Wednesday, August 11, 2010

How Do You Interact With the Information on the Internet?

Confused and overwhelmed, that is how many students feel when we ask them to read and comprehend what they find on the Internet. Vicki L. Cohen (2006) who has written, Strategies for Comprehending Electronic Text in Digitally Mediated Times, states, “This type of reading and writing is complex, can promote higher order thinking, and can foster complex reading and writing useful in the world of work or global communication.” We need to teach new ways of interacting with the information that we are asking students to read. Skills needed are ones that go beyond what they have learned for reading linear/print text.

This article focuses on four key areas of digital text: Nonlinear hypertext, multiple-media text, interactive texts and online communication text. Inferential reasoning and context clues are needed when reading this nonlinear text. Hyperlinks can carry you away, do you want to go there? Can you find your way back? Students get to control their own destiny when Internet searching. Next, students will encounter graphics, pictures, animation, ads (lots of ads), icons, audio clips, video clips, and text of all different sizes, color and shapes quite different from black print on white page. Can students take in all these multiple-media texts? Will their attention be diverted from what is important to what is entertaining? Students today get to interact with what they are reading through blogs, wikis, discussion boards, glogs---they read, they can respond and they can create. Tough part of all of that is “self-monitoring” do they understand the author and how to appropriately responding? Lastly, the online communication networking text IM’s, chats, phone texts are they self monitoring, can they decipher a new casual type of text, do they know how to read the “affect” of the author. Do students know how to respond when they barely know how to read face to face nonverbal language? Many questions arise when we switch from print to screen text.

Cohen (2006) lists eleven behaviors that are displayed often when children are Internet researching:
1. Preference for browsing rather than entering a keyword, and conducting a
2. Difficulty in formulating keywords for a search.
3. Limited exploration; much use of well-known websites.
4. Little patience.
5. Difficulty with large amounts of text.
6. Tendency to focus on collecting factual knowledge than answering more conceptual
abstract questions.
7. Tendency to search for one correct answer.
8. Little attention to reading and processing of information.
9. Tendency to change the search questions when literal answer is not found.
10.Difficulty assessing the relevance of information found on the Internet.
11.Difficulty in assessing reliability of information found on the internet.
These behaviors are seen in elementary through college students. So these are the behaviors that need to be addressed in order to develop good digital readers.

Reflection: What is really great about this article is that it not only talked about the differences between print and digital text reading and behaviors often demonstrated by student but it also looked at solutions.
This author feels that digital reading strategies need to be taught. Strategies like:
•Graphic organizers--help students construct knowledge
•Write out their “essential question”—look at each sites relevance to their question
to help keep students on track
•Navigation skills—young students may need help how to navigate through everything
that is visible on their screen
•Pre-read strategy—first can they read and understand the information? Skim over
the headings and decide if you can tell what the main idea of the website is
•Post-read strategy—can you summarize what you read?
•“Synthesizing: The student must not only identify the main idea but generate new
theories of how this information applies to their topic” (2006).

I think this article hit the nail on the head for me! The behaviors that the author listed are exactly what I have witnessed with 7th and 8th graders at my school! What am I going to do about it? I need to break down these behaviors into classes or mini-lessons that focus on strategies for reading on the Internet.

Cohen, V. (2006). Strategies for comprehending electronic text in digitally mediated times. Current development in technology-assisted education, p. 170-174. Retrieved from

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