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Dedicated to Teachers

Helping Students Move Beyond Binary Thinking in Our Digital Age

Blog Banner 1200 by 628In Read the World, authors Kristin Ziemke and Katie Muhtaris highlight the importance of critical reading in our current digital climate. They put into words what many of us have an essential understanding of—that “young learners are on a constant quest to make sense of new information.” Because of this, and with more and more information coming at students from all angles all the time, there is a growing need to help them process it. Zeimke and Muhtaris have observed that without guidance students can fall into patterns of binary thinking.

“ ...whenever we pull up alongside a reader to confer about a book and are met with a definitive “I like it” or “I don’t like it.” And, when these same children are given technological tools without further guidance, those same binary preferences persist in their online preferences”

Listen in as Ziemke and Muhtaris talk about how to provide opportunities for students to think deeper by exploring perspectives other than their own.


Teachers can break students of this habit of binary thinking through modeling and engagement. Teachers who have built an environment of trust and respect can gently push children beyond binary thinking through conversation. Below are some examples of this sort of language from Chapter 3:

  • I hear what you’re saying, and I’d like to offer a slightly different perspective...
  • I think we might also consider …
  • One perspective we haven’t considered yet is. …
  • I wonder what would happen if we look at this a different way ….
  • I respectfully disagree because ...

This work can lead students on a path towards greater empathy and compassion. And Ziemke and Muhtaris want to remind us too that "Empathy is not a mere pleasantry; it's a skill for every domain of our lives." 

To learn more about Read The World visit Heinemann.com or click on the button below to read a sample chapter. 

Download a sample chapter of Read the World

Topics: Digital Learning, Empathy, Critical Literacy, Katie Muhtaris, Kristin Ziemke, Read the World

Date Published: 01/07/20

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