Digital Literacy

On Digital Literacy Frameworks

Here is how I see the articulation among the following three knowledge constructs we delved into this week in the Seminar in Digital Literacy (Graduate Certificate in Digital Literacy, URI). TPACK (Koehler & Mishra, 2008) is the framework, the larger knowledge construct that undergirds the Grounded Approach to Technology Integration (Harris & Hofer, 2009), which is further operationalized into the Technology Integration Planning Cycle (Hutchinson & Woodward, 2014).

What TPACK does brilliantly is capture the complexity of the knowledge of good teachers (Shulman, 1986). It identifies the knowledge components (pedagogical, technological, and content knowledge) but it goes beyond; it explores the intersections among them, which is where good teaching practices are situated. However, TPACK is a theoretical framework which does not serve teachers in planning their instruction. We therefore need to articulate an approach to technology integration, more specifically one that is grounded in content, pedagogy, and how teachers plan instruction (Harris & Hofer, 2009). It proposes five basic steps to planning instruction:

  1. Choose learning goals
  2. Make pedagogical decisions
  3. Select activity types to combine
  4. Select assessment strategies
  5. Select tools/resources

What I found most useful in this approach is the continua of eight pedagogical decisions that teachers need to make to plan a learning event. They are captured in the following questions:

  1. Will the learning experience be more teacher centered or more student centered?
  2. Should students develop similar understandings (via convergent learning) or draw their own conclusions (via divergent learning)? Should the learning be more hands-on or more abstract?
  3. Are students’ prior knowledge and experiences less relevant or more relevant for the learning to unfold?
  4. Do the curriculum standards defined for the learning event require surface comprehension or deep knowledge construction?
  5. How much time will be needed relative to the depth of understanding (4) required? Will it require a shorter duration or a longer duration plan for learning, in and out of the classroom?
  6. Considering all of the above, plus students’ specific and general strengths and challenges relative to the planned activity, is more or less structured learning more appropriate?
  7. What should be the learner configuration(s) to best assist learning in the context the learning event will occur? Will whole-group, small-group, pairwork, individual configs work best for the learning event?
  8. Are fewer, more or no additional resources needed for students to participate in the learning experience? This hinges on step 5, the selection of tools/resources.

Hutchinson & Woodward’s planning cycle (2014) complements and expands on the grounded approach by zooming into a couple of important aspects: how digital tools contribute to the instruction and to the development of digital literacy skills. The authors give teachers permission to opt out of digital tool adoption should they discover, upon reflection, that “using a digital tool will not make a strong contribution to their instruction or if they are unable to locate a tool that will appropriately support their learning goal.” (p.458) Furthermore, they propose that teachers take the classroom environment and routines into consideration when considering the constraints of the tools selected for the learning event. Most importantly their cycle “(…) is specifically aimed at helping literacy teachers consider whether their planned instruction contributes to both digital and nondigital literacy development.” (p.458)

Tech for knowledge building and convergent/divergent thinking in your instruction

This brief post is a reflection prompted by the following questions:

What opportunities do you currently provide to: (a) enhance students’ knowledge building and (b) enable them to celebrate and showcase their knowledge?

What role might technology play in diversifying knowledge building and/or expression in your content area?

Does the idea of promoting students’ divergent thinking about your content inspire you or scare you? Explain and give reasons why you think divergent thinking opportunities should be embraced or avoided.

More than ever, technology plays a prominent role in enhancing students’ knowledge building and expression. Digital texts as well as digital tools have great potential, when effectively integrated into instruction, to enable both convergent and divergent thinking. Rothstein and Santana (2011) refer to convergent thinking as the “ability to analyze and synthesize information and ideas while moving toward an answer or conclusion.” Divergent thinking is “the ability to generate a wide range of ideas and think broadly and creatively.” Metacognition, “the ability to think about one’s thinking and learning”, completes the critical thinking triad, to which the authors refer as being “the three wise thinking abilities.”

Creativity requires “constant shifting, blending pulses of both divergent thinking and convergent thinking, to combine new information with old and forgotten ideas. Highly creative people are very good at marshaling their brains to tap into both kinds of thinking.” (Rothstein and Santana, p.17) Therefore, we need to plan instruction that stimulates and capitalizes on both thinking abilities if we wish to contribute to the development of both critical and creative individuals. Therefore, digital texts and tools have the potential of enhancing the various types of learning activities (Harris & Hofer, 2009) that leverage these thinking abilities, ultimately enabling learners to hit the learning objectives.

Rothstein, D. & Santana, L. (2011). Make Just One Change – Teach Students to Ask Questions

Offline Reading Comprehension: Developing Strategic and Engaged Readers

visual representations and mind maps

This is my reflection in response to week 2 assignment and readings of URI’s Graduate Certificate in Digital Literacy, EDC 532: Seminar in Digital Literacy with Kara Clayton and Dr. Julie Coiro.


Strategic readers know that the purpose of reading is to understand, and that there are a number of comprehension strategies that they can adopt in order to build knowledge from reading. Strategic readers are able to apply such strategies in “the process of simultaneously extracting and constructing meaning through interaction and involvement with written language,” as the Rand Reading Comprehension Study Group defines reading comprehension. Strategic readers process information by constantly monitoring their understanding. In that process, strategic readers, when faced with understanding challenges, engage in problem solving and self-correction.

Buehl (2007) provides insight into the seven cognitive processes of proficient readers, beginning with making connections to one’s prior knowledge – which is regarded as the one most critical strategy for learning to take place, since no new knowledge or understanding is constructed in a vacuum – to generating questions, creating mental sensory images, inferencing, prioritizing, and synthesizing the information being read. Add intrinsic motivation to that process and the result is a strategic and engaged reader. Importantly, the more one reads to understand, the more motivated one becomes, and the more social interaction ensues, for engaged readers are prone to sharing and socially connecting around what they are learning. The more one interacts, the more strategies are mobilized, and the more one’s knowledge base grows, leading to the desire to read more. That is the engagement cycle, as defined by Swan (2003).

Teachers and librarians not only can but indeed they must foster engagement and self-regulation as critical ingredients for strategic reading by means of a balanced comprehension instruction approach that encompasses a supportive classroom context and a model of comprehension instruction that models and supports the development of reading strategies for learners. (Duke & Pearson, 2002)


The seven comprehension processes of proficient readers (Buehl, 2007) are mirrored in the six individual comprehension strategies that excellent reading teachers are intent at scaffolding and modelling for and with learners (Duke & Pearson, 2002). Think-alouds represent a strategy for activating schemata and generating questions. Inferencing and determining importance are engendered in text structure analysis. The ability to synthesize is exercised by means of summarization. The creation of visual and sensory representations is both a process and a strategy which boosts one’s synthesis capacity, also helping in the self-monitoring and self-correction process.

RAND (2002) provides us with the heuristic for thinking about reading comprehension, defining its components: the reader, the text, and the activity, all of which are nestled within a sociocultural dimension, which is by and large overlooked by NAEP (2015/2019). Indeed, how does a standardized assessment account for a virtually infinite sociocultural variance? If RAND gives us the reader, the text, and the activity, Duke & Pearson (2002) give us the teacher, and CORI (Swan, 2003) pulls in the sociocultural dimension by articulating skills and strategies, knowledge, motivation, and social collaboration.

Concept-Oriented Reading Instruction gives us the ‘how’ by leveraging the three basic needs for intrinsic motivation, namely competence, autonomy, and belonging. In other words, learners need a sense of self-efficacy, choice, and opportunities for social interaction and human connection. CORI then represents the supportive classroom context articulated by Duke & Pearson, one in which learners read a lot, read for real reasons, engage in high quality talk about text, and ultimately strive for the construction of conceptual knowledge.

I find that one of the greatest challenges in my own teaching context, as well as in the Brazilian educational system, is making instruction coherent as opposed to fragmented, as proposed in CORI. Such coherence and transdisciplinarity entails a whole set of very unique beliefs that have not necessarily been cultivated by teacher training programs, and certainly not in traditional and mainstream educational settings. The shift from a fragmented to a relational and systemic view of and approach to knowledge construction and instructional design (as opposed to lesson planning) requires major transformations in teacher education and school culture.


Fragmented teaching is not time productively spent, at least not for learners. It may make teaching and planning less complex for the teacher, but it is ultimately disengaging for all involved in the educational experience. I was particularly struck by the difference between lesson planning and instruction design: intention. Johnson (2014), referring to the implications of the TPACK framework, says:

“The framework supports and deepens literacy practices, allowing teachers to become thoughtful instructional designers. Washburn (2010) writes, ‘Instructional design differs from lesson planning, the term we traditionally use to describe a teacher’s pre-instruction preparation. Designers communicate by intentionally combining elements’ (pp.2-3)”

  • I wonder what a teacher development program that enables teachers to operate that shift from fragmented to systemic, from instructor to coach, from planner to designer, looks like?
  • I wonder what will it take for teachers of all subject areas to realize that they are, first and foremost, literacy teachers?



Duke, N.K. & Pearson, P. D. (2002). Effective practices for developing reading comprehension. In What Research Has to Say About Reading Instruction, 3rd edition. International Reading Association.

Swan (2003). Why is the North Pole Always Cold? In Concept-Oriented Reading Instruction (CORI): Engaging Classrooms, Lifelong Learners

Johnson, D. (2014) Reading, Writing and Literacy 2.0. Teaching with Online Texts, Tools, and Resources, K-8 (chapters 1 & 2)

Buehl, D. (2014). Fostering Comprehension of Complex Texts (Chapter 1 pages 3-11) in Classroom Strategies for Interactive Learning (4th Edition). International Literacy Association.

RAND Reading Study Group. (2002). Reading for understanding: Toward an R&D program in reading comprehension. Santa Monica, CA: Rand.

National Assessment of Educational Progress [NAEP] Abridged Reading Framework for the 2015/2019