By Andrea Paganelli
“I wish my kiddos would be as excited about reading time as they are about device time.”
You might think that, as a mom who happens to be a librarian and educational technologist, I have a magic formula for encouraging my kids to read and engage in the proper use of technology. That I should have it all figured out … no. The struggle is real! As parents and/or educators we have no pixie dust, potions or easy buttons to control the quality of reading and technology engagement our children are experiencing.
Confession is good for the soul. So here it goes, I have used technology as a tool to keep my children occupied and allow me to accomplish tasks. I know, it’s shocking! My use of this style of parenting with technology—or techno-parenting—was out of perceived necessity.
Raising Kids, Not Lizards
Looking back, I was behaving as if I were parenting lizards. You don’t see lizard moms teaching lizard children how to tie shoes, ride bikes or listen properly. Lizard children are born and the lizard mom is out of there! So, my techno-parenting skills were at lizard level. My engagement with my kiddos’ technology and reading needed improving.
I needed to have communication about and monitoring of my learners’ use of technology and reading. One way to accomplish both of these goals was to include technology in read-aloud time.
Read-Aloud in the Age of Tech
We are not debating if low-tech read-aloud is a societal force for the greater good—it is! Read-aloud is a shared experience that can cut across boundaries of age, race, gender and economics. In the read-aloud we all come to the experience with an equal opportunity to listen and learn. We have a shared and research-supported understanding that reading aloud can positively impact a myriad of literacy development skills, motivation to read and future academic performance.1
We’re also not debating if technology is a major influencer of life experience for our kids. It definitely is.
Our students, according to the Kaiser Foundation’s longitudinal study, are screen time technology users at the rate of 6 hours and 19 minutes a day, to 7 hours and 38 minutes a day for those up to age 10. The screen-time technology use increases with age and tops out with 18-year olds at as much as 11 hours and 28 minutes. These statistics are alarming and compounded by the engagement being primarily passive and outside of the educational realm.2
In a world of technology proliferation, does the traditional read-aloud experience optimally engage our tech-savvy learners?
The Best of Both Worlds
YouTube is providing our kids with a vast catalogue of oral “storytime” from a multitude of personalities on a plethora of topics. The experiences of read-aloud and screen-time technology uses such as YouTube “storytime” are alien to one another. The aims are drastically different, but the technology use for engagement could become a commonality. Use this dichotomy to build a bridge between quality literature and productive screen-time technology use and meet our learners in the middle.
How can we address the reading and technology tug-of-war?
Power of the Digital Read-Aloud
We can combine reading and technology through the use of digital read-aloud. Combining the positive, knowledge-creating aspects of the read-aloud with the use of supportive technology can bring heightened engagement to our digital native learners. Does this engagement equal learning? It has potential. Deliberate book selections that require text quality with supportive technologies can help.
- Quality narration and appropriate dictionary functions (text-embedded definition assistance) could both be considered positive for techno-storytime.
- Content-connected animations can add to student comprehension of the story and add to positive reader experience.
- Students may not feel the need to turn paper pages or engage in reading in the same way their parents did.3
We are face to face with a generation influenced by and evolving with technology, that views content as the end goal and traditional books as one avenue of reaching that goal. This evolution in thinking can be supported and expanded by the use of digital read-aloud. You can explore this topic further by reading my book “Power Up Your Read-Alouds Building Reading Excitement through Technology.”
1Adams 1990; Anderson et al.1985; Goldfield & Snow 1984; Keller 2012; Krashen 2004; Ross, McKechnie, and Rothbauer 2006; Trelease 2006
2Kulman 2015; Kaiser 20103Roslund 2012
About the Author
Andrea Paganelli is an assistant professor, librarian and educational technologist. She served as a guest editor for the “Power to the Pupil: Student Agency in the School Library” issue of “Knowledge Quest” and wrote the article “Storytime in a Digital World: Making a Case for Thinking Outside of the Book” for Knowledge Quest.
Her co-authored publications include “The Makerspace Experience and Teacher Professional Development,” “School Library eBook Providers and Spanish Language Equity: An Analysis of eBook Collections Available to School Libraries” and “The Online Embedded Personal Librarian Approach to Providing Reference Services via a Course Management System.”
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