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Ask A REL Response

April 2020


What research has been conducted on instructional strategies for teaching students to read digital text?


Following an established REL Southeast research protocol, we conducted a search for research reports as well as descriptive study articles on instructional strategies for teaching students to read digital text. We focused on identifying resources that specifically addressed the effects of professional development on instructional strategies for teaching students to read digital text. The sources included ERIC and other federally funded databases and organizations, research institutions, academic research databases, and general Internet search engines (For details, please see the methods section at the end of this memo.)

We have not evaluated the quality of references and the resources provided in this response. We offer them only for your reference. These references are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance. Also, we searched the references in the response from the most commonly used resources of research, but they are not comprehensive and other relevant references and resources may exist."

Research References

  1. Brun-Mercer, N. (2019). Online reading strategies for the classroom. English Teaching Forum, 57(4), 2-11.
    From the abstract: "Literacy today requires not only the comprehension of traditional print texts, but also proficiency in twenty-first century technology (International Reading Association 2009). While reading online has become commonplace and in many instances mandatory, readers are not necessarily engaging with digital texts effectively or efficiently. Instructors can help their students improve online reading speed and comprehension by understanding the distinctive challenges of online reading and providing sufficient strategy training and digital-reading practice. The goal of this article is to outline some of the difficulties of reading online, describe several strategies for overcoming those difficulties, and provide hands-on activities to help students practice the strategies."
  2. Cho, B-Y. (2014). Competent adolescent readers' use of internet reading strategies: A thinkaloud study. Cognition and Instruction, 32(3), 253-289.
    From the abstract: "The purpose of this study was to investigate the type, pattern, and complexity of Internet reading strategies used by seven accomplished high school readers. Individual participants performed an academic Internet reading task with the goal of developing critical questions about their chosen controversial topic. Strategies for Internet reading were analyzed from the perspective of constructively responsive reading, both qualitatively and quantitatively, using participant-generated verbal reports complemented by recordings of their computer screens. The data described the nature and sequence of reading strategies that participants used to construct meaning, and the interplay of those multiple strategies in Internet settings. The results demonstrated that the participants' Internet reading involved the iteration and modification of traditional print-based reading strategies (e.g., meaning-making, self-monitoring, information evaluation) and also the use of strategies characteristic of Internet settings (e.g., text location). Implications of the study's findings on Internet reading strategy use for theory and research are discussed."
  3. Kimbell-Lopez, K., Cummins, C., & Manning, E. (2016). Developing digital literacy in the middle school classroom. Computers in the Schools, 33(4), 211-226.
    From the abstract: "Students are growing up in a digital world where technology is constantly changing and evolving. However, their use of these technologies is often more social rather than academically as a way to advance their understanding of key concepts or skills as it relates to instructional content. Teachers know how to teach, and our students are definitely not afraid of digital tools, so our job as teachers is to merge good, sound teaching practices with media that helps students tap into the digital world in which they live. This article shares the process that was followed as 36 Grade 7 and Grade 8 students participated in a 9-week digital media course. The framework of the course used a highly scaffolded format that incorporated various technology tools while also exposing students to aspects of language arts and process writing. Throughout the 9- week course, the role of teacher and students constantly shifted as new roles were taken on by "experts" (the students) who emerged as part of the process."
  4. Kymes, A. (2005). Teaching online comprehension strategies using think-alouds. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, 48(6), 492-500.
    From the abstract: "As new information and communication technologies permeate classrooms and libraries, educators have the responsibility to assist students in comprehending and understanding the information that is now available online. How can we instruct students to become skilled, strategic readers when they encounter online texts and hypertextual formats? By using a familiar technique, the verbal protocol or think aloud method, educators can help students monitor their own learning and develop metacognitive strategies during online reading. The think-aloud as an instructional model for teaching online comprehension has roots in reading, cognition, and usability research. Through demonstration and explicit instruction in the use of mindful strategies, such as setting a purpose, questioning the text, and evaluating structures and forms, educators are able to give students skills for the comprehension of information in the online environment. These skills, when used in conjunction with Web-searching strategies and site evaluation, should also provide students with the ability to plan for their use and dissemination of information, as they are both consumers and producers of ideas. Educators face the challenges of becoming more technologically literate and capable of integrating these new technologies with their existing literacy curricula."
  5. Thomas, A. F. (2015). Enhancing nonfiction reading comprehension through online book discussions. Reading Horizons, 54(2) 66-90.
    From the abstract: "The introduction of Common Core State Standards has many middle grade school teachers concerned with implementing standards while retaining student reading engagement and motivation strategies. This study analyzes the effectiveness of providing social networking strategies in online book discussion groups on enhancing middle grade student reading engagement and motivation. Additionally, this study reaffirmed that offering students choice of texts fostered more autonomous learning habits. Finally as a result of facilitating these online book discussions, graduate students were able to learn and develop more effective strategies and skills for engaging and motivating middle grade student reading. It is hoped that this study will not only assist middle grade school teachers in providing learning strategies for effectively implementing Common Core Standards but also for teacher education students as a result of direct experience in facilitating online book discussion groups."
  6. Tour, E. (2020). Teaching digital literacies in EAL/ESL classrooms: Practical strategies. TESOL Journal, 11(1).
    From the abstract: "It has been widely acknowledged that learners of English as an additional or second language need to develop rich repertoires of digital literacies to be able to read, write, and communicate in digital spaces in English. However, finding appropriate approaches is challenging for many practitioners, and teaching digital literacies often focuses on basic technical skills rather than catering for a wider range of students' technological, language, sociocultural, pragmatic, and critical literacy needs. This article explains digital literacies from a sociocultural perspective, offered by Literacy Studies; describes how this theory promotes a situated problem-based learning approach to classroom practices; and provides a brief overview of the pedagogical model- -the 3D model of literacy (Green, 2002). To illustrate theory in action, the article offers three examples of learning units: designing a webpage, information search, and creating and maintaining a digital presence that can be adapted by teachers or used as a model for developing resources. By designing these theoretically informed examples, the article makes a contribution to practice in the field of language education, which currently lacks explicit practical guidelines. This article can be useful to teachers at different career stages developing or refining their pedagogies for digital literacies in second language contexts."
  7. Van Allen, J., & Zygouris-Coe, V. (2019). Using guided reading to teach internet inquiry skills: A case study of one elementary school teacher's experience. Reading Psychology, 40(5), 425-464.
    From the abstract: "Employees in the twenty-first century must be equipped to effectively process information from print and online sources; yet, many students struggle with online research and comprehension skills, making them ill-prepared in college and careers. Utilizing a qualitative exploratory case study design, this study describes how a fourth-grade teacher developed her students' online research and comprehension skills in small groups using the guided reading framework to frame her instruction. Key findings suggest that the teacher adapted many components of the guided reading framework to develop students' online inquiry skills. Both the teacher and students experienced role changes and challenges related to the experience, yet students demonstrated high rates of engagement and collaboration. This paper provides a situated example of how a teacher adapted an existing instructional context in her classroom and implications for adapting other popular instructional context, frameworks, and models for supporting teachers in developing students' digital literacy skills."


Keywords and Search Strings
The following keywords and search strings were used to search the reference databases and other sources:

  • Strategy instruction, reading digital text
  • Reading strategies, online text
  • Teaching methods, online text

Databases and Resources
We searched ERIC for relevant resources. ERIC is a free online library of over 1.6 million citations of education research sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences. Additionally, we searched Google Scholar and PsychInfo.

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When we were searching and reviewing resources, we considered the following criteria:

  • Date of the publication: References and resources published for last 15 years, from 2003 to present, were include in the search and review.
  • Search Priorities of Reference Sources: Search priority is given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published and/or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations, academic databases, including ERIC, EBSCO databases, JSTOR database, PsychInfo, PsychArticle, and Google Scholar.
  • Methodology: Following methodological priorities/considerations were given in the review and selection of the references: (a) study types - randomized control trials,, quasi experiments, surveys, descriptive data analyses, literature reviews, policy briefs, etc., generally in this order (b) target population, samples (representativeness of the target population, sample size, volunteered or randomly selected, etc.), study duration, etc. (c) limitations, generalizability of the findings and conclusions, etc.

This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by educational stakeholders in the Southeast Region (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, and South Carolina), which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory Southeast at Florida State University. This memorandum was prepared by REL Southeast under a contract with the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences (IES), Contract ED-IES-17-C-0011, administered by Florida State University. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.