What are the most pressing issues facing literacy teachers these days? The answers might surprise you.

I have a window into what actual teachers want to learn about, and what the professional establishment wants to teach them. That’s because I’ll be spending July taking an on-line course to complete my accreditation for a Reading Specialist designation.

This is the third of three courses, and I am looking forward to being able to go into my future teaching jobs with such a useful specialty.

The backbone of this series of courses has been the ‘collaborative inquiry project,’ wherein participants are split into groups, which each explore a facet of the teaching of reading. Our first task, therefore, has been to brainstorm a list of topics of interest, so we might break ourselves into groups based on interest.

Not surprising, the use of technology in teaching and improving literacy was the first suggestion made. I was dismayed to see it, as it’s come up in both of the previous courses I took. In fact, it was the topic for the project I actually completed for the Part 2 course last year. But clearly, there is still a need for professional development here, as new teachers coming into this course still want to learn more.

And what does the ‘establishment’ want us to learn about? The syllabus for the course covers the usual topics of ‘differentiated’ instruction (i.e., tailoring your resources and strategies to individual student needs), designing whole-school literacy programs, involving parents in their children’s reading program and so on. And it also emphasizes cultural inclusiveness—working with refugees, non-English speakers, aboriginal and First Nations students, and students with differing needs. To me, there are more important issues to devote a project to, and my own preferred topic for this project would be to look at literacy issues involving boys. I am soon to be parent to one.

But of course, for those who are not yet versed in the technological options, that one route can be the road to exploring everything else. I used a marvelous app last year which modeled how to blend letter sounds as the child read. It was a huge help in working with some students who were still developing this reading skill. And, in spite of the technological snafus I faced in rolling out a school-wide ebook program, I definitely see the potential as the tech improves.

So I hope another group—but not mine—gives the tech angle a fresh look. I don’t feel called to further explore this with yet another project myself, but I am eager to see what tools a fresh set of eyes might uncover. Ebooks really can be a huge help in the classroom if used correctly. It is an exciting time to be a reading teacher.

Info on CC-licensed photo: “A student in a Ghana classroom reading from a Kindle with Worldreader co-founder David Risher.”

Related: E-books, e-reading help child literacy: Study, by TeleRead’s Paul St. John Mackintosh.