Gunter, G., & Kenny, R. (2008). Digital booktalk: Digital media for reluctant readers. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 8(1). Retrieved from http://www.citejournal.org/vol8/iss1/currentpractice/article1.cfm
Digital Booktalk: Digital Media for Reluctant Readers
Glenda Gunter and Robert Kenny
University of Central Florida
New learning and communications paradigms of today’s
learners are extending the definition of literacy and directly affecting how
reading and writing skills are acquired (Leu, 2000). Mirroring an
ever-expanding definition of literacy, new college and K-12 curricular programs
that redefine digital media are popping up all over the country. Story is at
the core of both traditional literacy and these digital media courses and using
it as a focus could be appealing to today’s media-centric students.
Further, McLuhan’s (1965) and Ong’s (1984) ideas about media and the message
can help to reformulate notions about why and how today’s students communicate
and how using particular media affects how they learn things. The intent of
this article is to share information and provide guidance for preservice and
in-service teachers about a mediated alternative instructional strategy that has
the ability to reach reluctant and struggling readers. Findings are presented
from a pilot study that evaluated a new Web-based tool that links the interests
of media-centric students with their natural fondness for story. Digital
Booktalk is a Web portal that uses video trailers and associated activities in
an attempt to effectively match potential readers. Initial pilot studies tested
out these assumptions and determined that these types of mediated interventions
can be successful in motivating students to read and complete books and
increase personal understanding of the relevance of reading and writing in the
lives of those who otherwise demonstrate an aversion to text-based media. Results
of the study and implications for in-service and preservice teachers are
Educators need to take notice of new learning and
communications paradigms being adopted by today’s learners, how they are
modifying traditional notions about literacy, and whether they are directly
affecting how basic reading and writing skills are acquired (Leu, 2000). We can
learn a great deal about these new communications paradigms by the various
definitions of the term digital media found in the syllabi of digital media
courses and programs emerging in high schools, colleges, and universities
across this country and abroad.
Most are characterized as a convergence of story and the
arts, (i.e., music, graphic design, art, theater, etc.), technology (i.e.,
computer science, management information systems, engineering, etc.), and/or
entertainment (i.e., cinema, theme parks, and video games, etc.) for the
purpose of aiding human communication and expression. Since narrative is the
common element in both traditional literacy and these new forms of digital
media, using mediated, narrative-based interventions as a strategy to increase
traditional literacy skills could be very appealing to media-centric students.
The intent of this article is to provide information and
guidance for preservice and in-service reading and literacy teachers about an
alternative mediated instructional strategy believed to have the potential to
reach reluctant and struggling readers who are what Prensky (2001) referred to
as digital natives. A pilot study was conducted to evaluate the motivational
impact of a Web portal utilizing video book trailers and associated activities
linking the interests of media-centric students with their natural fondness for
story, matches them with age and lexile appropriate books, and teaching them
the fundamentals of narrative structure to assist them in understanding and
enjoying the books they select.
The intent of the pilot study was to validate and make more
reliable an assessment instrument used to determine whether the VBTs and
associated activities were successful in motivating a text-averse student
population to select, read, and complete books. Initial data analysis has
preliminarily supported our assumptions and has revealed that participating
students show a positive and statistically significant increase in their
general attitude toward reading and writing and a better understanding of the
role both should play in their lives.
A Changing Narrative Paradigm
The digital age has thrust on our nation’s
youth the need to be able to cope in a highly advanced, technological, global
world that has further increased demands on them as to what and how they are
expected to learn (Leu, 2000; Taylor
& Gunter, 2006). In addition to reading and writing, students are expected
to attain proficiency in scientific, economic, technological, visual,
informational, and multicultural literacy (North Central Regional Educational
Laboratory [NCREL] & Metri Group, 2003).
Regardless of the definition of literacy in existence at the
time, there has always been a negative stigma associated with being illiterate
(Withrow, 2004), the sole judgment of which being based on a child’s ability to
read or write (NCREL & Metri
Group, 2003). Further, some have erroneously assumed that literacy is tied to
intelligence. Although the narrower definitions of literacy might corroborate
this assumption, a holistic view should reveal that tying literacy to
intelligence can result in a mischaracterization of a person’s actual
abilities. It may be more correct to recognize the fact that everyone has their
strengths and weaknesses. Intelligence may be more accurately defined as having a skill in a particular medium – suggesting
that if the symbolic codes used in a communication medium are internalized by
those knowledgeable in that medium, they will become authentic tools of thought
(Corcoran, 1981; Hicks, 2006; Leu, 2000). In other words, if one can
communicate well in one medium but not another, he or she should not be generally
classified as unintelligent but, rather, just weak in that medium.
This means that,
perhaps, teachers are selling today’s youth short with broad-brush labels like
“unintelligent” or “unteachable” simply because they do not interact well with
text-based media and materials. The rising demands to expand the scope
of literacy may have contributed to diluting an already unacceptable situation.
Although the number of those incapable of reading or writing on grade level has
reduced, it remains unacceptably large (Mott, Callaway, Zettlemoyer, Seung-Lee, & Lester, 1999; Mott, McQuiggan, Lee, Lee, & Lester, 2006).
For example, the National Assessment of Education Progress’ (NAEP)reading
report card shows very little change in the reading performance of fourth
graders since 1992, and a decrease in performance by eighth graders (National
Center for Educational Statistics, 2006).
Growing Up Digital
The realization that student cognitive processing skills and
preferences may be changing raises questions as to whether correct
instructional strategies are being utilized to motivate digitally oriented
students toward reading and writing. Using Robert Doman’s (1984) concept of
teaching to their strengths and then remediating their weaknesses, the effective
use of digital media as a part of an integrated instructional strategy could be
a way initially to teach reading and writing to otherwise reluctant readers.
Most interventions incorrectly focus on the student’s weaknesses. If words and
sentence structure are a student’s stumbling blocks, then making them the entry
point of instruction could be a cause for further failures. In order to teach
to learners’ strengths, educators need to identify those strengths and
devise a plan for teaching to them.
External pressures to quickly increase
the number of individuals who can read at grade level have forced many
educators to continue simply focusing their efforts, as a path of least
resistance, on how to code and decode words (Chera & Wood, 2003; Reinking,
The results of the NAEP Report Card are disappointing as they relate to students’ abilities to read
and write, and many might be overreacting and making incorrect inferences as to
what these results mean with regards to intelligence of these students and how
the weaknesses should be addressed. Perhaps if educators focused on and taught
to their strengths, rather than their weaknesses, some new ideas would evolve on
how to motivate today’s digital students. A consequence of the digital media revolution
is that it has significantly depreciated in the eyes of media-centric students
the relevance of using text over other forms of digitally mediated
communication (Kenny, 2005; Kenny & Gunter, 2005; Niederman, Kenny,
Sanchez, & Croft, 2004; Prensky, 2001; Rushkoff, 1999).
Digital Media for Reluctant Literates
Changes in perceptual, cognitive, and communicative styles
brought on by the pervasiveness of digital media bring up several interesting
questions with regards to the kinds of mediated instructional strategies that
might effectively address the strengths of digital natives who are reluctant
readers. According to Diana Kimpton (2004), there are
two different types of reluctant readers: those who can read but do not enjoy it and those who find reading so
difficult that they avoid it whenever they can.
Reading is anathema to both as members of a media-centric
culture who often feel like immigrants in a text-based society (Prensky, 2001). There is considerable research linking motivation to past learning
experiences and one’s assessment of self-efficacy, attitudes, and perceptions
(Keller, 1983; Mott et al, 2006; Taylor & Gunter, 2006). If this is true,
then it follows that the difficulties encountered teaching text-based
communications skills can be compared to motivating students to learn a second
language when its relevance is called into question. Knowledge
of the fact that digital is the preferred first language of the media culture may be of some help leading the way to possible solutions to overcoming
The results of several studies have indicated that certain
mediated tools can improve word recognition, reading comprehension, and
spelling skills and boost self-esteem, as well (Taylor, Hasselbring, &
Williams, 2001; The Access Center, 2004). Several incentive programs have also
been introduced, such as Accelerated Reader. These programs have demonstrated
successes in motivating students to read by using a system in which
students are awarded points toward prizes by completing books and successfully
passing quizzes about them (Engwall, 1999).
Some opponents have argued that the external motivation to
read created by a reward system often fades once rewards are withdrawn
(Biggers, 2001; Krashen, 2002). Others suggest that many mediated interventions
are little more than drill and practice and vocabulary programs (Coiro,
Karchmer & Walpole, 2006; Leu, Kinzer, Coiro, & Cammack, 2004) whose
effectiveness is compromised by their failure to take into consideration new,
expanded views on literacy that cannot be taught by using these rote strategies
alone (Swenson, Rozema, Young, McGrail, & Whitin, 2005).
Some also proposed that successful results reported in the use of these programs are
confounded by the fact that positive outcomes may be more of a consequence of
the Hawthorne Effect or a change in teaching strategy than a validation of one
particular form of media over another (Finkelman & McMann, 1995; Tierney et al., 1997). Further, research into effects of multimedia
relating to comprehension of and motivation toward reading have suffered due to
a lack of rigor, affected by the classroom teacher’s ambivalence
toward the relative effectiveness of technology and by the fact that the
teacher is often too heavily invested in text-based forms of communications (Reinking, 2005).
Regardless of whether one feels that a general lack of
positive outcomes tends to discredit these programs, one cannot overlook the
fact that the reports about their effectiveness consistently identify three
specific opportunities to increase reading achievement: an increased
availability of high interest books, sustained wide area reading, and
opportunities for students to share their reading experiences with others
(Eriksson, 2002; Krashen, 2002). It would appear that any mediated intervention
that focuses on these dynamics would have positive results.
Playing Digital Matchmaker: A Mediated Teaching Strategy
Those experienced in teaching reading should be aware of a
line of thinking that needs to be included in all instructional strategies – if students
are properly matched with authors or genres they like and a forum is provided
for them to share their experiences, even reluctant readers will likely
complete the books they start and will read others from the same (or similar)
author or genre. Matching books with potential readers is not easy, however.
Other than the design and limited contents found on book jackets, there is
currently little data potential readers can use to identify books on reading lists
that they might like to read.
Media specialists and teachers often find themselves being
asked by their students to select books for them. The more resourceful ones
have resorted to creating a series of questions about students’ interests
outside of reading in order to identify the kinds of books they might be
inclined to read. These questions include such things as favorite movies,
hobbies and things they like to do outside of class, other books they might
have read, and reading/lexile level (which, surprisingly many students know).
Even the most probing list of questions is fallible. There
is also the risk that incorrect recommendations will result in students not
liking the suggested books and, therefore, not completing them. Several wrong
selections can result in readers becoming even more reluctant and being more
turned off to reading. On the other hand, a well-constructed series of
questions supported with a means to introduce them to the suggested books can
encourage readers to start and complete a book and potentially inspire them to
read others of similar content.
One strategy that has been successful both in helping match
potential readers with books and sharing their reading experience is the booktalk. Aidan Chambers (1985), an
author of children’s books and a literature teacher, coined the term to
identify an activity in which teachers and students talk about the context of books they have just read. Chambers found that
the process of sharing also helps others analyze a book’s context and situate
it for others who have not yet read it.
Talking about books is an essential part of an overall
reading selection strategy and is similarly successful as the Total Physical
Response (TPR) approach used in foreign language learning, in which students
act out the episodic concepts they are attempting to learn.
More recently, supporters of booktalks like Nancy Keane
(2004) have modernized the concept by adding mediated communication channels
into the mix. She has developed an extensive booktalk Web site (http://www.nancykeane.com), on which she
explains that the purpose of a booktalk is to sell the book to potential
readers by grabbing their attention in a shared environment using various means
that include movie trailers from movies made from the books or actual
scenes from the movies themselves. Others suggest videotaping the booktalks so
students can share the experience on the Web (Keane, 2004).
Which Comes First, the Movie or the Book?
Some would argue that first watching the movie made about a
book before reading it ruins the intellectual experience. Others (Gropper 1966; Neuman,
1991; Nugent 1982; Wetzel, Radtke, & Stern, 1994) have long supported the notion
that seeing the movie first might actually be good, because it helps to situate
the book and help the reader visualize what he or she is about to read
–something that many high school and middle school students find difficult
(Kenny & Gunter, 2005). Visualization is a pretraining activity that has
been shown to increase reading proficiency by providing an
organizing structure said to have important positive consequences for
learning and metacognition (Mayer, 2006; Schnotz, 2002).
One way to help visualize a book’s content without
compromising the intellectual experience of reading it is to show video book
trailers (VBTs). Just as movie trailers are influential in increasing a
potential viewer’s interest in a movie, trailers made specifically for a book
should increase a potential reader’s motivation to read it.
The difference between a movie trailer and a book trailer
created for an academic setting is that the purpose of the latter is not
necessarily to sell the product to the reader. Rather, a VBT has a dual
obligation to remain true to the book’s essence so that an informed decision to
read the book can be made and to provide an appealing advanced organizer to
ready the student for the upcoming reading experience. The power of the VBT is
that it introduces the content of the book in a nonverbal way, relieving a
stumbling block (text) by addressing students’ strengths in a digitally
mediated, visual experience. Whether the trailer dissuades a student from reading a
particular book is unimportant, as long as he or she eventually picks one that
The concept of using book trailers in this dual role is a
founding principle behind the development of the Digital BooktalkTM Web site (Figure 1). Digital Booktalk is an online portal that contains video
book trailers (see, e.g., http://sulley.dm.ucf.edu/~dbooktalk/wordpress/?p=15)
and various supplemental activities to help potential readers select books to read
and visually introduce the book’s premise, main characters, and context. During
the development of the user interface and book selection for Digital Booktalk,
media specialists, reading coaches, K-12 classroom teachers, and professors
from higher education institutions were surveyed during site visits, conference
presentations, and workshops. A Suggest-a-Book feature replicates the personal
interest questionnaires that librarians, media specialists, and teachers have
used to help students select books from reading lists. A user profile keeps
track of the results of the questionnaire so that in future sessions the site
can remind repeat visitors of their previous choices. The number of titles of
books is growing and follows recommended school reading lists, titles from
rewards programs like Accelerated Reader and Reading Counts and various state
departments of education, and those suggested by teachers and media
The intent of the trailers and
associated activities is similar in purpose to commercial marketing tie-ins
between movie studios and retailers and consumer products companies, in which
characters from the films are introduced to the public before the movies are
released. Studies have shown that this introduction increases the enjoyment of
the moviegoing experience by developing in the viewer a sense of identity with
the characters and storyline prior to attending the movie (Howard, 2004).
The book trailers and associated activities provide a similar degree of
familiarity and readiness for reading by making backstory
information available. Information about the characters is revealed with only enough
detail to introduce them to potential readers but not so much that it spoils
the discovery process taking place while reading. The characters and story
are introduced only to help set the scene and provide a preview of the
background or point of view of the story, similar to what is done in story
circles and live booktalks.
UB the Director
Given the nature of today’s students, it is not surprising
that they prefer watching a movie over reading a book. In the student surveys
we conducted during the development of the trailers, an overwhelming majority
(approximately 80% of the respondents) selected video from a list of various ways
that a story can be communicated (the others being writing, dance, drawing,
music, and sound). Teachers are often faced with the inevitable question from
students as to why they need to read the book rather than watching the movie
made from that book. In spite of their strong opinions as to whether watching
the movie ruins the reading experience, teachers struggle with how to answer
that question in a believable and appropriate way. One effective strategy is to
remind students that a movie is the result of someone else deciding what goes
in it and that not all movies remain true to the book. Teachers might also suggest that
it might be more fun if students could be the directors of their own movie about
Planting the idea that students should read the book as if
they are going to make a movie out of it is a positive way to implement the composing concept fostered by the Conference on English Education Belief
Statements About Technology (Swenson et
al., 2005). Using this concept, students reinforce a
personal concept of literacy by creating their own original content. The problem is that there is not enough time in the classroom
environment for each student to make a full-length motion picture from the
books they read.
On the other hand, a 2-minute trailer fits better into time
constraints imposed on the class and requires students to focus on the main
points of the book – a standard practice when teaching comprehension. Having to
create their own video provides an attractive external reason purpose for reading
and is an activity in which student producers must know enough about the
main characters, the setting, and the context in order to make decisions about
which scenes to include in the 90- to 120-second trailer.
The Digital Booktalk portal includes a UB the DirectorTM
section containing lesson plans on
how to create trailers, as well as a form for schools to submit their final
productions for possible inclusion on the Web site (Figure 2). The submitted
trailers are peer reviewed by teachers, media specialists, and student groups
for content, creativity, and compatibility with the other trailers already
populating the site. Once accepted, the student-produced trailers are uniquely
identified and comingled with the professionally produced trailers, including
in the Suggest-a-Book listings.
formal research protocols are being developed to evaluate empirically the
academic effectiveness of the Digital Booktalk portal and the corresponding UB
the Director activities.
To gather preliminary data to help refine the curriculum and to develop valid
and relevant hypotheses for the formal empirical study, a pilot test was
administered in several middle and high schools for which the following
questions were developed:
- What are student
attributions concerning the value of reading and writing in their daily lives?
- What is the
extent to which students prefer watching movies over reading books?
- What is the
extent to which students consider themselves to be visual thinkers?
- What is the perceived
self-efficacy with regards to their ability to read, write, and tell
- What do the
participants consider to be the best way(s) to communicate a story?
imposed upon the ability to select participants randomly within the same
classrooms and the fact that in this pilot study there were no control and
treatment groups resulted in a non-experimental design.
A pretest and
posttest was administrated using the same questionnaire. The pretest was
administered prior to beginning the UB the Director activities and once again after they were
completed. The same questionnaire was administered twice, once before
participation in the activities and once immediately afterward. The intent of
the pilot study was to validate the questionnaires and to develop a formal
research protocol for a formal follow-up study to answer the following
- Will there be a significant change in student’s motivation,
perceptions, and attitudes toward the value of reading, as measured by the pre-
and posttest Reading Inventory Questionnaires?
- Will there be significant improvements in students’ reading
proficiency (i.e., proficiency, vocabulary skills, and/or comprehension of
content) as measured against measurement tools such as statewide reading
assessments and Scholastic Reading Inventory?
- To what extent do students increase the number of books they
read and complete on their independent reading level after participating in the
intervention as compared to those in a control group who receive an alternate
- Will the students who use the book trailers select a higher
number of books related by genre or author than those who do not?
and post Reading Questionnaires (appendix; 3.2 MB PDF) consisting of 10
questions containing a 5-point Likert scale and five open-ended questions were
administered to 138 participants. Numeric values associated with each rated
question were compared for statistical significance between pre- and posttests
to determine changes in beliefs and attitudes toward learning styles,
communications preferences, reading, and writing, in general. Responses were
calculated, imported into the SPSS statistical software program, and analyzed
using a one-way ANOVA.
To qualify the
responses to the quantitative questions and to better define the significance
of individual responses, a mixed method of data collection was designed in
which qualitative, open-ended questions were also included on the
questionnaires and combined with observations and verbal accounts from
participants to obtain rich definitional content and context of
the responses and allow for ways to verify and interpret collected
quantitative data (Creswell, 2003; McKnight, Magid, Murphy, & McKnight, 2000; Tobin & Fraser, 1998).
Responses to the five open-ended
questions were searched for key words to further clarify the rated responses,
and participants’ comments were reviewed to elicit general impressions and
trends about how well they performed in and the significance of the activities
(self-efficacy), and about what they felt the future held for them
(attributions). Through interviews with teachers, statements were recorded
about the activities, and general assessments about the student videos were
recorded. During final presentations of student-produced trailers,
comment/assessment sheets were also distributed to each participant, who used
them to evaluate and to make general comments about their peers’ trailers.
The study was
conducted with intact classrooms consisting of students who were enrolled in
high school and middle schools from local school districts in the Central Florida area. As students were generally
heterogeneously assigned to classrooms by the administration of the
participating schools, it was determined that participants in the activities
represented a general cross-section of those students. The schools were
randomly selected and did not represent any particular socio-economic groupings
within the large metropolitan school district in which they resided. The
activities and associated pilot test were administered in various classroom
settings, such as English, drama, and technology education and reading
of this initial implementation was to refine the curriculum, to validate the
questions being asked on the questionnaires, and to test assumptions about
students’ perceptions of the value of reading and writing. All participants
received identical instruction and completed the pre and post Reading Inventory
Questionnaires. The results were to become the foundation for a formal research
protocol to conduct a quasi-experimental study utilizing control and treatment
Between the pre- and post-activity surveys, statistically significant differences were found at the .05 level for
several of the responses – in particular, questions 1, 2, 7, and 10. A review
of these questions indicated that student attitudes toward the value of reading
and writing were significantly more positive after participating in the
activities, as were students’ understanding of the value of
storytelling as a way of knowing. Responses also disclosed an increase in
students’ interest in telling their own story and watching others do the same.
Lastly, there was a corresponding statistically significant decrease in
participants’ nervousness when trying to write and present a story in front of
their peers. Questions 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, and 9 asked participants to provide
background information on their visual learning preferences, and we suspected
after analyzing the data that these responses would not change significantly as
the result of students' partaking in these activities. For some participants the
importance of reading and writing had been evident from the beginning.
Responses to the open-ended questions revealed that some
participants were not reading or writing on grade level, because they did not
understand the relevance of text-based communications, rather than because they
were incapable of doing so. The qualitative questions at the end of the surveys
confirmed these notions and revealed some possible rationale behind the changes
in attitudes toward reading and writing. For example, some responded that as a
result of participating in these activities they felt “reading and
writing were not as difficult” as they had originally perceived. Others indicated
that their prior failures may have been due to a lack of a positive
self-efficacy or misapplied attributions.
Responses to other open-ended question were just as
revealing. Some mentioned without prompting that “learning how to use the
technology was not enough” and that “understanding a story’s content is
important.” Almost every participant responded that they “loved the activity”
and that it had a positive effect on their perceived ability to “express
themselves creatively.” One student responded that she “not only learned how to
develop stories” but she now also understood “some of the whys.” Another stated
that she “was not impressed at first because she didn’t know where the activity
was going but now that it was finished, she was pleasantly surprised.” Perhaps
the most revealing and prophetic comment was from one student who explained
that his video “would never be finished.” Most stated that they wanted to
continue reading stories in this way and that they had the feeling that their
participation actually “changed their views on the importance of story as a way
to communicate ideas.”
findings indicated that the project was a pragmatic success. For example, usage
statistics for the Digital Booktalk Web site continued to grow long after we completed the activities.
Students and teachers from the pilot schools and a growing number of others
and Europe continued to visit the Web site each day.
Statements collected from teachers and media specialists also revealed positive
perceptions toward the portal and associated activities.
specialist reported her experience was that students who viewed the
trailers became familiar enough with the books before they read them that they
were able to make more informed decisions as to which books to read. She
stated that students are more likely to “complete
the books they start” because they have more relevant information about the
books before they begin to read them. Another media specialist stated that she
can “always tell when the trailers are shown in the classrooms, because in the
days that follow they run out of their limited supplies of those books in the Media Center.” Data collection instruments are being
designed to track whether the increased circulation translates into improved
The positive findings of the pilot study indicate that Digital Booktalk and UB the
Director have the potential
to be successful and effective in changing participants’ attitudes and
attributions toward the value of reading and writing in their daily lives. The
opportunity to produce and then view their peers’ video book trailers were
stated by many participants as important factors in helping them to better
understand the differences between reading a book and watching a movie about
that book. Further, both the participants and their teachers indicated that
they enjoyed telling stories and that learning narrative patterns played a
small but important role in helping them parse content for comprehension.
Teaching narrative structure for this purpose has support in the literature and
is part of a process known as Cognitive Reading Theory, which has been shown to
be particularly effective in increasing reading proficiency (Reinking, 2005).
There are some recognized limitations in this study. First,
the activities were conducted in local and regional schools using an instrument
that compared only participants’ initial attitudes toward reading and writing
and immediately after participating in the project. Second, it will be
necessary to determine whether the positive behaviors and attributions are temporary
and simply the result of increased attention (Hawthorne Effect). Methods to
measure longitudinally student opinions and attitudes will be included in the
formal protocols to determine whether these positive attributions endure over
time. Although proper attribution is an important precondition to learning,
further development needs to take place to design instruments that measure
actual reading gains, as measured on statewide assessment tests and other
The statistical power of the follow-up studies will be
limited by a number of factors, which will be addressed when the final
protocols are developed. First, there is the need to continually add to the
number and range of books residing on the Digital Booktalk portal. The number of trailers totals
approximately 40 at the time of publication but is growing. The initial titles
were selected from lists provided by programs such as Reading Counts!,
Accelerated Reader, and school-suggested and various state Departments of
Education reading lists. Second, while some trailers were produced for books
that are generally recognized to be classics(such as Mutiny on the Bounty and To Kill a Mockingbird, for example),
many of the initial titles tend to cater to regional interests. The ability to
better measure the statistical strength of the VBTs will increase as the list
of books grows and represents a broader range of topical and cultural
interests. With the addition of titles this issue will be resolved over time.
A concerted effort is being made to build the video
library listing through grant requests and with the help of a nationwide
contest, in which student-contributed works will be solicited as a part of the
general introduction on the Web site of the UB the Director program.
Even with these limitations, there is enough evidence from
analyzing the data collected over the past 3 years to suggest that the
activities did improve students’ familiarity with the books so that they could
make informed choices as to which books they selected, which increased the
chances they would also read other books with similar content. An analysis of
the questionnaires administered during the pilot study indicates that significant
changes occurred in the attitudes of participating students toward the
importance of reading and writing in their daily lives. Qualitative analyses
revealed that these students had a strong interest in viewing the book
trailers, in reading those books for which the trailers were produced, and in
creating their own trailers.
The results from this informal pilot study are supported by
a significant body of evidence that indicate that animations, talking books,
and other simulated experiences improve comprehension and reduce difficulties
in the decoding of words in younger children (Leu, 2000). A review of the
literature indicates that little has been done, however, to evaluate the
effectiveness of these types of interventions with young adolescents. This
project attempts to fill that gap.
In the next phases of implementing the project, the data
collection tools will be further developed to extrapolate the results to a
larger population and to determine whether the results can be sustained over
longer periods of time. In addition, external evaluation criteria will be
established, against which the results can be compared. For example, the
motivational changes will be compared to statewide and standards-based reading
and assessment tools, such as the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test and the
Scholastic Reading Inventory.
Implications for Teachers
The goal of the program is not about the technology, but
about providing a tool for experienced and preservice teachers to use in the
classroom to help students become more literate in terms of 21st-century learning skills. As Hicks (2006) stated, “It is not so much about the
point that we can make a digital story; it is more to the point that we can
make a story digitally” (p. 4). In other words, learning about story and
narrative structure is paramount.
The technology adds the hook to gain the students’
attention and paves the way for everyone to participate in the curriculum-specific
learning cycle, regardless of their initial vocabulary and grammatical skills.
The latter are introduced once the global concepts are grasped – a reversal of
what has been the general bottom-up practice of requiring students to memorize
word lists and sentence structure before they get to participate in reading
activities. As much fun as these activities are, appropriate content has to be
inculcated to create a curriculum framework.
The book trailers and associated activities found on the Web
portal are central to a curriculum-specific framework that introduces narrative
and story to students who appear to be text-averse but who seem to be attracted
to media and story. Creating a video is the authentic activity by which the
teacher is reinforcing Doman’s (1984) principle of teaching to a student’s strength
to remediate the weaknesses. Story and narrative structure is taught using a
medium with which students are familiar first, followed by reading and writing
activities. When integrated with other best practices in literacy education
(Leu & Kinzer, 2003), these goals appear to be in line with those outlined
by the CEE Summit (Hicks, 2006; Swenson
et al, 2005) to look at literacy in a more holistic way.
When looking for ways to increase reading and writing
skills, one needs to evaluate current best practices. Although the literature nowhere
refers to a single best practice, there are certain universal threads that are
consistently weave themselves into the instructional tapestry, including
motivating students by identifying their strengths and then teaching to them.
The digital age requires revolutionary thinking as to how text-averse children
will be motivated to acquire the traditional literacy skills that remain
important in the world they will enter as they grow older.
Using a mixed research method provides a unique opportunity
to identify and qualify holistic out-of-the box interventions to determine
which ones are the most effective. An initial assessment of the quality and
insightfulness of the student-produced trailers during the pilot tests has
revealed that the participants have otherwise undisclosed talents and have
demonstrated a remarkable aptitude for visual and mediated communications as a
way to express original thought. It is expected that the results of our formal
empirical data collection efforts will assist in the further development of the
curriculum that will appeal to a larger audience and confirm that Digital Booktalk and UB the
Director are effective in motivating reluctant and struggling readers.
Biggers, D. (2001). The argument against Accelerated Reader. Journal of Adolescent & Adult
Literacy, 45(1), 72.
Chambers, A. (1985) Booktalk: Occasional writing on children and
literature. London: Bodley
Chera P., & Wood, C. (2003). Animated multimedia
“talking books” can promote phonological awareness in children beginning to
read. Learning and Instruction, 13(1), 33-52.
Coiro, J., Karchmer, R.A., & Walpole, S. (2006).
Critically evaluating educational technologies for literacy learning: Current
trends and new paradigms. In M.C. McKenna, L.D. Labbo, R.D. Kieffer, & D.
Reinking (Eds.), International handbook
of literacy and technology II (pp.145-162).
Corcoran, F. (1981, Summer). Processing information from
screen media: A psycholinguistic approach. Educational
Communications and Technology Journal, 29,
Creswell, J. W. (2003). Research
design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed method approaches. Thousand
Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Doman, J., R. (1984). Learning problems and attention
deficits. Journal of the National Academy for Child Development, 4(6). Retrieved from http://nacd.org/more_information/journal/article17.html
B. (1999). The carrot to read: Computerized reading incentive programs. Library Talk, 12(5), 28.
Eriksson, K. (2002). Booktalk dilemmas: Teachers'
organisation of pupils' reading. Scandinavian
Journal of Educational Research, 46(4), 391-408.
Finkelman, K., & McMann, C. (1995). Microworlds as a publishing
tool for cooperative groups: An affective study (Report No. 143). ERIC Document
Reproduction Service No. ED 384 344.
Gropper, G.L. (1966) Learning from visuals: Some behavioral
considerations. AV Communications Review, 14, 37-70.
Hicks, T. (2006). Expanding the conversation: A commentary
towards revision of Swenson, Rozema, Young, McGrail, and Whitlin. Contemporary Issues in Technology and
Teacher Education [Online serial], 6(1).
Retrieved from http://www.citejournal.org/vol6/iss1/languagearts/article3.cfm
Howard, T. (2004, October 4). An ‘Incredibles’ effort:
Tie-in with film gets a pricey push. USAToday, Retrieved from http://www.usatoday.com/tech/techinvestor/corporatenews/2004-10-03-sbc_x.htm
Keane, N. (2004). Booktalks quick and simple. Retrieved January 16, 2008, from http://nancykeane.com/booktalks/tips.htm
Keller, J. M. (1983). Motivational design of instruction. In
C. M. Reigeluth (Ed.), Instructional
theories and models: An overview of their current status (pp. 383-429). New
Kenny, R. (2005). Growing up digital: Implications for
teaching and learning. The iDMAa Journal, 2(2).
Kenny, R., & Gunter, G. A.
(2005). Literacy through the arts. Paper presented at the 28th annual conference
of Association for Educational Communications and Technology in Orlando, Florida.
Krashen, S. (2002). Accelerated Reader: Does it work? If so,
why? School Libraries in Canada, 22(2), 24-26.
Leu, D. J. (2000). Literacy and technology: Deictic
consequences for literary education in the information age. In M.L. Kamil, P.
Mosenthal, P.D. Pearson, & R. Barr (Eds.), Handbook of reading research III (pp. 743-770). Mahwah,
Leu, D. J., & Kinzer, C. K. (2003). Effective literacy instruction K-12: Implementing best practice (5th ed). Upper Saddle River, NJ:
Leu, D.J., Jr., Kinzer, C.K., Coiro, J., & Cammack, D.
(2004). Toward a theory of new literacies emerging from the Internet and other
ICT. In R. Ruddell & Norman Unrau (Eds.), Theoretical models and processes of reading (5th ed.; pp.
1570-1613) Newark, DE:
International Reading Association.
Mayer, R.E. (2006). Principles for managing essential
processing in multimedia learning: Segmenting, pretraining, and modality
principles. In R.E. Mayer (Ed.), The Cambridge handbook of multimedia learning (pp. 169-182).
New York: Cambridge
McKnight, C., Magid, A., Murphy, T. J., & McKnight, M.
(2000). Mathematics education research: A
guide for the research mathematician. Providence,
RI: American Mathematical Society.
Mott, B., Callaway, C.,
Zettlemoyer, L., Seung Lee, S., & Lester, J. (1999, November). Towards
narrative-centered learning environments. In the Proceedings of the AAAI Fall Symposium on Narrative Intelligence (pp.
78-82), Cape Cod, MA.
Mott, B., McQuiggan, S.W., Lee, S., Lee, S.Y., & Lester,
J.C. (2006). Narrative centered environments for guided exploratory learning. In the Proceedings
of the Agent Based Systems for Human Learning Workshop at the 5th International
Joint Conference on Autonomous Agents and Multiagent Systems (ABSHL-2006), Hakodate, Japan.
for Education Statistics. (2006). Fifth grade: Findings from the fifth grade follow-up of
the early childhood longitudinal study, kindergarten class of 1998-1999. Retrieved from http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2006/2006038.pdf
Niederman, M., Kenny, R., Sanchez,
A., & Croft, M. (2005, April). A
changing narrative paradigm. Presentation made at Broadcast Education
Association Annual Conference, Las Vegas, NV.
Neuman, S. (1991). Literacy
in the television age. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.
North Central Regional Educational Laboratory & Metri
Group. (2003). enGauge 21st century skills: Literacy in the digital
age. Retrieved January, 2008, from http://www.ncrel.org/engauge/skills/skillsbrochure.pdf.
Nugent, G. C. (1982). Pictures, audio, and print: Symbolic
representation and effect on learning. Education
Communications and Technology Journal, 30,
Partnership for 21st Century Skills. (2003). Learning for
the 21st century. Retrieved January 17,
2008, from http://www.21stcenturyskills.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=29&Itemid=42
Prensky, M. (2001) Digital
games-based learning. New York:
Reinking, D. (2005). Multimedia learning of reading. In R.E.
Mayer (Ed.), The Cambridge handbook of multimedia learning (pp.
355-374). New York:
Rushkoff, D. (1999). Playing
the future: What we can learn from digital kids. New
York: Riverhead Trade.
Schnotz, W. (2002). Towards an integrated view of learning
from text and visual displays. Educational
Psychology Review, 14, 101-120.
Swenson, J., Rozema, R., Young, C. A., McGrail, E., &
Whitin, P. (2005). Beliefs about technology and the preparation of English
teachers: Beginning the conversation. Contemporary Issues in Technology and
Teacher Education [Online serial], 5(3/4). Retrieved from http://www.citejournal.org/vol5/iss3/languagearts/article1.cfm
Taylor, R. T., & Gunter, G. A (2005). The K-12 literacy leadership fieldbook. Thousand
Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
Taylor, R., Hasselbring, T., & Williams, R. (2001). Reading,
writing, and misbehavior. Principal
Leadership, 2(2), 33-38.
Tierney, R.J., Kieffer, R., Whalin, K., Desai, L., Moss,
A.G., Harris, J.E., & Hopper, J. (1997). Assessing the impact of hypertext on learners' architecture of literacy
learning spaces in different disciplines: Follow-up studies. Retrieved from
the Reading Online Web site: http://www.readingonline.org/research/impact/index.html
The Access Center.
(2004). Early reading proficiency and its
relationship to accessing the curriculum. Retrieved from http://www.k8accesscenter.org/training_resources/earlyreadingresource.asp
Tobin, K., & Fraser, B. J. (1998). Qualitative and
quantitative landscapes of classroom learning environments. In B.J. Fraser & K.G. Tobin (Eds.), International
handbook of science education (pp. 623-640). Dordrecht,
The Netherlands :
Wetzel, C. D., Radtke, P. H. & Stern, H.W. (1994). Instructional effectiveness of video media.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Withrow, F. (2004). Literacy
in the digital age: Reading,
writing, viewing, and computing. Lanham, MA: Scarecrow Education.
College of Education
Department of Educational Research, Technology, and Leadership
University of Central Florida
College of Arts and Humanities
Department of Digital Media
University of Central Florida