Several years ago, I was privileged to work with the Simcoe County District School Board Tech-Hubs. This program opened the door to creative thinking about literacy and technology that invigorated my passion for teaching and my students’ passion for learning. I created the Forest of Technology project as a way to use technology to enhance students’ literacy skills through the Forest of Reading program.
The Forest of Reading is a program that is run by the Ontario Library Association. It incorporates eight reading programs for different age groups to encourage a love of reading. More than 250,000 students participate every year through their public library, school library or on their own. My class was enrolled in the Silver Birch Express, Silver Birch Fiction and Silver Birch Non-Fiction programs.
When I first started this journey, I was deeply inspired by how Jill Shipley, a now-retired teacher-librarian from Codrington Public School, worked with staff to integrate the Forest of Reading program throughout the entire school. Ian McCallum, the Grade 8 teacher at Codrington, told me about teachers discussing the books at the Christmas party, about the volleyball team members discussing books on their way to tournaments and about primary teachers discussing authors and themes in the hallways with intermediate students. I was amazed by how a whole school came together over these books. I was so inspired that it moved me to think about how this same philosophy could be expanded even further with technology. In planning my own inquiry for literacy and technology, I realized that if we could use technology to capitalize on the over 250,000 students reading the Forest of Reading books at the same time, our students could benefit by seeing what other schools and students were doing, and share and collaborate with them as well.
Integrating Technology With Literacy
When the project originally began, one of the first things I did was create a Twitter account (@forestofreading). We followed all of the authors, illustrators and publishers. We even got the Grade 8 class at Codrington to set up Twitter accounts. The results were amazing! The students gravitated to Twitter to discuss the books. It was exciting to see students having their ideas validated and acknowledged by “real” authors! Students who hardly ever read books began to read and communicate their ideas simply because interacting over Twitter felt natural and made it easy to connect with others. Nothing was more gratifying than seeing Grade 8 students talking about books over Twitter on Friday nights. I just couldn’t help but think, “Wow… how many students could benefit from the power of social media if it was set up for them in meaningful ways? What if reading could be fun,