Saturday, July 5, 2014

"Reading, Writing, and Literacy 2.0: Teaching with Online Texts, Tools, and Resources, K-8"

            It’s a great day when a book falls into your lap just when you need it.  Sometimes I read professional development books and I think, “Well that would have been great last year” or “If only I taught 2nd grade, this book would have been perfect.”  Then there are times when the right book comes and the right time, and it is a good day for this 4th grade teacher.  Reading, Writing, and Literacy 2.0: Teaching with Online Texts, Tools, and Resources by Denise Johnson is one such book.

My sticky-note laden copy of Denise Johnson's latest book!
In order to be completely fair, I should probably disclose two things.  First, I know Dr. Johnson.  She’s been a professor of mine through 4 different graduate courses, and she’s been a great mentor to me.  Secondly, a piece of one of my kiddos work from a few years ago is in the book and so I got a copy sent to me (Hence it fell in my lap at the right place and time).  That being said, it honestly doesn’t affect my review.  The only difference is that I haven’t been reviewing books recently, and those two factors led me to actually do a review.  In every class I’ve taken with Denise Johnson, I have walked away with more knowledge and resources than I could possibly imagine.  Ask anyone who has ever taken her class, and they will say, “Oh my gosh, she’s just so wonderful.”  If you’ve never had her, that’s okay, because you can get a sense of her passion in her latest book.

            Reading, Writing, and Literacy 2.0 has a basic thought behind it—technology isn’t going away, and it has changed the face of literacy forever.  Johnson says that “The foundational premise of this book is that classroom teachers are perfectly positioned to build and extend the new literacies of the Internet within the literacy curriculum, since ‘New literacies will be required to function in this world.  In fact, the Internet might change the very notion of what it means to be smart’”(p.4).  Think about it: how many of us go to a book when we need information?  For most of us, the first place we turn is the Internet.  We, as adults, have learned to navigate a technological world that didn’t even exist when I was born. As teachers, we must rise to the occasion and change our own teaching practices to prepare our students for the world of technology. 

One quote that initially stuck with me is when Denise Johnson says, “Most students use the Internet to extend friendships or entertain themselves, but only a small percentage of children use the Internet to explore their interests or to find information beyond what they have access to at school or in their community”(p.4).  The more I reflect on this quote, the more I realize the truth behind it.  My students can tell me everything there is to know about YouTube and Minecraft, but could they tell me how to find information on a topic they love?  Can they effectively type up information once they find it?  Do they know how to make it into a presentable, engaging format?  The answer is no.  I think there is a misleading thought in education today that children just know how to use technology, because they have grown up around it and are using it constantly.  That is true, but the huge piece that is missing is the one where children know how to use it for meaningful literacy purposes and to expand their knowledge.  That’s where teachers, and the information in this book can come in.

This book is structured in a really fast-paced manner.  Denise Johnson starts by giving us the basic information—what is going on with technology and literacy in the world today, what does the research say, and why it is important for us as teachers.  After this, the reader is given a “framework for literacy 2.0 thinking.”  Basically, there are different models given about how to incorporate technology into the classroom, including Internet Reciprocal Teaching (IRT).  In most of the chapters, there is an IRT lesson plan for both younger and older students that you can tweak and use in your classroom for many different purposes.  After giving the reader a framework, Dr. Johnson takes the reader through connecting with communities and families, vocabulary and fluency, Ebooks, ETools for literacy, writing online, technology across the curriculum, and even assessment. All of this is through the lens of 21st century learning and authentic ways to incorporate technology into the classroom.  The assessment piece really struck home with me—what if before we sent home all those papers, we were able to archive them digitally and have a span of information about our children to share with administrators, parents, and students themselves?

My favorite thing about this book is all of the resources listed.  I have 4 pages of notes, and that doesn’t even begin to touch upon all of the resources that we are given.  You cannot possibly walk away from this book without a bunch of resources.  I have been wanting to do a poetry slam with my kids, and one of the ideas in this book was using for voice recordings.  In the example, a teacher had students record themselves reading poetry, and then listening and changing the recording as they saw fit.  The teacher then listened, and responded to, all of the recordings.  What a great way for children to be able to hear their own prosody and to receive feedback from the teacher. 

Some of my notes on the book--seriously, doesn't even begin to cover it!
Other ideas in this book include using Wonderopolis, using news sites like and, having students create stories or memoirs online with websites like, creating WebQuests, using interactive posters with, allowing students to do virtual sticky notes with, and even creating electronic portfolios with the students.  My head is seriously spinning with all of the different things I want to try doing because of this book.  I can’t even begin to adequately explain all the wonderful things, because there is just too much!  Denise Johnson is a teacher’s teacher, and Reading, Writing, and Literacy 2.0: Teaching with Online Texts, Tools, and Resources, K-8 reflects all of the passion and energy she gives her students on a daily basis.  If you are looking for a book that will help you help your students learn and develop in this technology-driven world we have today, pick up this book.  I promise you won’t be disappointed.  (And don’t forget to say “Awww” when you read the Dear Reader letter from Anthony on p.136.  That’s my boy!)