Annotation of Corio and Doble’s “Exploring the online reading comprehension strategies used by sixth-grade skilled readers to search for and locate information on the Internet” (2007)
From paying bills to searching and signing up for a Covid vaccination, the internet has found a place in everyone’s life, and we know that especially in the recent year, it plays an important place in teaching and learning. According to research reported by Corio and Dobler (2007) 75% of all U.S. households reported they had Internet access and this was in 2004. As of 2001, 94% of teens who were online used the Internet for school-related research. During the Covid Pandemic these numbers, we can assume, must have soared.
In their research Corio and Dobler present a theoretical framework that focuses on 1) reading as an “active, constructive, meaning-making process” 2) how adolescents develop and demonstrate the literacies needed to read and use online informational texts in formal school and work settings, so reading skills are necessary, but not sufficient, to read and learn from information on the Internet 3) it is necessary to identify effective and ineffective comprehension practices for online reading environments as existing theories/practices may no longer be appropriate (p.217-218).
As their research focuses specifically on informational texts (as opposed to narratives) Corio and Dobler provide a comprehensive overview of strategies for reading informational texts then they compare this with how students comprehend informational hypertext. The chief point of contrast between print and hypertext is that readers must be more active in their use of hypertext in terms of quality and coherence (p.219). Hypertext navigation can also be more problematic than print text; hypertext reading requires continuous management of connects from one link to another; this is an active process where students are more likely to make choices about one link over another. Consider a Google search wherein hundreds to millions of links are presented or a Wikipedia article with links to other informational sources inside it, which is a strong example of the third and fourth challenges: hyperlinked visual representations rather than textual ones could potentially serve as a distraction and intertextual connections are more immediate in hypertext.
In their study, the researchers used a sample of eleven skilled readers. While this may seem like a small sample, they rationalize their need for this small sample very well. Additionally, the type of qualitative research would have been very difficult (timely) to sift through with a larger sample; the narratives provided by the students as they go through the experiment would have taken quite some time to decode if the sample were larger.
Corio and Dobler are effective at establishing a context for their research. They report that they are both literacy educators with a background in hypertext learning and they clearly indicate what their initial question was as they began the study: a primary interest in how best to develop informational and academic literacies required in a school setting as opposed to narrative personal literacies. (p.221). I believe this is a significant study in that far too often I see students in the first year composition classroom that want to focus on first person narrative in their writing, so a move toward reading and creating informational texts early on (sixth grade) is a welcome and valuable trend.
The findings of Coiro and Dobler’s research suggests that: first, prior knowledge assisted in reading comprehension, second, for skilled readers, reading on the Internet required them to make inferences that were very similar to the ways they read print text, and third, skilled readers employed self-regulated reading strategies where both cognitive and physical actions were required.
Overall, despite the contrasting points that Corio and Dobler set forth in their article, the results of this research indicate surprising similarities in the way students create meaning in print and hypertext. The study serves as a starting point for hypertext reading strategy investigation with questions still looking like “what happens when a reader encounters a poorly constructed web setting” or “what happens when a low-level reader is thrust into this type of environment?”
Coiro, J., & Dobler, E. (2007). Exploring the online reading comprehension strategies used by sixth-grade skilled readers to search for and locate information on the Internet. Reading Research Quarterly, 42 (2), 214-257.