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What Is New about the New Literacies of Online Reading Comprehension?



BIO: Donald J. Leu


John and Maria Neag Endowed Chair in Literacy and Technology


Professor of Education


Co-Director, New Literacies Research Lab



Donald J. Leu is the John and Maria Neag Endowed Chair in Literacy and Technology and holds a joint appointment in Curriculum and Instruction and Educational Psychology at the University of Connecticut. He directs the New Literacies Research Lab at the University of Connecticut and is a member of the Board of Directors of the International Reading Association and the Reading Hall of Fame. He is a past President of the National Reading Conference. A graduate of Michigan State, Harvard, and Berkeley, Don’s work focuses on the new skills and strategies required to read, write, and learn with Internet technologies and the best instructional practices that prepare students for these new literacies. He has more than 100 research publications and seventeen books on topics that range from phonics and phonemic awareness to teacher education and the new literacies of online reading comprehension. He has given keynote addresses in Europe, Australia, Asia, South America, and North America. He is currently a Principal Investigator on a number of federal research grants (CTELL, The New Literacies of Online Reading Comprehension, and NAEP Secondary Reanalysis). His work has been funded by the U.S. Department of Education, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Defense, the North Central Educational Research Lab, the Carnegie Corporation, the Institute for Education Sciences, PBS and the Annenberg Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Australian Council of Educational Research, and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). He is currently editing the Handbook of Research on New Literacies (Erlbaum) with Julie Coiro, Michele Knobel, and Colin Lankshear.



•Ph.D. Language and Literacy, University of California, Berkeley


•Ed.M. Reading and Human Development, Harvard University


•B.A. Political Science/History/Russian, Michigan State University


Greg McVerry ~  jgregmcverry@gmail.comGreg McVerry is a doctoral student at the University of Connecticut studying literacy and technology. He received a Masters of Education from the University of Hartford. Greg has taught math and language arts for five years in Regional School District 14 (Woodbury and Bethlehem, CT). He currently teaches sixth grade and serves on the language arts curriculum, the math curriculum, and the technology curriculum committee. Greg was awarded the Connecticut Educators Computer Association Technology Integration Award for 2006 for his "Iron Age to the Information Age: Teaching the New Literacies" unit. He has provided professional development to districts on topics ranging  from integrating classroom websites, electronic whiteboards, to developing e-portfolios.



Ian O'Byrne ~ ian.obyrne@uconn.edu

Ian O'Byrne is a doctoral student at the University of Connecticut studying literacy and technology. He received his Masters of Education from the University of Massachusetts in the 180 Days Program. Ian has taught English Language Arts in both the middle schools and high schools of Springfield and Chicopee Massachusetts. He currently teaches English 11 and Read 180 at Chicopee Comprehensive High School. He has served as Adjunct Professor at WNEC in the School of Education. Ian is a Master Teacher in the Intel Teach to the Future program, and has used that experience to create professional development for teachers in his districts. He has been involved in initiatives in his school districts ranging from online coursework, integrating technology in the classroom, school to career, and acting as department leadership.

What is new about these new literacies? The answer to this question is only beginning to emerge. We are hampered by a confusing series of overlapping constructs (Coiro, Knobel, Lankshear, What Is New about the New Literacies of Online Reading Comprehension? _ 39 _ & Leu, in press), a limited body of research (Leu, 2006), and very few scholars who study the issue (Hartman, 2004).



Thus, a complete understanding of new literacies may be a Sisyphean task, never fully attainable.



The Internet Is a Defining Technology for Literacy and


Learning in the Twenty-First Century



Of course, increasing Internet access does not necessarily mean that students are being taught the skills necessary to locate, read, and think critically about online information.


It is clear that the Internet is this generation’s defining technology for literacy and learning. It is also clear that classrooms have yet to take up Internet integration systematically, let alone instruction in the new literacies the Internet requires. In fact, those pioneering teachers who have led the way with Internet integration focus on the technology aspects of use, not seeing this as an instructional issue for literacy at all (Karchmer, 2001).


Horizontal to vertical alignment in organizations.


In Japan 98% of all households have Internet connections16X faster than ours.

In fact, those pioneering teachers who have led the way with Internet integration focus on the technology aspects of use, not seeing this as an instructional issue for literacy at all (Karchmer, 2001).



·        WE ARE TRYING HARD TO MOVE AWAY FROM LOOKING AT THE TECHNOLOGY ASPECTS OF integrating digital information to the instructional and literacy issues – but that is very difficult.



·        ADVICE from Dr. Leu:” it may help you to look at familiar elements with a new and  powerful perspective, one of online comprehension and learning,  what students  need to acquire and how best to teach it.”





1.    The Internet and other new ICTs require new skills, strategies, and dispositions for their effective use.


2.    New literacies are central to full civic, economic, and personal participation in a globalized community.


3.    New technologies are constantly changing and we need to teach students how to learn continuously new literacies that will appear during their lifetime.


4.    New literacies are multiple, multimodal, and multifaceted. Thus, they increase the complexity of analysis that seeks to understand them and benefit from analysis that brings multiple points of view to understand them.



What must students acquire to become proficient at online reading? How do students acquire these skills, strategies, and dispositions?



New literacies of online reading comprehension are defined around five major functions: (1) identifying important questions; (2) locating information; (3) analyzing information; (4) synthesizing information; and (5) communicating information.





Recent work within traditional texts by Taboada and Guthrie (2006) suggests that reading initiated by a question or problem differs in important ways from reading that does not.




four general types of reading skills associated with the location of information on the Internet: (1) knowing how to use a search engine to locate information; (2) reading search engine results; (3) reading a Web page to locate information that might be present there; and (4) making an inference about where information is located by selecting a link at one site to find information at another site.




students are frequently fooled about the reliability of the information they locate, even when they know that they cannot trust information on the Internet.


1. Evaluating understanding: Does it make sense to me?


2. Evaluating relevancy: Does it meet my needs?


3. Evaluating accuracy: Can I verify it with another reliable source?


4. Evaluating reliability: Can I trust it?


5. Evaluating bias: How does the author shape it?




We are in need of much more work on the intertextual synthesis of meaning that occurs online.




Many new communication tools become available on the Internet, each with its own affordances and each developing its own social practices.



How Do Students Acquire Skills, Strategies, and Dispositions for Online Reading Comprehension?


In the past, instruction has been based on the assumption that teachers were always more literate than students. This assumption


is no longer true. The odds that teachers are less literate than the collective knowledge that exists in a single classroom increase as these new literacies become multiple



Isomorphic and Nonisomorphic Examples of Offline and Online Reading Comprehension


To sustain an isomorphic hypothesis, students’ online levels should match their offline levels.



http://www.newliteracies.uconn.edu/reading.html  (videos on online reading)



ORCA-Blog assessment



online reading is, typically, the reading of informational texts, not the reading of narrative texts.



We also see how intertwined reading and writing become; online reading often has elements of communication that are simultaneous with comprehension. In online environments, we read while we write and we write while we read.






·        We need to recall that the rapidly changing nature of the Internet may make a complete taxonomy of these skills a Sisyphean task.



Socially mediated experiences may be especially useful as instructional models are developed for teaching the new literacies of online reading comprehension. Thus, models such as Internet Workshop (Leu, 2002), Internet Project (Harris & Jones, 1999; Leu, 2001), Internet Inquiry (Leu, Leu, & Coiro, 2004), and Internet Reciprocal Teaching (Castek, 2006) may be important starting points. Clearly, however, we require an aggressive research agenda to explore fully the important efficacy issues in teaching the new literacies of online reading comprehension.



The Consequences of Change


This chapter has attempted to show how change is required in our conception of reading comprehension. New online reading


comprehension skills and strategies will be required as, increasingly, our reading worlds move to the Internet. Traditional notions of reading comprehension, traditional methods of assessment, and traditional curricular materials will not be sufficient


to prepare students adequately for the new literacies required online.


  1. On the internet


  2. Internet Workshop, Internet Project, Internet Inquiry, and Internet Reciprocal Teaching



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