URI to hold 3rd Summer Institute on Digital Literacy in July

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Feinstein Providence campus to host 120 educators


KINGSTON, R.I. – March 4, 2015 – As Rhode Island seeks to become the first “blended learning” state in the nation, two University of Rhode Island professors are helping out. They’re working to help every student develop the new digital and media literacy skills they need for work, life and citizenship.


From July 27 through July 31, more than 120 kindergarten through Grade 12 teachers and college professors, librarians, media professionals, youth media advocates and researchers from across the United States and around the world will gather at URI’s Feinstein Providence campus for the third annual Summer Institute on Digital Literacy, one of the nation’s premier professional development programs for educators.


The program, sponsored by URI’s School of Education and URI Providence Special Programs, is designed to help educators advance students’ literacy and learning by using digital texts, tools and technologies together with innovative instructional strategies that motivate and engage students’ critical thinking, creativity, collaboration and communication skills.


Howard Rheinhold, lecturer at Stanford University and author of the book, NetSmart: How to Thrive Online, will be the keynote speaker. An Internet pioneer, Rheingold predicted the collaborative evolution of the Internet as an early and active member of several groundbreaking web communities. He now works to advance digital literacy in the context of social and participatory media.


“We’re expanding the concept of literacy to address the world that our students are living in now,” said Renee Hobbs, professor and director of the Media Education Lab at URI. She and her colleague Julie Coiro, an associate professor of education and a leading expert on online reading comprehension, are co-directing the Summer Institute. They have launched the Graduate Certificate Program in Digital Literacy, the first in the nation to provide advanced training in digital literacy for educators, librarians and media professionals. This program includes participation in two summer institutes and two fully-online graduate courses.


“Today, students need to be able to find, gather, use and share information using the Internet and they need to analyze and evaluate the messages they encounter,” said Coiro. “Students need to access, comprehend and synthesize information and ideas that use language, images, sound and multimedia. Students need to learn to create and compose using media tools. We’re preparing teachers who can advance students’ reading and writing skills in all the many forms that they now encounter-through tweets, YouTube videos, blogs and much more,” she said.


According to Renee Hobbs, digital literacy is growing in importance because educators, government leaders and members of the business community are recognizing the relevance of these skills to future citizens and workers. More than 70 percent of previous participants rated the Summer Institute the “best-ever” professional development program in their entire career. Participants enrolled in the Summer Institute from 15 states and around the world, including educators from Italy, Japan and Israel.


But the Summer Institute in Digital Literacy is definitely not just another educational technology conference. Instead, the program examines the opportunities and the challenges of living and working with new digital media tools, and their utility in the context of K-12 and higher education. “There’s real momentum for digital literacy within the education community and in other education-related sectors, including higher education,” Hobbs said. A special training session at the Summer Institute will showcase Mind Over Media, an online website created by the Media Education Lab to help teachers and students analyze new forms of contemporary propaganda.


“Teachers will finish the week-long program inspired with a clear vision of how to activate students’ skills as authors and audiences, ready for full participation in society,” said Coiro.

“The diverse knowledge community that comes together for the Summer Institute enables us to engage — as researchers, learners and teachers – in preparing students for the world outside the classroom,” said Hobbs.


Workshop faculty for the program at the 2015 Summer Institute in Digital Literacy include Professors Hobbs and Coiro along with national experts Kristin Hokanson, a Discovery STAR educator and a regional leader for ISTE (formerly known as the International Society for Technology in Education); Charles Coiro, from the Leadership Development Center at the United States Coast Guard Academy; Jonathan Friesem, assistant director of the Media Education Lab, Mary Moen, librarian at Chariho High School, Rhode Island; David Quinn, University of Rhode Island, and Kara Clayton, media teacher at Thurston High School in Redford, Mich.


Online registration for the Summer Institute on Digital Literacy, opens March 2.


Summer Institute in Digital Literacy 2015
YouTube Promotional Video