Exploring the New Literacies

Don Leu, the John and Maria Neag endowed Chair in Literacy and Technology.
Don Leu, the John and Maria Neag endowed Chair in Literacy and Technology. Photo Credit: UConn Foundation

Is reading a school textbook and reading information online the same?

No, says Donald Leu, a prominent reading researcher, director of UConn’s internationally renowned New Literacies Research Lab in the Neag School of Education and the John and Maria Neag Endowed Chair in Literacy and Technology. “Children today are digital natives, familiar with digital technology very early on,” he says. “But that doesn’t mean they know how to read and evaluate information online.”

Leu believes he can help. “We’ve identified the skills and strategies for successful online reading and writing,” he says. “I care deeply about preparing our children for the kinds of reading and writing demands that will define their future.”

An affable and ambitious academic who is a graduate of Michigan State, Harvard and UC-Berkeley, Leu was comfortably ensconced as chair of the Department of Reading and Language Arts at Syracuse University when the Neag Endowed Chair came calling. He foresaw that the Neag chair would enable him to teach new ways of reading instruction and provide funding to create and run the literacy center.

During his tenure at UConn, the New Literacies lab has established itself as the premier center for research on new reading comprehensions and learning skills required by the Internet and other technologies. Leu recently co-published the Handbook of Research on New Literacies (Erlbaum, 2008).

Groundbreaking research has its perks. Leu’s reputation and the New Literacies lab’s discoveries have attracted the attention of a number of charitable heavy hitters, including the U.S. Department of Education, the National Science Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation, the Public Broadcasting System, the Annenberg Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, among others, who have combined to provide grants in excess of $10 million.

“The John and Maria Neag Endowed Chair in Literacy and Technology allows me to pursue research that I care deeply about, preparing students for the new literacies that will define their future in an online world of information and communication,” says Leu who was appointed to the Neag chair in 2000.

“The freedom I have to work hard and make this world a better place is something that I treasure greatly. It is only possible with the resources that an endowed chair provides.”

For more information on giving to the Neag School of Education, click here or contact Heather McDonald at hmcdonald@foundation.uconn.edu.