2016 New Year’s Resolution: Expand Our Efforts in Digital Literacy


The 20th year of the International Literacy Association’s (ILA) What’s Hot in Literacy* survey reveals an important focus for 2016 should be on reading for meaning in both print- and digital-based learning environments. ILA reported the category of digital literacies, new literacies, and media literacy was rated as “very hot” and “should be hot” by at least 75% of the 25 literacy leaders surveyed throughout North America and the world.

Digital literacy is an important component of the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts (CCSS ELA); the Anchor Standards include the following:

  • CCSS ELA Anchor Standard #7 in Reading, “Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words” (p. 10).
  • CCSS ELA Anchor Standard #8 in Writing, “Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism” (p. 18).
  • CCSS ELA Anchor Standard #5 in Speaking and Listening, “Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays to express information and enhance understanding of presentations” (p. 22).

The development of 21st century college and career readiness is predicated on developing skills related to gathering, assessing, and applying information gathered from print and digital resources. More must be done to ensure students participate in quality print and digital experiences, particularly those that incorporate more complex and information-rich text.

Passionate pleas and organizational policy statements abound on the need to incorporate digital literacy into 21st century classrooms. For example, Hicks and Hawley Turner (2013) noted “digital literacy can’t wait” and it is “no longer a luxury” (p. 64). The National Educational Association (NEA, 2013) echoed the importance of digital learning. “Digital technologies create new opportunities for accelerating, expanding, and individualizing learning” (p. 1). Further, the NEA noted, “optimal learning environments should neither be totally technology free, nor should they be totally online and devoid of educator and peer interaction. The Association believes that an environment that maximizes student learning will use a ‘blended’ and/or ‘hybrid’ model situated somewhere along a continuum between these two extremes” (p. 2).

Students who struggle in reading and other ELA areas need opportunities to access digital learning activities in addition to print-based text. One program that incorporates digital- and print-based literacy experiences and includes opportunities to extend learning using diverse media and formats is SRA FLEX Literacy. SRA FLEX Literacy is a comprehensive reading and language arts intervention system built to address CCSS ELA for struggling readers in grades 3-5 (Elementary System with 3 Levels [A-C]) and grades 6-12 (Secondary System with 3 Levels [A-C]). Coverage of the CCSS ELA is vast, with over 90% of the standards covered in the Elementary System (85% formally assessed) and 85% of the standards covered in the Secondary System (80% formally assessed).

SRA FLEX Literacy engages students in 90 minutes of learning in digital, print, and project experiences. These learning experiences are designed to address the five elements of effective adolescent literacy instruction: word study, fluency, vocabulary, comprehension, and motivation. Further, an emphasis is placed on building college and career readiness skills, the driving force behind the CCSS ELA, with motivating computer-based learning (over 1000 ELA objectives include approximately 5,000 activities). The digital experience covers CCSS ELA related to literature, informational text, foundational skills, and language; students log in on this web-based component and move customizable avatars through instructional activities (25 minutes). The print experience incorporates teacher directed and shared, interactive reading activities with a focus on complex text and skills-based instruction such as reading with a pencil, vocabulary development, and close reading (25 minutes). Students participate in debates, discussions, and skill applications. The print experience covers CCSS ELA related to literature, informational text, and language.

Finally, in the project experience students engage in higher-order thinking and problem solving through writing-centered projects (40 minutes). Through these projects, students research, present, collaborate, reflect, and evaluate. Twenty-four projects, including a capstone experience, engage students in technology-rich activities for each of 15 days of instruction. The project experience covers CCSS ELA in informational text, speaking and listening, writing, and language.

Three prior investigations have been conducted using FLEX Literacy. First, Martella and Marchand-Martella (2015) examined key behavior management approaches related to academic and behavioral success that were integrated within FLEX Literacy. Specific program examples are shared to illustrate each behavior management approach.

Second, Flaum-Horvath, Marchand-Martella, Martella, and Cleanthous (2015) examined the effects of a pre-publication version of SRA FLEX Literacy with 69 students at-risk for school failure in grades 3 to 8 from five sites across five states. Results showed large Lexile® growth across the five sites. In fact, 47.8% of the students exceeded the expected Lexile® growth from fall to spring assessments. An interesting finding was that the correlation between Lexile® growth and percentage of yearly lessons completed for the program was statistically significant. Thus, the more lessons completed, the more gains the students made. Teachers also reported satisfaction with the program.

Finally, Flaum-Horvath, Marchand-Martella, Martella, and Kauppi (2015) included 44 school students considered at-risk for reading failure in an FLEX Literacy implementation. The performance of these 44 students was compared to 197 same-school peers who were not at-risk in reading and who received instruction in the Holt Elements of Literature series. Results indicated the students who received FLEX Literacy demonstrated greater SRI Lexile® gains than did their peers. Additionally, significant improvements in AIMSweb ORF scores were seen for the students who received SRA FLEX Literacy.

In summary, opportunities to access diverse media and formats in addition to print-based text are critical for all students, especially those who struggle in CCSS ELA areas. Our New Year’s Resolution for 2016 should be to maximize student learning through a blended approach, capitalizing on digital learning coupled with teacher-directed instruction. SRA FLEX Literacy allows us to keep our 2016 resolution to expand our efforts in digital literacy for students who are at-risk for school failure. To request a curriculum strategy session around SRA FLEX Literacy, click here.

*Literacy Today, Vol. 33, Issue 2, Sept/Oct 2015, shared with permission from the International Literacy Association

About Author


Leave A Reply