Advances in digital technologies are dramatically altering the texts and tools available to teachers and students. These technological advances have created excitement among many for their potential to be used as instructional tools for literacy education. Yet with the promise of these advances come issues that can exacerbate the literacy challenges identified in the other articles in this issue.
In this article Gina Biancarosa and Gina Griffiths characterize how literacy demands have changed in the digital age and how challenges identified in other articles in the issue intersect with these new demands. Rather than seeing technology as something to be fit into an already crowded education agenda, Biancarosa and Griffiths argue that technology can be conceptualized as affording tools that teachers can deploy in their quest to create young readers who possess the higher levels of literacy skills and background knowledge demanded by today’s information-based society.
Biancarosa and Griffiths draw on research to highlight some of the ways technology has been used to build the skills and knowledge needed both by children who are learning to read and by those who have progressed to reading to learn. In their review of the research, Biancarosa and Griffiths focus on the hardware and software used to display and interface with digital text, or what they term e-reading technology. Drawing on studies of e-reading technology and computer technology more broadly, they also reflect on the very real, practical challenges to optimal use of e-reading technology.
The authors conclude by presenting four recommendations to help schools and school systems meet some of the challenges that come with investing in e-reading technology: use only technologies that support Universal Design for Learning; choose evidence-based tools; provide technology users with systemic supports; and capitalize on the data capacities and volume of information that technology provides.