On a Mission to Make Students Digitally Literate


August 2, 2013 – Professional development can assist teachers and students in developing new digital and media literacy skills needed for the knowledge economy and technology-intensive jobs. The Friday Institute’s New Literacies Collaborative helped facilitate the Summer Institute in Digital Literacy at the University of Rhode Island (URI) this summer to do just that—help students become digitally literate.

“Today, students need to be able to find, gather, use and share information using the Internet, and they need to analyze and evaluate the messages they encounter,” said Spires, professor and senior research fellow at the Friday Institute. “They need to compose and create using language, images, sound and multimedia. We’re preparing teachers who can advance students’ reading and writing skills in all of the many forms that they now encounter—through tweeting, remixing videos, blogging and much more.”

A key issue the Institute addressed is making digital literacy accessible for all students—including second language learners.

“We’re expanding the concept of literacy to address the world that our students are living in now,” said Renee Hobbs, professor and founding director of the Harrington School of Communication and Media.

She and her colleague, Julie Coiro, an associate professor of education at URI and a leading expert on online reading comprehension, co-directed the Summer Institute.

“The program was based on the successful New Literacies Teacher Leader Institute model which we created at the Friday Institute in 2009 and has been conducted with over 500 teachers in Raleigh, Massachusetts, and Beijing, China,” said Spires. “We were excited that our colleagues from the University of Rhode Island were able to successfully adapt our professional development model.”

The program was designed to help educators explore how to meet students’ literacy and learning needs by using digital texts, tools and technologies together with innovative instructional strategies that motivate and engage students’ critical thinking, creativity, collaboration and communication skills.

In addition to Spires, leading experts included Rhys Daunic of the MediaSpot, a New York City media literacy program, and Michelle Schira-Hagerman of Michigan State University.

For more information about the New Literacies Collaborative, which sponsors the New Literacies Teacher Leader Institute, go to newlit.org

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