Role of Digital Media on Literacy


Tactile objects such as blocks and magnetic letters are often used to teach preliteracy and literacy skills. An iPad can provide a similar kinesthetic experience, and using electronic devices can engage children who are uninterested in paper books and magazines.


Apps engage children by building education around a game, with points won for each lesson learned—correctly identifying a letter or correctly spelling a crossword puzzle answer. This process, called “gamification,” trades on the sense of accomplishment gained by earning points and striving to beat one’s own high score.


Scholastic’s Storia app is an e-reader for kids that runs on iPad, Kindle Fire, and Android tablets, as well as Windows computers. Some books include a narrator to read the story aloud, and enhanced e-books include puzzles and quizzes.


Zoodles is an app that runs on Mac or Windows computers and iOS and Android mobile devices. It has games, storybooks, and educational content that can be customized by age and skill level.


For older students, Read Naturally offers a variety of software products to improve fluency, spelling, and other literacy skills. Read Naturally Live is a web-based program for Windows, Mac, Chrome, or iPad. It builds fluency by having students read along with an audio track, and then quizzes them to assess comprehension.


The Evernote app, available for most platforms, can help students organize their writing by storing research articles and providing an easy way to take notes. The Evernote Peek iPad app can be used to make custom digital flash cards.


Teens’ fondness for digital content can create an entry point for discussing literacy. E-books and digital magazines, especially those that incorporate multimedia, may be more enticing than paper equivalents. Paul Barnwell, a middle school language arts teacher, wrote in Education Week that consuming “video, images, and other multimodal texts demands just as much critical thinking and analysis as a challenging excerpt from Moby Dick. If we develop critical literacy skills with new forms of media, the skills can transfer to the written word.”

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