Publishing as a Province for Popular Culture

Understanding Perspectives when Reading Online


I
hear it all the time as I spend countless hours watching screen
captures of students reading online, “This website is reliable because
it has all the information I am looking for.”


Why
have all of my efforts to teach students to evaluate websites been so
futile? I think it is because I relied on the most common approach to
teaching website evaluation: providing a checklist of strategies. I now
realize this approach relies on two fallacies when reading online: 1:) a
stable taxonomy of skills exists for online reading, 2:) metacognition
is an “inside the head” experience.

Decontextualized Reading


Creating
taxonomy of online reading skills, which can be applied as a universal
approach will never work. As fans of Gee and Street note, reading is
always a social practice. Using this perspective every inquiry task
students engage in is overlaid with the residue of contexts, culture,
relationships, and power structures.


When
we provide students with a simple checklist we are attempting to strip
away this context in search for a set of universal skills. Instead we
need to focus in on the practices of reading online while introducing a
variety of contexts that recognize how perspectives shape the words and
images authors use.


Metacognition versus Strategy Exchange


The
second fallacy is that metacognition, or thinking about thinking, is a
solitary act that happens in the “mind.” After spending the better part
of half a decade researching how students read online I realize it is
more about strategy exchange than simply thinking about what good
readers do.


Students,
when they are engaged in the practice of online inquiry, learn when
they can share, collaborate, and remix what works when reading multiple
sources. It is more of an issue of social regulation rather than
self-regulation.

Using Remixes to Understand Perspectives.



How can I focus on the context and engcourage strategy exchange? Like
most things digital I found the answer at NCTE. I recently had the
pleasure of attending my first #HackJam in Chicago this year; organized
by the National Writing Project and facilitated by
Andrea Zellner. At this event we were introduced to Hackasaurus, a project run by the Mozilla Foundation. Basically using their tool, X-Ray Goggles,
a Firefox plug in, you can remix any website. I quickly realized this
would be the an effective method to get students to consider perspective
while reading multiple online sources.


What
better way to have students look for markers or credibility as they
read by having them rewrite them into websites. My thought was to take
two opposing viewpoints on a contraversial issue and have students remix
and “flip the perspective”

Reading Remixes


For
example they could begin by analyzing remixes I made (in just a dew
minutes) and look for markers of credibility. I would send them to my
remixed
Vegan Action page and my remixed National Rifle Association
page. Then we would discuss which pages had a more effective message
and better markers of credibility. My students would realize that the
remixed NRA page used authoritative quotes, credible sources versus the
sarcasm on the Vegan Action page.

Ready to Remix


Then
I would have my students “flip” perspectives on a controversial issue. I
would first provide brief training videos (similar to this one made for
teachers):




Then
I would let students loose and work in small groups to remix two
websites by providing the simple tutorial tools provided by hackasaurus.


Building Better Digital Reader and Writers


This
project would have many benefits. Students would have opportunities to
exchange strategies without decontextualizing the reading. They would
work with the html code that is still the backbone of digital writing.
Finally they would understand how perspectives shape the words and
images authors use while building their argumentative writing skills.


Greg McVerry

Greg McVerry is a teacher, researcher and scholar at Southern Connecticut State University.

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