Review of Connected Reading: Teaching Adolescent Readers in a Digital World

Book Reviews Literacy & Technology Notes from the Classroom Oakland Writing Project

As I mentioned in my review of Upstanders by Smokey Daniels and Sara Ahmed, I read a lot of professional books, especially in the summer.  It’s late July as I’m writing this, and I’m on my eighth book of the summer, half of which have been professional books to grow my knowledge as a teacher (stay tuned for a review of Jennifer Serravallo’s The Reading Strategies Book).

Connected ReadingAfter writing the review of Upstanders, I asked Delia DeCourcy, one of Oakland Schools’ literacy consultants, if she had any books she thought I might like to read and review.  She sent over Connected Reading: Teaching Adolescent Readers in a Digital World by Kristen Hawley Turner and Troy Hicks, and I immediately knew this book would be right up my alley. Turner and Hicks begin the book with the “NCTE Policy Research Brief: Reading Instruction for All Students,” which acts as a framework and rationale for teaching students how to be connected readers and is referenced throughout the book.

Because teaching students to be skillful readers of digital texts is new to many teachers, Turner and Hicks carefully ease us into this world of connected reading by writing about their experiences, the experiences we as readers might have had, and how teachers might become more connected readers, for the purpose of knowing what their students will experience, as well as for simply growing their personal learning network (PLN).  The authors include requisite theory for their work, then dig into what many teachers want from a professional book: practical application that can be used in the classroom.  Turner and Hicks do not disappoint: Connected Reading is full of projects, ideas, and actual lesson plans that teachers can easily make their own and implement.  Topics range from digital citizenship to making decisions about how best to search for information to collaborating on texts being read in class.

What may be the best part of this book is that it embodies the very principles that the authors espouse: the book itself (although a print text) is a great example of what connected reading could be even if students do not have digital texts.  Connected Reading is filled with QR codes that take readers to additional content, much of it multimedia, but also connects to the authors’ wiki page, which offers additional resources and ways to connect and extend the conversation.QR Codes

I started reading this book in the last few weeks of school, so I didn’t have much time to integrate its ideas into my practice, but I did notice myself becoming more aware of how students’ reading changed across platforms.   I recall a distinct moment near the end of the year when I must have been giving directions, and I started saying something about how their reading of our last book was going to be different because they would be reading it and annotating digitally, and more important, collaboratively.

noteable pdfFor our last unit, I knew that I wanted to try out some of the ideas from Connected Reading so that come September, I could dive in more completely.  Since my district was not in the position to purchase ebooks, I was given permission to scanin its entirety the informational book we were reading as a class and post it chapter by chapter to Google Classroom, which is a closed system and accessible only to students in my class.  (While I was posting to a closed system, there does seem to be a gray area in terms of copyright. I was using the scanned copy solely for educational purposes and Turner and Hicks even encourage teachers to have students scan or take screenshots of individual pages for annotating and collaborating.)

After scanning a chapter and posting it to Google Classroom as a PDF, students downloaded the chapter onto their Chromebooks using the Chrome extension Notable PDF.  A quick note about Notable: this is one of my favorite and most used Chrome extensions both personally and professionally.  It allows users to highlight, underline, strikethrough, and make comments on PDF documents that can be saved permanently.  It also includes Google Drive integration.  Depending on how a document is downloaded from Google Classroom, all students in a class or a group could be collaborating on the same document or it can be shared between student partners as well.  Similar to the commenting feature in Google Docs, each person’s name shows up when he/she makes a comment so that students can easily see what their classmates are thinking as they read.

As my classes worked through the MAISA informational reading and writing units, we would practice various annotating skills depending on what our purpose was at the time.  Sometimes students read in partnerships, sometimes they read independently, and sometimes we read as a whole class, annotating together and showing our collective thinking.  Because students had such an intimate knowledge of the text through their annotations, their final project was to decide on a topic mentioned in the book they felt could have used more explanation and write their own “insert” chapter about that topic that mimicked the text features of the original book.  Examples of this project can be found here.

As I think about next school year, I will definitely be incorporating Turner and Hicks’ ideas about teaching students to be skillful readers of digital texts with lessons on digital citizenship, setting up a digital reading life, looking into freely available digital copies of texts, and ways to help students navigate this digital information world in which they are already immersed.

Screenshot 2014-09-26 at 12.44.07 PMJianna Taylor (@JiannaTaylor) is an ELA and Title 1 teacher at Orchard Lake Middle School in West Bloomfield.  She is a member of the AVID Site Team and Continuous School Improvement Team at her school, among other things.  She is also a MiELA Network Summer Institute facilitator and member of the OWP Core Leadership Team.  Jianna earned her bachelor’s degree from Oakland University and her master’s degree from the University of Michigan.  She also writes reviews of children’s books and young adult novels for the magazine Library Media Connection.

Digital Tools

Designing for Technology Integration: Questions to Ask
  • 450744839What are the learning goals?
  • How will the tech tool support students in meeting those goals?
  • Which level of the SAMR model does the tool and the design of the learning situation map to?
  • What affordances does the tool offer that improve the learning or application process?
  • What training on the tool will I need to provide my students to make the overall learning experience effective?
  • How will I assess student learning and how the tool helped to facilitate that learning?
  • 178468712How did the use of the tool increase/improve my students’ uptake and application of the material or skill?
  • What additional tool training could have made the learning process more effective?
  • What changes would I make to the progression of the learning (both literacy content, literacy skills, tool knowledge) to improve the learning experience?

Literacy Ed Tech Tool Duel

During the first cohort of the Literacy & Technology Leadership Lab, teachers compared two tools that could be used to engage students in practicing the same or similar literacy skills.  They explored each tool, compared their features, and discussed the pros and cons.  To see the results of each duel, click on the links below.

462143937 (1)Online Discussion Showdown: ProBoards vs. Quick Topic

Online Annotation Showdown: Google Forms vs. Infuse Learning

Quick Formative Assessment Showdown: Diigo vs. Ponder

Some Tech Tools to Support Effective Literacy Instruction

Literacy & Technology Symbaloo Webmix 

features effective tools for teaching reading and writing
by Rachel Mainero, teacher and literacy coach at Reuther Middle School.

CiteLighter research toolCiteLighter is a powerful tool for bookmarking, clipping, annotating, and organizing web content. With a free CiteLighter account, your students will be able to take notes on a webpage and instantly save their notes to their CiteLighter account. CiteLighter automatically remembers the webpage where notes were written — and even starts creating a bibliography for you. Used wisely, CiteLighter can save you and your students a great deal of time and frustration — and can actively scaffold your students’ learning of key research steps and skills (e.g., taking notes that paraphrase or summarize the text being read, instead of simply “clipping” it; keeping track of sources consulted and creating a bibliography).

imgresPonder is an app and browser add-on that allows students to create micro-responses to  teacher or student-selected content they read and watch on the web.  They can both make comments and identify key themes in texts, which are all aggregated into a class feed.  The tool allows teachers to design highly specific or open-ended reading assignments and to track students’ reading experiences and thinking across those assignments while planting seeds for class discussion.


google-drive-logo2Google Drive offers a suite of tools for creating documents, spreadsheets, drawings, and presentations. A key feature of these tools is the ease with which a document can be shared with others (with you, the teacher, or with classmates) to allow collaborative composing, peer editing of rough drafts, and much more.


diigoDiigo is another powerful tool for bookmarking, clipping, annotating, and organizing web content. One feature of Diigo is the ability to annotate a webpage and make that visible to others. For example, when a teacher creates a Diigo “group” for her students, she can show them her annotations and model how to attach digital “sticky notes” to an online text. Students can also make their notes visible to others — or choose to keep them “private.” is a free idea-mapping tool students may find useful during the topic-clarifying, brainstorming, and outline-creating stages of their research work. When students start a new “mind map,” they see a blank canvas where they can add and arrange and re-arrange colored idea “bubbles” containing their ideas and notes. Lines can be drawn to show connections between bubbles. “Mind maps” can also be shared with others and edited by more than one author.


Padlet_logo_graylinePadlet is another free idea-mapping tool that’s great for brainstorming, activating and recording prior knowledge, organizing ideas, and creating an outline. The Padlet interface looks like — and works like — a traditional bulletin board (Padlet calls each new board a “wall”). You place a note or idea on the “wall” and then move it next to other related notes — or wherever you want. Padlet is also easy to use for collaborative activities, with two or more students contributing to the same Padlet “wall.”