point-Oh). For many teachers the attachment of 2.0 to the term reading workshop may seem like an unwelcome addition to an already overcrowded curriculum; just one more thing to worry about covering. However, I assure you that is not my intention in writing this book. The last thing I want to do is give teachers one more thing to worry about. I don’t see these resources and instructional approaches adding any new burdens to teachers’ workload; instead, I see the resources and instructional approaches offered in this book helping teachers do the same important things reading workshop teachers have been doing for years in more effective, efficient, and exciting ways.
The term technology can be misleading. When people say the word technology they too often mean the newest gizmo or digital resource that is being bandied about by friends in and out of education. However, it is important to remember that the pen and pencil were also important technological advancements at one time in our history, so was the codex, nowadays more commonly referred to as a book. Writing a book like this requires attending to all forms of technology, not just the newest digital resource or fad to hit the Internet.
            A Reading Workshop 2.0 approach must also take into account what Lankshear and Knobel refer to as the new ethos stuff, in addition to addressing the new technical stuff. By new technical and ethos stuff, they are suggesting that along with the changes in the technologies teachers and students are exposed to in and out of school, the ways these technologies are used and how they alter the way we interact with information, people and ideas has also changed. As students and teachers draw on these new technologies (new technical stuff), they are no longer viewed simply as consumers of information; rather they are producers and critics of information, as well. More will be presented on these technical and ethos concepts in the opening chapters.
Creating New Spaces
            In 2001, when I wrote my first book for Heinemann, The Reading Workshop: Creating Space for Readers, the concept of space in the subtitle was conceptualized primarily as a physical space, the organization, layout, and procedures necessary for enacting a reading workshop model in one’s classroom. With the expansion of the Internet and the increased availability of new digital resources since I wrote that book, the space being conceptualized in this new book has both physical and virtual aspects. Creating space for readers and reading in a 2.0 environment means addressing the role of digital and on-line resources in addition to the traditional resources of classroom libraries, print-based texts, and word processors. I see these new Reading Workshop 2.0 resources and approaches as expansions of our traditional spaces, moving the learning that occurs there beyond the walls of the traditional classroom.
            As more and more books are provided in digital formats, as book reviews are posted on-line for anyone in the world to read, and as students’ access to information through Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) continually expands, the spaces we provide students to support and foster their literate abilities must take into account these resources and exciting possibilities. What counts as being literate is growing more complex every year. Because ICTs and digital resources require different skills than the skills needed by our parents’ generation, decoding print based texts needs to be viewed as a necessary, but insufficient set of skills given the complexity of multimodal texts, on-line and digital resources, and social media (Luke; Freebody). Reading has always been more than decoding, its just is more obvious in these new environments that students will need a larger array of skills to be successful readers.
Reading as Interpretation, Writing as Representation
            The strategies, processes, and practices used for making sense of the more complex texts (multimodal ensembles) encountered in today’s world goes beyond simple notions of comprehension to more complex conceptions of interpretation. In similar fashion, writing is no longer simply putting pencil to paper; it is about designing multimodal texts by drawing on digital resources, visual images, design elements and other resources in the process of making one’s ideas visible. Students can now make their ideas and interpretations visible to the entire world almost instantaneously through the Internet and other ICTs. This changes everything. What knowledge is valued, what processes and practices are used in coming to know, and whose knowledge is valued and privileged changes with the new technical and ethos stuff mentioned earlier.

            Design is thinking made visible. If this is true then our students need to learn new ways and use new tools for making their thinking visible. This is one of the basic concepts that needs to be explored; how do students use new digital, on-line and visual resources to make their ideas visible and available for further discussion.

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