One of the perennial rites of literacy learning in our classrooms is study of the novel. If done right, this proves to be an enlightening, enriching growth experience; one that not only results in important, standards-based literacy learning, but realization of that Holy Grail literacy goal, lifelong readers. Importantly, current novels have their characters using technology, the kind that today’s students are much impacted by and fascinated with. This represents an opportunity that today’s literacy teachers really should acknowledge and rise to.
Further, in today’s world, one in which technology allows for fake news and viral rumors, such as the announcement of Tom Petty’s death hours before its occurrence, students, as connected, global citizens, need to become informed and alert about the degree to which intensive use of technology can have both positive benefits and sadly, if used without reflection, may cause irreparable damage. In short, today’s students must develop Digital Text Mindfulness.
Following this, students are asked to reflect how these author craft details inform the plot and in what ways the character’s use and valuing of digita
Unfortunately, while the vast majority of today’s students use technology in the ways described above, few of them reflect on how embedded and significant it is in shaping their social, academic and family lives. How can literacy educators focused on inculcating student digital text reference mindfulness cultivate such reading habits and awareness about their own use of digital devices and platforms? Prior to students beginning the study of technology embedded novels, teachers can craft an introductory discussion designed to focus students on how digital communications impact their lives. Among the possible prompts to foster this discussion are:
- How do you use devices and text, video, and audio communications during school day, lunch, and at home?
- In what ways do the texts, photos, videos, and audio communications you receive or send affect your friendships or your family life?
- In what ways is your socializing or chatting or being with friends and family made different (by using technology) from being together face to face in the same place physically?
and for ways in which the author crafts the text for a specific purpose to comment on how technology affects key character lives and actions. Have the students also comment reflectively on how the story plot or character’s life or condition would be different if the use of digital media, social networking and communications tools had not to come into play.
A book of particular interest here is Wonderstruck, which deals with the history of technology, presenting such facets of it as sound versus silent films and the use of polaroids in the 1970’s. How would this magical story be altered if its two set narratives were moved ahead 50 years and included use of different technology? Classics that are ‘Tech Updated’ by students would challenge student thinking about plot, structure, message, and envisioning different outcomes using technology; a model of creative reading, writing and technology investigation owned by students as proactive readers and digital citizens.