Print texts and digital texts are different. Not every skill, strategy, or habit applied when reading a print text automatically transfers onto a screen. Students who can read a print text easily and independently are not necessarily successful on-screen readers.
Just as classroom procedures and routines set a foundation for yearlong experiences, explicit instruction on the skills and habits of digital readers will be relevant throughout the school year. Before assigning students to read a digital text, spend time introducing/reviewing text features and navigation skills essential for on-screen reading. Such lessons will increase students’ reading rate, aid focus and retention, and ultimately improve comprehension.
Introduce navigational strategies
Increase students’ efficiency in navigating digital texts with lessons on how to:
- Search within the server/folders.
- Conduct advanced searches.
- Choose when to click on embedded hyperlinks.
- Filter/Remove distractions.
- Use site maps.
- Use find feature/site search.
Build awareness about features
Understanding how different online features work allows students to control their online reading experience. They need to know how, when, and where to click. This maximizes their time spent reading and understanding the text rather than clicking and experimenting. Such lessons may include how to:
- Scroll within a document.
- Scroll adjacent documents (i.e., double scroll bars).
- Minimize/Maximize a window.
- Minimize/Maximize display size.
- Open more than one document, reduce their window sizes, and view them side by side.
- Rearrange website tabs based on content or purpose.
- Use mouse-over features.
- Bookmark pages.
- Use digital tools (e.g., highlighter, ruler, calculator).
- Choose options from drop downs.
- Drag and drop items into position.
- Use audio and video players.
- Use/Create QR codes.
- Type within provided windows.
- Interpret various cursor symbols (see below).
Note changing cursor symbols & meanings
The cursor itself requires explicit instruction. Students know how to move the mouse and therefore the cursor. However, it’s likely they do not know what all its various symbols mean. The cursor changes in appearance based on the location and function it serves within the text. As a student moves the mouse throughout a digital document, he needs to know what each symbol indicates and how to respond. (Test yourself! What do each of the symbols below indicate?)
Most students will not attain all this information on their own. Although they know how to “get” online, many do not know how to efficiently navigate once they are there. Without explicit instruction, most will experience a slower reading rate, increased frustration, and decreased comprehension.