URI Summer Institute in Digital Literacy begins July 19

Eighth annual professional development institute for educators, researchers now offered fully online

Media Contact: Dawn Bergantino, 401-874-4147 |

KINGSTON, RI — June 15, 2020– After the coronavirus pandemic led millions of educators to migrate quickly to “remote emergency instruction,” Professors Renee Hobbs and Julie Coiro at the University of Rhode Island made the decision to offer the University’s eighth annual Summer Institute in Digital Literacy in a fully-online format. The popular professional development program explores how literacy is expanding in response to the rise of the Internet and digital media. The program attracts K-12 educators and college faculty, librarians, and researchers from around the country and around the world. Registration for the program is now open.

Offered over six days from July 19 through 24, the online program helps educators develop strategies for scaffolding students’ independent learning using a variety of digital writing and multimedia composition activities. Participants will explore how to promote empathy, mindfulness, and relaxation, balancing synchronous learning using platforms like Zoom, as well as asynchronous forms of online learning. More than 40 workshops will give participants the opportunity to strengthen their digital skills and build confidence in implementing best practices in digital literacy and online learning. “The program fee of $400 makes it a highly affordable form of professional development for those interested in upping their game at online learning,” explained Renee Hobbs.

Discussions of how to address the digital inequalities in education and society as well as how to navigate contemporary propaganda and disinformation are designed to help educators meet the changing needs of their students today. Graduate students may take the course as part of the Graduate Certificate in Digital Literacy, a 12-credit blended learning program offered by URI’s Alan Shawn Feinstein College of Education and Professional Studies.

“The program creates an online learning community where everyone learns from everyone,” said Hobbs. “The COVID-19 pandemic has created new uncertainties for many educators, where self-isolation has created an emotional roller-coaster that affects work, life and family. Being part of an online learning community offers emotional support and networking. In the process, participants discover how online learning can promote agency in many different contexts.”

Hobbs and Coiro conceptualize their professional development program as helping to expand the concept of literacy. According to Coiro, “Digital literacy is about reading and writing strategies that occur both in and out of educational settings, where learning how to access, navigate, and evaluate digital texts is relevant to all aspects of contemporary life.”

In 2020, the Summer Institute in Digital Literacy is being offered in collaboration with National Louis University in Chicago. Hobbs and Coiro have built a partnership with faculty at National Louis University, which has a very strong reading department and is heavily engaged with the Chicago public education system, as well as with issues of social justice and equity. The keynote speaker is Tisha Lewis Ellison, a scholar from the University of Georgia with expertise in digital literacy in the context of home and family. Next year, the institute will move to Chicago.

“The crisis of the coronavirus has created an opportunity,” said Hobbs. “We have been wanting to make the Summer Institute more accessible to people throughout the country, and now we can attract a diverse array of participants. The program fee has been lowered, making it more affordable for educators. The program offers a flexible schedule in light of the need for participants to balance their professional learning with their home and family needs.”

“Summertime is an important time for educators to be learners themselves,” Coiro explained. “We’re eager to reach K-12 educators, college faculty, and librarians from across the country and around the world.” Thanks to the generosity of the Chicago-based McCormick Foundation, scholarship funding is available to support the participation of 20 Chicago Public School faculty and staff in the Summer Institute in Digital Literacy.

“We’re really hoping to broaden the kinds of people that we bring in so we can broaden what people think about digital literacy,” said Coiro. “We also hope to broaden our thinking about graduate coursework and the benefits of building collaborative partnerships across universities.”

Coiro is internationally recognized for her expertise on inquiry, digital literacy, and online reading comprehension and what it looks like in practice with different kinds of learners. She is a professor of reading education in the School of Education at URI and received the Erwin Zolt Digital Literacy Game Changers Award from the International Literacy Association in 2018.

Hobbs is the author of 10 books and more than 150 scholarly articles on digital and media literacy. She has created a wide range of digital learning platforms for students and teachers. She is a professor of Communication Studies in the Harrington School of Communication and Media at URI and received the URI Research Excellence Award in 2018.

For more information about the Summer Institute in Digital Literacy, visit the website: www.digiURI.com