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Digital Literacy Demands on Specialized Literacy Professionals

By Vicky Zygouris-Coe
 | Apr 21, 2017

TILE-04212018-w300Expectations about the knowledge and skilled use of digital literacies, texts, and technologies are integrated throughout the July 2016 draft of the International Literacy Association’s 2017 Standards for the Preparation of Literacy Professionals. This shift from the 2010 standards that focused much less on digital literacies reflects the changing definition of literacy in the 21st century.

So, what types of knowledge and experiences do specialized literacy professionals need to meet students’, teachers’, and schools’ literacy needs in the 21st century? I examined and will share trends emerging from analysis of my state’s 2016–2017 K–12 reading plans. I analyzed the 32-page document from one of the top five largest school district’s plans with one purpose in mind: to identify this district’s plans to support students’ digital literacies. I present my findings below in two ways: (1) by presenting sample evidence of district support for digital literacies and (2) by raising questions about the role of specialized literacy professionals in this context.

The following trends are representative of several school districts’ K–12 reading plans in my state.

Sample School District K–12 Reading Plan

Related Questions

Literacy coaches, department chairs, and classroom teachers will analyze results from formative and summative assessments that also include embedded digital program assessments to track students’ progress toward mastery of standards.

What knowledge do specialized literacy professionals and classroom teachers need to have to use an array of digital assessments to support students’ and teachers’ needs?

The school district will leverage the power of technology by adopting a learning management system (LMS) to provide all educators access to data, content, resources, and expertise that promote inspiring teaching, improve student learning outcomes, and meet individual student needs.

How can we weave a strong foundation for developing and supporting digital literacies through components of this learning management system?

The LMS will be used as a key digital resource that supports a blended and personalized learning environment for teaching, learning, communication, and assessments that can be customized to all students’ needs.

What knowledge do specialized literacy personnel need to design learning supports that use personalized tools and blended learning approaches?

The LMS will support the district’s goal to move beyond the “textbook-driven classroom” core programs and provide teachers and students with access to extensive digital resources to build a bank of texts and materials beyond materials provided by the state-adopted materials for grades K–12.

What do specialized reading professionals need to know and be able to do to support students’ literacy development in the context of digital texts, mediums, and contexts?

The school district will provide professional development for teachers on how to (a) access, identify, and use a variety of complex digital and print texts that align with the curriculum and support students’ needs and (b) use digital tools and resources to leverage high-quality classroom instruction and appropriate interventions for all students.

What do literacy interventions look like in the context of digital literacies?

A component of an inviting and engaging literacy environment includes designated areas for (a) teachers to use digital tools and strategies to enhance instruction (e.g., interactive whiteboards, LCD projectors, document cameras, and student interactive respondents) and (b) students to use digital tools, e-books, computers, iPads, iPods, or MP3 players for accessing digital content and online resources.

How can specialized literacy professionals help teachers, for example, learn how to support students’ reading of digital text and their development of online reading comprehension skills?

The district’s Multitiered System of Supports (MTSS)/Response to Intervention (RTI) also includes using supplemental print and digital instructional and supplemental intervention resources.

What knowledge do specialized literacy professionals need to have about how to use supplemental print and digital instructional and supplemental intervention resources?

Classroom libraries with leveled text collections include both print and digital multimedia format resources in addition to the core reading program’s digital technology extensions.

How can specialized literacy professionals collaborate with teachers and school librarians to select supplemental multimedia resources for teachers and their students?

All students have ongoing access to texts in both print and digital formats.

Having access to digital texts does not guarantee knowing how to read and comprehend them. What professional learning experiences would be useful to teachers?

The school district’s core reading program also includes a suite of assessments to digital and print unit tests and unit writing projects that are used to monitor students’ reading gains on a quarterly basis.

Taking a test online requires a different set of skills. What role should specialized literacy professionals play in this area?

To become media literate, students must be able to analyze, synthesize, evaluate, and effectively communicate information across various mediums in print and digital formats.

What knowledge and experiences do specialized literacy professionals need to be able to model for teachers effective practices for supporting students’ critical reading, writing, and thinking skills?

School-based literacy coaches will also be responsible for managing school-wide print and digital collections and closely monitoring the access and utilization of these resources in teaching and learning throughout the school.

What professional learning opportunities do literacy coaches need to have for them to provide school support in the area of management and progress monitoring of the school’s reading/literacy program?

The literacies of the 21st century have brought about many shifts, including shifts in the revised standards for specialized literacy professionals. The field is ripe for new conversations and collaborations geared toward developing and supporting literacy professionals’, teachers’, and students’ literacies in a digital age.

Vicky Zygouris-Coe is a professor of reading education at the University of Central Florida.

This article is part of a series from the International Literacy Association’s Technology in Literacy Education Special Interest Group (TILE-SIG).

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