Monthly Archives: September 2015

Are We Reading the Web or Is the Web Reading Us?

by Elizabeth Dobler

A time indicator, similar to those found on YouTube videos, is beginning to appear on website articles and blog posts. I hadn’t noticed this until I read W. Ian O’Byrne’s article, “Tweaking WordPress to Scaffold and Empower Your Readers.” In the article, O’Byrne discusses his decision to add an indicator to his blog that estimates the amount of time it will take to read a post. His article includes an image of what the reading-time indicator looks like.

Many factors can impact reading time, including interest in the topic, vocabulary difficulty, concept complexity, and the number and type of graphics. And let’s not forget the inherent distractions that are possible when reading online. explains more about how reading time is calculated and analyzes “time points” and how they contribute to calculating reading time. Essentially, the Web is reading our reading habits and using that data to influence the reading experience.

After reading O’Byrne’s article, my thoughts quickly led me to wonder how  reading-time indicators would impact children. Would they try to time themselves and attempt to beat a reading time that was likely calculated for adults? Those who work with children may agree that this would mean less-efficient reading and less emphasis on comprehension.

In a perfect world, children would be reading websites designed specifically for young readers. But the Internet is far from perfect, and children often read articles written for an older audience. To compensate, teachers can explain that reading-time indicators are only a rough estimate and that many factors can cause a person to read faster or slower than the suggested time. Above all, students should be taught to read with purpose. Before they read online, encourage students to consider:

  • Why am I reading this article?
  • What do I hope to learn?
  • What do I plan to do with the information?
  • How closely do I need to read this article to meet my purpose?

Answering these questions can help students view reading-time indicators as a guide, and not a gauge.

Posted in Language Arts, Language Arts Methods, Literacy, Teaching, Technology | Leave a comment

The SAMR Model

By Elizabeth Dobler

SAMRThe SAMR (Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, Redefinition) model, developed by Dr. Ruben R. Puentedura, helps instructors gauge how well they are using technology to maximize students’ opportunities for achievement. In my own classrooms, the model helps me conceptualize ways to integrate technology into my teaching that do more than replicate what we could be doing with a paper and pencil. Recently, however, I have begun to wonder if stages in the model are as clear-cut as they initially seemed to me. Let me illustrate with an example.

In one of my courses, preservice teachers are expected to bring an iPad on the first day to read our e-textbook and course packet. In the past I prepared a paper course packet, including the syllabus and course materials, which has now been replaced by an iBooks version. Thus, moving to an e-book qualifies as SAMR’s Substitution level. One could even make the case that this activity is at Augmentation level because iBooks make it easier to retrieve and organize notes.

However, this is the first experience many students have had with reading and taking notes in an iBook. Some appear to be motivated to explore and use the iBook features, but many are also apprehensive. In general, students are used to learning from print text. Some may view iBooks as a nuisance or even a roadblock to learning. Some may become frustrated with figuring out how to do things digitally, rather than using the spiral-bound paper-packet and stack of sticky notes they are used to.

Because students must overcome their apprehension to technology, I wonder if this activity would move up the SAMR scale as an activity that modifies and transforms learning. Could the challenge of navigating digital text add a dimension of complexity not found with reading print texts, thus requiring a higher level of thinking from the reader?

Part II of this column (to be shared soon) will focus on extending my questions about the SAMR model to online text.

I would appreciate feedback from readers. What do you think of the SAMR model?

Posted in Curriculum, Language Arts Methods, Technology | Leave a comment