During the development of a literate society, literacy practices were very linear in nature. Consider a traditional piece of literature, like a book. It has a cover with the title and author. When we address these elements, we begin by decoding letters and words starting in the upper left and moving to the right across the first line to develop meaning and comprehend printed text. We then open the book, turn the page and then again begin to read for meaning making starting in the upper left, moving across to the right and then down to the next line. This repetitive process reflects the literacy practices most of us have participated in since birth.
Literacy in a digital age is also much more than interacting with traditional print materials. In addition to the books, newspapers and magazines we are all comfortable with, we now interact with digital text, ebooks, blogs, websites, video and audio. These additional components mean literacy in a digital age is not a linear process, but more of a hyperlinked experience, where students need to locate information, read, process, find links to other relevant information and move on. These transliteracy practices are beginning to merge traditional literacy components with the nuances that living in a touch-screen world brings. The understanding that information can be located, interpreted and applied through a series of taps, touches and swipes is indeed a new type of reading comprehension that educators must model and share with students of all ages.
At this time, we do not know a lot about the extent to which emerging digital materials, such as ebooks, can support comprehension. In many cases, ebooks possess digital features designed to provide evidence-based instruction. For example, an ebook or other online text that offers animations to support the text would be similar to an adult or teacher who offers explanation of what is happening within a story. Having students repeatedly use the Read-to- Me feature of an ebook would be akin to a teacher offering repeated reading of a text to support understanding of story plot. How effective these built-in digital scaffolds are in aiding student comprehension remains to be seen, however one thing is certain; teachers need to make sure to draw students attention to digital features that can help support comprehension and explicitly model how students can use them to support their learning.