Reading in a Participatory Culture by Henry Jenkins and Wyn Kelley

Reading in a Participatory Culture: Remixing Moby-Dick in the English Classroom

Jenkins and Kelley offer an optimistic alternative to Carr’s The Shallows: What the Internet is doing to our Brains which is filled, as Jenkins claims, with “contemporary anxieties” (p. 10).  The book offers instead this explanation: “As a society, we are still sorting through the long-term implications of these [media] changes.  But one thing is clear: These shifts point us toward a more participatory culture, one in which everyday citizens have an expanded capacity to communicate and circulate their ideas, one in which networked communities can help shake our collective agendas.” (p. 7) I would like my library learning commons to reflect this ideal where there are always activities happening for staff and students and each of our school community members feel that they have a voice. The Canadian Library Association’s Leading Learning: Standards of Practice for School Library Learning Commons (2014) insists that one of the key steps for implementation is to “foster a collaborative school culture of inquiry and participatory learning in both physical and virtual environments” (p. 23).   That’s a tall order in a secondary school where departments act as silos preventing cross-curricular collaboration from happening.


My favourite English department assignment at my school is a novel study where students explore contexts of the author, protagonist, setting and date of release.  In building in student choice, each one is able to research a context (or two) that relates both to themselves and to their chosen novel. The notion of exploring contexts in literature is similar to the chapter by Kolos and Nierenberg on negotiating cultural spaces (pp. 153-157) where Aurora high school students learned how to effectively protest to their local government.  This cultural negotiation, fitting into spaces where you haven’t fit in before, seems to be a requisite to developing a participatory culture and is highlighted in the Flows of Reading digital accompaniment to the book.  It particularly stands out in the video clip oded/http/ s/ebreilly/clips/rockabillies-in-tokyo/v ideo_file/mp4-high/rockabillies-in-tokyo -mp4-mp4.mp4

where Japanese rockabilly fans are dancing in Yoyogi park in Tokyo.  Having lived and worked in Japan for 3 years, I was often hit with cultural negotiation experiences where I had to fit in to the dominant culture and after a while I was allowed to sit cross-legged during tea ceremonies and the sushi would stop arriving at the table still breathing for the sake of my comfort.  Having to work through the awkward feelings of feeling out of place is a life lesson that everyone should experience.

One of my biggest epiphanies from this book is the idea that students are learning to negotiate cultural spaces between home and school in their discourse.  “While the Discourse of formal schooling is fairly well aligned with the home discourses of middle-and upper-class kids who want to achieve academic success will need to learn to “code switch”, to cross communities and alter speech, behavior, style of dress, and so on” (p. 161).  Of course, I understood the complexities of how public education’s expectations don’t match those at home, but I’ve never read the dilemma put so eloquently before.  It speaks to the same surprise I had when during the “Reading and Negotiation” chapter when a cosmetology class read two different novels. That would never happen in my school!  In my school, novels are for English classes and for pleasure reading.  Perhaps I need to negotiate reading into these foreign places.

A few years ago Dufferin County, where I grew up and where I teach, was threatened by a Megaquarry taking away some prized farmland.  A few teachers and I organized a debate where the stakeholders were allowed to come and talk to our students for 30 minutes each on their perspective.  We had five speakers in total including representatives from First Nations, Gravel Watch, a professor of Environmental Science, the North Dufferin Agricultural and Community Task Force, and of course, the company that had purchased the land for mining.  We had to prep our students on the issues and how to ask succinct questions that used appropriate language for the presenters and audience as did the students in Aurora High School (p. 163).  The debate outside our school went on for months and after an environmental impact report was released, the company withdrew their mining application and the megaquarry was defeated.  I can’t say that our school’s debate had a direct effect on this decision, but the youth participation in this issue was extraordinary. In a twisted way, I wish I could recreate this excitement over a local issue every year in order to see the students become so invested in a topic that affects environment, economy, food, politics and culture.  The true learning was that these students mattered, and this small rural community mattered on a provincial, if not national, scale.  Truthfully, other than for communication and public relations, we didn’t need technology to reach our goal.  We needed a forum for negotiation and that was in my library learning commons.

There are moments in this book that remind me why I became a teacher…pre-library, pre-technology, I wanted to be a teacher so that I could have enlightening conversations with students. Jenkins and Kelley are asking educators to simply harness the teachable moments that come with honouring student voice, give it an authentic forum for expression,  and give students choices that reflect their own expression, and that in doing so any common text can be relevant to current generations of students.


Canadian Library Association. (2014). Leading learning: Standards of practice for school library learning commons.

Jenkins, H., & Kelley, W. (Eds.). (2013). Reading in a participatory culture: Remixing Moby-Dick in the English classroom. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.

Reilly, E., Mehta, R., & Jenkins, H. (2013, February 19). Thinking about subcultures. Retrieved from


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The Shallows by Nicholas Carr

The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains

When Nicholas Carr wrote the infamous article “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” (2008), he made waves in the education community who had bought into the Marc Prensky vision of today’s students as “digital natives” (2005).  While making impetuous decisions about technology integration in schools, Carr halted everyone into thinking maybe we should be a bit more skeptical about technology’s long term effects on the brain.  Essentially, Carr asks if our depth of thinking has been doomed to ‘the shallows’ with the advancement of digital technology.  He cautions that society has lots of breadth in the sources we have available to us to skim and scan, but that we are losing our ability to read deeply.  Using himself as a research subject, he argues that his behaviour in reading digital material appeals to his need for instant gratification, but has caused to become more easily distracted and more susceptible to the control of information corporations.

I really appreciate how Carr maps out in history how the very nature of reading has changed with advances in technology.  Carr (2011) says: “it is our intellectual technologies that have the greatest and most lasting power over what and how we think. They are our most intimate tools, the ones we use for self-expression, for shaping personal and public identity, and for cultivating relationship with others” (p. 45). The argument of the publication’s power has existed since the invention of the printing press … what are we going to publish and with whose voice?  Who is being left out of publishing and at what cost to society?  It’s possible to question this same problem of equity if we admit that “reading and writing are unnatural acts” (Carr, 2011, p. 51) and are shaped by parents, environments and school.  My concern is that in public education in a G8 country, that we need to try to level that playing field so that every student has an equal opportunity to learn.

I read a lot of news and magazine articles from my iPad which I control the flow of information using an app called Zite.  It allows me to turn on or turn off subjects of my interest and filters in my favourite writers, and filters out writers who I deem unworthy of my attention.  I love that every time I connect that there is a magazine filled with articles just for me.  Yet I’m turning into one of those people at parties who can’t talk about anything other than books, school libraries, chiweenies and the humble kitchen garden.  I read a lot but what I read doesn’t represent my renaissance upbringing.  It represents what Amazon has recommended for me based on my past choices, or what my filters have chosen for me in Zite.  However I don’t think that I’m reading any less deeply. I’m able to make big leaps in my intellectual logic, because I’m able to make room in my brain for bigger ideas than the quick facts that I can Google.

In contrast to Carr’s premise, Jim Collins (2013), Department Chair at the University of Iowa, argues that in order to get past “the debate between the defenders of traditional literary experience and the celebrants of digital culture…we need to distinguish between a delivery system and a medium.”  I’m still choosing to read a breadth of material on deep topics, but my reading has definitely changed in that I’m able to now metatag and share my reading with others in a way that I never have before. Collins (2013) also argues that “Reading literary fiction on an e-reader is not a gateway drug that leads to the hard stuff of digital culture — become psychologically dependent on that e-reader, and you’ll find yourself in an alley somewhere with a cell-phone novel written by promiscuous Japanese teenagers sticking out of your arm.”  Although I may be juggling a lot of new information (Carr, 2011, p. 139), I’m also making connections in new and interesting ways. Instead of tapping into a culture of fear about the internet’s potential for corruption, we should be using it to further our culture of reading into something more participatory.

Although Carr wrote The Shallows in 2011, his vision of libraries (p. 98) doesn’t represent my reality in 2014.  In 1994, the main floor of my library was converted to an open computer lab that could accommodate two classes at once and the books were relegated to a new lower level.  We’ve just made a major overhaul in moving the desktops out, the books back upstairs and doubling our computers by using cheaper, lighter mobile devices.  The emphasis isn’t on computers or books…it’s on learning.  Which makes me question once again Carr’s opinions on how schools should scaffold the use of technology?  I am more concerned that students in my community are missing out on technological advances, than if they’re indulging in technology for self-gratification.  Where is Carr’s research on the digital divide?  Does Carr believe as the United Nations does that access to the internet is now a fundamental human right? (Jackson, 2011).

While Carr has some valid arguments, especially those steeped in the rich history of language that he outlines in detail, I don’t want to believe him.  I want to believe that we are in a cultural infancy and that while we may be sacrificing some skills, that new ones will emerge.  Someday I believe that society will use the power of the global internet to solve the world’s problems rather than spending it playing Candy Crush Saga…unless each candy crushed will somehow eliminate poverty and hunger.



Carr, N. (2008, July 1). Is Google making us stupid?: What the internet is doing to our brains. The Atlantic. Retrieved from

Carr, N. (2013, April 20). The death of deep reading [Blog post]. Retrieved from big think website:

Carr, N. G. (2010). The shallows: What the internet is doing to our brains. New York, NY: W.W. Norton.

Collins, J. (2013). Reading, in a digital archive of one’s own. Publications of the Modern Language Association, 128(1).

Jackson, N. (2011, June 3). United Nations declares internet access a basic human right. The Atlantic. Retrieved from

Prensky, M. (2005/2006). Listen to the natives. Educational Leadership, 63(4).

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Presentation: Redefining reading for Milennials

I start off trying to set context for 4 variables in redefining reading: reader, user, hardware and software using myself as the reader/user.  Then I add in various perspectives on how digital reading is changing reading and finally I suggest that teachers and teacher-librarians can play a key role in levelling the playing field for all students.

I’ve presented this just about three times now: at #ECOO13, at the UGDSB Literacy Symposium, and this week at the OLA Superconference 2014.

The link to my Prezi is here:

and here is the link to the Google Doc that we co-construct during the presentation.

Drama by Raina Telgemeier

DramaDrama by Raina Telgemeier

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am so thrilled that there is a female protagonist who loves theatre and isn’t dying to be onstage. Callie is a great role model for pre-teens and teens alike as she is the master of her own learning of stagecraft in order to help put on the school production of Moon over Mississippi. She encounters some very mature problems of how to work through her own limitations. She is also introduced to a couple of brothers who are new at the school and they teach her about making new friends. Telgemeier is able to call attention to the young character’s budding sexuality, openly recognizing that one of these characters are gay, without making it dominate the rest of Callie’s own story. The struggle she experiences is emphasized through the organziation of the novel into Acts, mimicking the structure of a play. I would recommend this book for students as young as grade 5 as long as they understand that it essentially explores ideas of romance. As a teacher, I think it could lead to some very real discussions with students who are confronted with the ideas of homosexuality for the first time in a school situation. I applaud Telgemeier’s bravery for writing this book. It’s not just a brave book…it’s a funny, endearing book about the awkwardness of first love.

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Nightschool: The Weirn Books Vol. 1 by Svetlana Chmakova

Nightschool: The Weirn Books, Vol. 1Nightschool: The Weirn Books, Vol. 1 by Svetlana Chmakova

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have to admit that this is the first Manga I’ve ever read, although I’m an emerging fan of the graphic novel format. The artwork varies with the characters’ emotions from mysterious and flirtatious, to outraged and scary. The colour panels at the outset of Chapter 2 when our main character, the young Weirn and her pet Astral, are introduced are rich and ethereal in their hues of blue. The other section that stands out is the fight sequence when The Hunters take on The Rippers is about 6 pages long and almost completely non-verbal but filled with motion and tension. The thing I appreciate most about Nightschool is the enthusiasm with which Chmakova writes it. She is absolutely enthralled with the diversity of her Nightschool characters and each one of them clearly has an intrinsic purpose to the overarching storyline. This first volume mainly serves as a teaser, beginning every introduction of new plot and character in media res, the reader must take for granted that clues to the nuances of this other world will develop. It requires a leap of faith from the reader that I’m not sure every reader, certainly not struggling readers, would make. Having said that, I can see why these books would be wildly appealing to the right audience, pre-teen to young adult, and I’m proud to call Chmakova Canadian.

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Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks

“>Friends with BoysFriends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I think my favourite thing about the main character, Maggie, is that her personality is so well-developed. Before the ghost is even introduced we find out that: she’s the only girl with 3 brothers, her Dad has a new job, and her Mom has left the family. Besides all the other normal angst that goes with being a teenager, she’s starting her first day of regular high school after being home-schooled her whole life. The jacket is very well done and I think the description:”… and, oh yeah, she’s haunted.” is sure to appeal to readers in my library. I also really like how the main conflict in the novel is really approachable for all teens: new friends, learning the grey areas of right and wrong, and, oh yeah, how to put a ghost to rest. Ok, maybe not that last one. Maggie’s brothers are also well-developed and have distinct personalities especially Zander who is both wise and immature. With all their cavorting about it makes me wish that I had brothers too.

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Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol

Anya's GhostAnya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It’s not surprising to me that Vera Brosgol, author/illustrator of Anya’s Ghost, has chosen Neil Gaiman’s critique to highlight on her front cover of this graphic novel. I can make a direct comparison between Gaiman’s character Coraline and Brosgol’s Anya who are both ordinary and unsuspecting in their quiet gothic existence. Both girls are pre-teen in age, excited and curious but not driven by hormones or a desire to rebel. Other than a few key shots of thigh, Anya is seemingly unaware of her blossoming sexuality. Even Anya’s secret cigarette habit seems more driven by anxiety than as a social tool to garner favour with her peers.
I particularly enjoyed the illustration of the ghost’s duplicity as it oscillates between good and evil in order to manipulate Anya. I was surprised by the story arch as the ghost reveals that not only is she using Anya but she has done this before to her own family. I particularly enjoyed how the ghost tries to compare herself to Anya by pointing out her selfish behaviour. I’m convinced that Anya isn’t sure what to do until the ghost tries to push her back into the giant hole. The book was deliciously suspenseful from beginning to end.


If the ending had found Anya back in the hole, alone and afraid, then I would recommend this to a senior grade student. However, when everything works out alright and Anya grows in her appreciation of her family, friends and school life, I know that this graphic novel would be a good choice for junior students and older.














You can see the official book trailer here:’s%20Ghost%20by%20Vera%20Brosgol
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Comics in prison libraries? Huh.

In this article Martha Cornog, longtime reviewer for Library Journal, interviews Graterford Corrections librarian, Philip Ephraim, about the inclusion of comics in his prison library.  Ephraim talks about the circulation statistics of comics noting that they are a small portion of the collection but well-used by patrons.    As a result, Ephraim has observed an increase in patrons choosing more serious reading materials and becoming interested in the art of comics. Some of the appeal to the library patrons includes using them as reference or springboards for artwork and this has lead to the development of how-to draw books in the collection. Likewise, the drawing leads to the need to articulate dialogue in the creation of comics and so the study of writing has also increased in library patrons.  Most importantly, comics are signed out for entertainment which has a significant effect on the stress levels of the inmates, which in turn translates to pacifying the atmosphere of the correction facility itself.   Ephraim leaves the reader with a series of questions about the relationship between his inmate patrons and comics that he advocates should be researched. He wonders if there is a relationship between intelligence or reading levels and comics and how it can be measured. He is also curious about if the prisoners admire the characters they read about and wish to emulate them by performing good deeds.  Ephraim is trying to gather more data to persuade others that comics should be included in every prison library.

The interview with Ephraim about his prison library collection of comics and prisoners’ reactions left two lasting impressions of the dynamic in my mind: the increase in the pursuit of art-making and the questions of morality in comic book themes.  I can only assume that one of the factors that contributes to incarceration is illiteracy.  Certainly any kind of reading material that the inmates choose increases their exposure to text and the likelihood of reading activity.    While Ephraim agrees with current research that shows that reading comics can lead to higher literacy rates, his inclusion of comics seems to validate the reading decisions of his unique patrons.  Perhaps this is why they choose the creative act of art-making, rather than the destructive behaviour they’ve shown in the past.  This creation in itself empowers the same library users to ask for materials that they are interested in.  Having Ephraim purchase more texts that users request demonstrates that their interests have sway as the library collection is adapting to the users, rather than the users adapting to the available collection.

Furthermore Ephraim indicates his own interest in the grey areas of morality that are often emphasized in graphic novels.  As Ephraim does, I wonder if there is a measurable effect of the consistent good vs. evil themes in comics on the prisoners.  It seems obvious that this population would be interested in crime and the justice system.  I‘m just reading Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (1986) and in it the character Nite Owl says:

Some of us did it out of a sense of childish excitement and some of us, I think, did it for a kind of excitement that was altogether more adult if perhaps less healthy.  They’ve called us fascists and they’ve called us perverts and while there’s an element of truth in both those accusations, neither of them are big enough to take in the whole picture” (p. 8).

While Nite Owl was describing these heroes who dressed in costume to stop crime, he could easily be describing criminals. Especially in post-modern comics, we seem to see the duality of villains and heroes and how close to the edge of justice and injustice they both live.  I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that these consistent themes are what appeals to the patrons of Ephraim’s library where they wrestle with the same moral questions about themselves.


Cornog, M. (2012, July 3). Q&A: Prison librarian Philip Ephraim on the positive

    effects of comics [Blog post]. Retrieved from Library Journal Reviews


Moore, A., & Gibbons, D. (1986). Watchmen. New York, NY: DC Comics.


Owly by Andy Runton

Owly, Vol. 1:  The Way Home & The Bittersweet SummerOwly, Vol. 1: The Way Home & The Bittersweet Summer by Andy Runton

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I can’t say this with any certainty but Owly has the feeling of being written for school-aged children. The pictures are sweet and the text is minimal but the stories themselves seem to have a moral impetus driving them….like you just know there’s a lesson at the end. Andy Runton even includes this teacher resource page on his blog:… …as if Andy Runton sat down one day and said “I have the perfect thing for those elementary teachers…” The pictures are sweet and the text is minimal which is certainly an achievement but the stories themselves seem to have a moral impetus driving them….like you just know there’s a lesson at the end. This makes the stories seem disingenuous and I have to question the validity of the purpose. However, there is a very nice storytelling moment when during their quest Owly and Wormy meet a pair of fireflies to light their nighttime path. The reader realizes that Owly released these two fireflies from a jar earlier in the story so they are repaying a favour to Owly.

And another thing….While I mostly like this cute character Owly, I’m a little miffed when in “The Way Home” that he can have worms as friends, because I think any owl with any self-worth would munch on that worm quick as can be. Owly just isn’t very ….owly. My son was given a book called “Ducklings love…” once when he was about 3 and it was super cute that the ducklings love something different on each page like: water, swimming, their Mommy and Daddy, and then the ducklings were said to love cats and dogs and I thought “Ducklings do not love cats and dogs or rabid-duckling-eating-wolves” and I threw it away. There’s something about Owly’s quirky relationships with much smaller animals that I find unnerving. Maybe the leap from personifying an animal to taking all of his animal characteristics away is just too great for me to take.

I appreciated “The Bittersweet Summer” a little more because of the natural cycles of migration that Owly discovers. I particularly enjoyed the pages where Runton conveys time passing through the calendar and the plants are starting to bloom again. Runton’s use of black and white does not diminish the emotions he’s trying to convey through Owly’s expressions. Only occasionally does Runton break his style to provide a whack of information regarding a plant or the hummingbird’s migration patterns in writing. The structure of the frames on a page is generally reliable and this would be comforting to a new reader of the comic genre.

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Is it possible to grow readers who are also digitally savvy?

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to hear Penny Kittle speak about reading and how complex it is for intermediate/senior teachers to teach.  Kittle estimates that in 1st year college/university that the average pages a student reads is 500.  She proposed that the #1 reason that students drop out after first year is that they can’t keep up with the demand of reading.  Meanwhile Don Tapscott tells us in Grown Up Digital that we need to appeal to the multimedia savvy of the NetGeneration students in our classes.  How do we balance both of those ideas?  Heather Durnin tells us how she does it in her blog post about modifying literature circles in her grade 8 classroom.  What I love about Heather’s work is that she’s still focusing on  teaching reading, critical analysis and through social interaction (Vygotzky would approve).  The students develop their skills in analysis face-to-face with their peers and their teacher, before being accountable to the technology. I suspect that as students hear the types of questions and comments that lead to richer discussion, that in turn their reading becomes stronger as they look for ways to contribute.

What’s the next level?  Maybe it’s that the students publish their work to an authentic audience and get feedback.  The hardest part of inquiry-based learning for me is to ask really meaningful questions that will lead to critical thinking.  I’m at the point where I am conscious of designing my questions to be evaluative ….so that students are developing criteria as well as their analysis, but the questions don’t come naturally to me yet. Is there an app for that?  I don’t think so.  #teachersrock

Reading Development Software for the Secondary Struggling Reader

Currently in the Upper Grand District School Board, the installation and maintenance of all software is done at the board facility through a common image for secondary students. An additional need at my school is digital resources for the secondary struggling reader.  I define struggling reader as any student who is two levels below grade level in reading.  We are currently working on a system where we can develop diagnostic testing to find these students, offer remediation and track their progress. Within our school now, there are three populations of students that could benefit from this research:

  1. our at-risk grade 9 and 10 students who are struggling to stay engaged in school and reading is a barrier to learning
  2. our transitions students who come to ODSS with intellectual disabilities and an assortment of reading capabilities
  3. students who are attempting the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Course, which means they have attempted and failed the mandatory Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test twice already

Our need for resources to help the struggling reader has become urgent.  A component that has yet to be found is any software that would support reading improvement in teens.  I would like to use the model of Raz-Kids (2012), a levelled software program for elementary students, that is online.  To improve on the Raz-Kids model, the software should be adaptive to the user and increase in difficulty as the student shows readiness.  Teachers subscribe and create a class account and then give each student an account which is accessible from any internet connection.  I would then advocate that the software become part of our image through our catalogue and online subscriptions database.  Software in general is best catalogued in our school using the title as an access point.

Overview of the investigation process

Educational print resources seem much easier to locate, and general software is easier to find.  Combining both the ideas of educationally designed and digital resources was complicated.  Adding in the specificity of the age group of our struggling readers, was a further challenge.  I relied heavily on Chapter 6 of  the Bishop (2013) textbook for guidance in how to maintain focus.  Most review sources focused heavily on elementary students and often they simply lead me to the companies that made the software to see if a secondary school program had been created.  The databases at the University of Alberta library lead me to three review sources.  Then I focused on two strategies of web searching using government bodies of licensed software and iPad apps.

I was first turned on to the idea of scaffolded reading software when my son, Max, came home with his Raz-Kids (2012) software login in September 2012.  Then I discussed the program with my colleague, Rita Baran, who is piloting a reading recovery for grade 9 students.  Rita’s success has seen students improve by up to 4 reading levels in one semester which gives the students tremendous confidence about their other classes.  Next I visited my colleague Maddie Davis, who works with a Transitions Skills class.  Maddie visits the library weekly with her class to investigate new reading materials.  They read in the library and both Maddie and I are interested in other ways that the library can be used to support this group of students.  Finally, I visited my colleague Deb Schaner, the Head of Student Success, who deals with our most at-risk students.  Deb’s greatest challenge is identifying and supporting students as they enter our school.  Research into types of resources for each of the aforementioned populations of students, and to help these colleagues, is a necessary but challenging prospect.  

Selection tools

  1. Journal of Research on Technology in Education

International Society for Technology in Education (Ed.). (2013). Journal of Research on Technology in Education. Retrieved from
The ISTE Journal of Research on Technology in Education “publishes articles that report on original research, project descriptions/evaluations, syntheses of the literature, assessments of the state of the art, and theoretical or conceptual positions that relate to the field of educational technology in teaching and learning” (2013).  Very often, the articles chosen review pieces of software in relation to a teaching or learning challenge.  

  1. Tech & Learning magazine

NewBay Media (Ed.). (2012). Tech & Learning. Retrieved from

“For over 30 years, Tech & Learning has served the K-12 education community with practical resources and expert strategies for transforming education through integration of digital technologies” (2012).  Tech & Learning focuses on successful implementation of information technology in educational settings. It not only talks about software for learning, it recommends strategies for teaching.

  1. Teaching Exceptional Children

Council for Exceptional Children (Ed.). (2012). Teaching Exceptional Children.

Published six times per year, Teaching Exceptional Children focuses on practical methods for teaching children with the full range of exceptionalities.  Reviews of software happen in the context of articles exploring successful implementation of teaching strategies for this specific group of learners.  

  1. Ontario Software Acquisition Program Advisory Committee

Ontario Software Acquisition Program Advisory Committee (Ed.). (2008). Bulletin Board. Retrieved February 2, 2013, from OSAPAC/CCPALO website:

OSAPAC is “the committee that advises the Ministry on software titles to negotiate for provincial licensing” (2013).  Besides their role as advisors, the committee maintains a website with an excellent searchable spreadsheet of licensed software.

  1. I Educational Applications Review

Meech, S. (Ed.). Learning A – Z levelled readers by Kathy Burdick. Retrieved February 2, 2013, from I Educational Applications Review website:

Licensed under the Creative Commons, is dedicated to collaborative contributions from educators and students on the effectiveness of mobile applications for education.  Although the responses aren’t based on formal research, the variety of contributions in the form of blogs, wiki discussions and community discussions is like a consumers report from multiple perspectives.

Recommended Resources

  1. Read 180

Scholastic. (2013). Read 180 Instructional Software [online]. Scholastic.

Read 180 meets many requirements of the ideal software for teenage struggling readers.  It is online, adaptive, and comes with print materials and professional support.  It is working on multiple platforms including ebooks and audiobooks.  

  1. Scientific Learning Reading Assistant software

Scientific Learning Corporation. (2013). Reading Assistant [Online]. Oakland,
CA: Scientific Learning Corporation.

Reading Assistant is for students who are building fluency, comprehension skills and vocabulary.  The software listens to the student read aloud and helps with prompts when difficulty arises.  The program maintains records to monitor progress for the student and teacher.

  1. Reading & Writing Achievement 4.1

Nectar Learn. (2013). Reading and Writing Achievement (Version 4.1) [Computer
software on CD-ROM]. Markham, Canada: SVT Education Services Inc.

Reading & Writing Achievement is designed to improve reading and writing skills of grade 10 students in Ontario who are about to take their mandatory literacy test, or to help improve the skills of students who have been unsuccessful in previous attempts.  It is licensed for all public schools in the province of Ontario through OSAPAC.

  1. Merit Software

Merit Software. (2013). Reading Skill Builder [Online]. New York, NY: Merit Software.

Reading Skill Builder is one choice of many from Merit.  It is designed to target reading in the late elementary levels but with high interest material suitable for teens to adults.  

  1. RAPS 360 – Reading Diagnostic

MindPlay Educational Software for Reading Instruction. (2013). RAPS 360 [Online].

RAPS 360 – Reading Diagnostic software uses a variety of tests to quickly determine a baseline reading level of students.  It can then recommend groupings of students based on commonalities including comprehension and vocabulary.  It can easily print reports, track progress and make recommendations for interventions.  Previous MindPlay products have won numerous awards including those from the Council of Exceptional Children and the International Society for Technology in Education.


Bishop, K. (2013). Selection. In Library and Information Science Text Series: The collection program in schools: Concepts and practices (5th ed., pp. 45-70). Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Learning A – Z. (2012). Raz-Kids [Online software]. Tucson, AZ: Learning A – Z.


The World Almanac for Kids (2013)

Book title: The World Almanac for Kids 2013

Author: World Almanac Books

Bibliographic entry  World Almanac Books (Ed.). (2013). The world almanac for kids 2013. New York, NY: World Almanac Books.
Description  This almanac is filled with pictures and facts.  It highlights popular culture in the year 2012 and is organized by topic alphabetically from animals to weights and measures.
Reaction  It’s very visually dense and the index is comprehensive.  Although it is the ‘world’ almanac, it is still very focused on the United States.
Recommended age level Junior/Intermediate
Subjects/themes World facts
Curriculum connections Geography: identify and explain the themes of geographic inquiry: location/place, environment, region, interaction, and movement

Science: assess the benefits that human societies derive from biodiversity (e.g., thousands of products such as food, clothing, medicine, and building materials come from plants and animals) and the problems that occur when biodiversity is diminished (e.g., monocultures are more vulnerable to pests and diseases)

Miscellaneous  Dense non-fiction books like The World Almanac are very popular with struggling readers in my secondary library.  I would purchase The World Almanac, not the one ‘for kids’.