CLOSE Reading in a Digital World

Teaching students what and how technology looks like in an educational setting is the charge of any educator who has devices in their classroom. Let me tell you now; students do not know how to use devices for educational purposes, you must teach them how to do it. In return, students will teach you all the tricks and trades of the device that you may not know.

The other day I was reading an article on my iPad while using a platform to annotate my text. As a graduate student, much of my world has transferred to an online setting. In order to adapt, I had to teach myself how to learn in this new setting. One of my areas of focus was on annotating digital text. It made me think about the skills I had to develop to CLOSE read my article.

CLOSE reading is a teaching strategy that is growing in popularity. Typically it is a three-step process in which students are taught how to read a text multiple times looking for different text attributes or practicing different skills in each step. Well, what does that look like when the text is a digital form?

First, as a teacher, you will need to select a platform that allows students to annotate the text. Two suggested platforms are Adobe Acrobat or TinyPDF . Both of these platforms allows students to hold multiple documents and have many different annotating options. Adobe Acrobat also integrates with Google Drive and Dropbox; this will help with students uploading the document into the platform. There is hardly an issue when choosing a platform for students to use. Most of the time, the issue is the forgotten step of teaching the students the purpose behind selecting a specific platform. When we invite students in on WHY we chose a platform, we are asking them to start thinking about platform choice and internalizing that process for themselves.

Integrating technology is not merely giving students an iPad or having them use a platform. Integrating technology is purposefully sharing with students the WHY behind selected platforms and WHAT it looks like educationally. First, teach your students how to use the platform. Have a lesson where students annotate a simple short text, this text may not even be related to your topic, but you use it to get students familiar with the platform.

If you expect students to think critically CLOSE reading a text, while using a platform for this first time, expect it not to go well! You are asking your students to operate at high rigor on a device and in content. Think about times in your life that this has happened to you, maybe at your last technology professional development? The instructor continued before you were able to understand how to do something on a device. You were asked to operate at high levels on both device and content and that may have presented a challenge for you. As a teacher, we know when we tax our students in both content and task they no longer have the ability to operate or solve simple problems. Being aware of this will help us successfully integrate technology into our teaching practices.

So, what does a digital close read look like? I have outlined the three steps for a digital close read and connected them to strategies to take the learning deeper.

First reads are for students to identify the main idea of the text. It is there for them to get the ‘gist’ of what they are reading about. Have students use their yellow highlighter to identify information in the text that they believe to relate to the main idea. Once the class has performed the first read, use some of these strategies to take the learning deeper: Think-Pair-Share: Have students turn to a partner and share their highlighted text. Did they highlight different passages? Do their ideas on the Main Idea align? Select a student to display their passage on the projector and read it to the class. As the student reads, have the rest of the class raise their hands where they have highlighted. Pause the reading of the passage and select students to defend why they highlighted that portion.
Exchange devices with a neighbor. Have the neighbor look at the highlighted passages and leave a digital comment stating whether or not they agree or disagree with the student's selection. In the second read, you are going to ask your students to dive a little deeper into the text. In the first read, students identified the main idea of the text; now it is time to support those claims. Teachers and students should be asking questions like, what is the author’s purpose in this text? Who is the audience of this text?

Here students may identify words they do no understand or areas they may need clarification on. Students might also find parts of the passage that stuck out to them or a place where they were able to make a connection. Encourage students to annotate those places. Once students have performed the second read use some of these strategies to take the learning deeper: Have students pair up and look at the words that they identified as confusing or incomprehensible. Together, have students compile the words in search of the ones they have in common. Next, have students look up those words using a digital dictionary on their device. They can place the definition of the words in a comment on their digital document.
Using a platform like Tools4Students or another graphic organizer platform, have students put their main idea and supporting details into a graphic organizer.

Third reads are for students to finalize their thoughts on the text and demonstrate their ability to use the text efficiently in assignments or projects. This is where you take students into those deeper levels of Bloom or DOK and challenge them to do something with the information that you just read. Once students have performed the third read, use some of these strategies to take the learning deeper: Pick a statement from the text. Decided whether or not you agree or disagree with that statement. Go online and find another text that supports your claim. Be clear and specific as to why that text supports your claim. Have students work with a partner to create DOK Level 3 questions about the text. Then, have groups trade questions and work on answering the questions. If a group has difficulty answering the questions, instruct them to revise the original question and then work on the answer. When we connect technology to good pedagogy, we begin realizing there is not a line between tech and teaching. There is no line dividing these two areas for students, they see it as one. We cross the bridge to integrating technology and pedagogy together when we look at the two categories side by side. Performing a digital close read isn’t all that complex, but when you ask students to construct, formulate, and draw conclusions by the third read, you have now taken them into deep levels of thinking. Technology merely changed the format in which students interacted with the text. Now, it has opened up the door for students to explore other digital texts in the same manner.

Kat McGowan

by Kat McGowan

Kat brings over 15 years of experience to her role as the Doceō Center Assistant. She’s passionate about streamlining processes and loves finding ways to make life easier and more efficient. She coordinates and manages events connected with the Center’s activities and maintains office services by organizing office operations and procedures. She is currently working on her Bachelors in Business Administration and will graduate in the summer of 2018.