Literacy Lookback: a Midyear Reprise

With the Dog Days of Summer here, I’m taking advantage of those lazy moments to see where I am with my my literacy goals for the year. Even though it is past the year’s midpoint, now is just as logical a time to for reflection as that time between the holidays and New Year when I put those ideas into motion.

In January I wrote a post for the Big Universe blog that highlighted some of the (then) recent literacy resources and tools. They gave me food for thought then, and now, too.

Literacy Ideas: Thinking Ahead

Get over the idea that only children should spend their time in study.  Be a student so long as you still have something to learn, and this will mean all your life.

~Henry L. Doherty

Catching up on my reading is one of my favorite things to do in that “lull” between the holidays and the kiddo’s return to school. In November and December I don’t even try to do any professional reading.

The days – and thus my brain – are too crowded. What I do, instead, is add articles of interest and learning to my virtual library on Scoop.It.

Now that we are past the coming of the end of the world, we are once again seeing articles that focus on literacy and learning in this digital age. Topics covered everything from what makes a good digital media diet for kids to learning behaviors and strategies. I am hoping that you will find some interesting tidbits in this list. The annotations and opinions are my own.

10 Predictions for Personalized Learning in 2013

source: Personalize Learning blog

The world is getting smaller and flatter. Learners want to own their learning very early and can do that by unpacking the [common core] standards with their teachers. It is time to bring back inquiry and encourage questions that have no right answers. ~ author

Adopting the idea that personalized learning is an umbrella as you begin reading really helps solidify the concepts in this article. The emphasis is on sharing: between / among teachers, from student to teacher, and among students themselves. Technology is a medium of learning, but the article makes it clear there is a lot more to it than that.

Readability Information and Resources

fry's readability chart

source: Kathy Schrock’s Guide to Everything

Dr. Fry has let me know that the graph is copyright free, but one cannot alter the graph or directions and still call it the Fry Readability Graph. Thank you to Dr. Fry for letting me know teachers can use the graph, copyright free! ~ Kathy Schrock

In addition to providing step-by-step directions on how to use Fry’s Readability Graph (pictured left), Kathy has links to several other tools (websites and software) for measuring the readability / reading level of a book.  She also links to several databases of leveled books for kids.

What Does Science Tell Us about the Way Kids Think?

source: Atlantic Magazine

There is a certain logic to the idea that students can become better critical thinkers by completing writing assignments. Writing forces you to organize your thoughts. Writing encourages you to try different ideas and combinations of ideas.

Writing encourages you to select your words carefully. Writing holds the promise (and the threat) of a permanent record of your thoughts, and thus offers the motivation to order them carefully. ~ Daniel Willingham

The source of interest for Willingham’s article is Atlantic Magazine writer Peg Tyre’s story “The Writing Revolution.” Willingham’s story hones in the value of teaching writing, and makes concrete the link (or ripple effect) between learning to write and other critical cognitive functions like reading and thinking.

I recently discovered a new-to-me community called, and one of the first questions I discovered was “Can technology help with children’s literacy?” There is only one answer to the question so far, and the focus is on the value of online writing and publishing tools. This, from a study by Dr. Christina Clarke, Head of Research at the UK National Literacy Trust:

… children who use online publishing tools such as social media platforms and blogging services enjoy writing more than those who don’t (57% vs 40% respectively).

Good news for a new year!

How Technology is Changing the Way Kids Think and Focus

boy and computer

source: The Power of Prime blog, Psychology Today Website

Because their brains are still developing and malleable, frequent exposure by so-called digital natives to technology is actually wiring the brain in ways very different than in previous generations. ~ Jim Taylor, Ph.D.

Dr. Taylor’s article is both enlightening and frightening. Yes, technology can be good and help (e.g., video games and spatial development). He makes an excellent argument that our brains are always evolving. Still, the affect the physiological development of our kids’ brains is pretty startling. To think that it has an inverse impact on their development is a “wow” for me.


Since that original post in January there have been a number of articles about how screen learning affects our kids’ development, cognitively and socially. Those analyses are the first on what I am sure will be decades of study on how technology affects literacy development and learning skills.