Knowledge is meant to be shared. That’s what writing is about–taking what you know and putting it out there for all to see. When students hear the word “writing”, most think paper-and-pencil, maybe word processing, but that’s the vehicle, not the goal. According to state and national standards (even international), writing is expected to “provide evidence in support of opinions”, “examine complex ideas and information clearly and accurately”, and/or “communicate in a way that is appropriate to task, audience, and purpose”. Nowhere do standards dictate a specific tool be used to accomplish the goals.
In fact, the tool students select to share knowledge will depend upon their specific learning style. Imagine if you–the artist who never got beyond stick figures–had to draw a picture that explained the nobility inherent in the Civil War. Would you feel stifled? Would you give up? Now put yourself in the shoes of the student who is dyslexic or challenged by prose as they try to share their knowledge.
When you first bring this up in your class, don’t be surprised if kids have no idea what you’re talking about. Many students think learning starts with the teacher talking and ends with a quiz. Have them take the following surveys:
Both are based on the Theory of Multiple Intelligences, Harold Gardner’s iconic model for mapping out learning modalities such as linguistic, hands-on, kinesthetic, math, verbal, and art. Understanding how they learn explains why they remember more when they write something down or read their notes rather than listening to a lecture. If they learn logically (math), a spreadsheet is a good idea. If they are spatial (art) learners, a drawing program is a better choice.
Vicki Davis is a teacher, author, podcaster, tweeter, blogger, international presenter, and so much more. I admire her podcasts and posts so was honored when she invited me to chat with her on her podcast, the 10-Minute Teacher. The topic is one dear to my heart: How to use technology to teach writing in creative ways.
Click the image below to access her post where you can listen to the podcast or read the transcript–whichever works better for you. Or scroll down a bit more and you’ll find the podcast embedded:
In my school, every teacher assesses writing. Even in the tech lab, which is my purview, I provide mini-how-to-write lessons before tech projects that include writing. That’s not just for essays or reports but slideshows, blog posts, comments in forums, and more. I remind students of the five-paragraph essay, synonyms, plan-revise-edit-rewrite, persuasive essays, letter writing, or whatever fits the day’s lesson.
This connected teaching approach is consistent with most modern pedagogy. Writing is no longer treated as a stand-alone skill, rather a tool students use to provide evidence of their knowledge. If I use Common Core as an example, here’s what these Standards call out as important about writing (slightly rephrased from the Anchor Standards):
- Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
- Write informative/explanatory texts to examine complex ideas clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
- Write narratives to develop experiences using effective techniques, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.
- Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
- Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.
- Use technology to produce and publish writing.
- Conduct research based on focused questions that demonstrate understanding of the subject.
- Gather relevant information, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.
- Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
- Write routinely for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.
Note that nowhere do the Standards mention handwriting, word processing tools, editing typos, or general technology skills. Why? Because achieving the Standards transcends the media with which you write. Whether that’s paper-and-pencil or word processing, audio, comics, or video, the goal is to communicate ideas.
If it’s online it’s free
This, of course, isn’t true but the rules and laws surrounding plagiarism and copyrights aren’t nearly as well-known as those that deal with, say, driving a car or crossing a street. The Josephson Institute Center for Youth Ethics surveyed 43,000 high school students and found that:
- 59% of high school students admitted cheating on a test during the last year. 34% self-reported doing it more than twice.
- One out of three high school students admitted that they used the Internet to plagiarize an assignment.
Dissuading students from improper use of online materials is a massive effort that few are willing to undertake. Teachers are at ground zero and start with three basic rules:
This week, my wonderful efriends here in the blogosphere are helping me get the word out about my second novel, Twenty-four Days. What makes this exciting for us geeks and techies–and why I think readers of Ask a Tech Teacher will like it–is that the AI (artificial intelligence) Otto introduced in To Hunt a Sub is all grown up, now a mobile speaking android who plays a critical part in solving the mysteries and saving the world:
A former SEAL, a brilliant scientist, a love-besotted nerd, and a quirky AI have twenty-four days to stop a terrorist attack. The problems: They don’t know what it is, where it is, or who’s involved.
Kirkus Reviews had this to say: had this to say:
A blistering pace is set from the beginning: dates open each new chapter/section, generating a countdown that intensifies the title’s time limit. Murray skillfully bounces from scene to scene, handling numerous characters, from hijackers to MI6 special agent Haster. … A steady tempo and indelible menace form a stirring nautical tale…
I’ll be visiting blogs to chat about the book and answer questions like:
- Can science make a warship invisible?
- Exactly how cool is Otto, the AI?
- What is an ‘AI’?
- What pick-up line does the story’s geek, Eitan Sun, use to attract his first wife?
- Are there drones in this book?
- Is the submarine’s invisibility shield like the cloak in Harry Potter?
- Do you have to read the prequel, To Hunt a Sub, to understand this book?
- How does Otto find submarines anywhere in the world?
- Is this a romantic thriller?
- Is the tech included in the book really possible?
- When is Book 3 in the Rowe-Delamagente series out?
Here’s the schedule of who’ll I’ll visit. I haven’t included the question–you’ll just have to drop in to see the answer:
Please join me whenever you can. I’d love to see you.
I’m a fan of Turnitin’s Revision Assistant and have reviewed it in the past. Most schools use it to help students write and revise their essays with automated feedback from the program. Revision Assistant’s feedback is specific and student-driven — given whenever a student calls for a signal check. Comments are written by actual teachers and the RA’s algorithms recognize patterns and guide students as they rewrite their essays.
Newport-Mesa Unified School District, a large district in Southern California, took a slightly different approach: They applied Revision Assistant’s signal check measures to train teachers how to grade essays more consistently across the district’s grading rubric. This clever application of RA made them a finalist in the IMS Global Learning Consortium Learning Impact Awards for creative applications of education technology.
Here’s what they did: A rubric is a matrix that specifically describes the characteristics an essay must have in order to earn a particular numeric score. Usually, it includes about four levels of proficiency and five or six categories. While it may be challenging for teachers to be consistent in grading, an algorithm is 100 percent consistent in scoring because algorithms do not vary from their programming. Newport-Mesa used this consistency to train teachers to better apply the district rubric to writing assignments.[gallery ids="55971,55970,55969"]
The district is still in the early stages of training and implementation but other districts may want to learn from their use of data-based instruction. They will present their proposal on May 16 at the Learning Impact Summit.
In these 169 tech-centric situations, you get an overview of pedagogy—the tech topics most important to your teaching—as well as practical strategies to address most classroom tech situations, how to scaffold these to learning, and where they provide the subtext to daily tech-infused education.
Today’s tip: #124–Editing is easier with digital writing
Sub-category: Writing, Classroom management
Q: I can’t convince my students to give up their paper and pencil. What’s a great reason that will resonate with them?
A: Digital writing is easier to edit. By a factor of infinity. Anyone who has tried to erase knows they often end up with smudged notes and torn paper. The digital version of editing with a simple overtype or insert is miles ahead. Why force students to use an inferior method?
Ask a Tech Teacher guest blogger, Karen Dikson, has put together a collection of online gamified sites that will help your students with their writing: You think the textbooks for today’s generations of students are way more interesting than the once you had? Ask your students. They still think the lessons are boring. If you don’t do anything to make the studying material more appealing, you can’t expect great engagement and results in your classroom.
Revision Assistant, part of the Turnitin family, is a comprehensive virtual writing assistant for students that allows them to digitally edit and rewrite documents for any class. Last year, Sammy Spencer, a High School English teacher in Southern California, ran a pilot program using Revision Assistant in her school. Here’s her story:
Last Fall, my El Camino Real High School colleagues and I set out to change the way we teach writing. We wanted to redefine effective standards-based instruction and assessment. By the time we were finished with a pilot test, we discovered that a technology tool helped us and our students in some unexpected ways. It changed our day-to-day writing instruction practices, gave students more power over their own learning, and happily, made writing exercises more real and applicable for other departments like social studies.
In 2016-17, I was the new English department chair at ECRCHS, which is a large public charter school in Los Angeles. We are fortunate in that we have a lot of academic freedom, but since this is an accreditation year, we have to be sure we have data to prove we are meeting our learning objectives.
This year, I needed to help our English department implement shifts in writing methods directed by the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). We also needed new pedagogical approaches that would yield data to measure progress. Our literacy coach and English teacher, Heidi Crocker, found a product from Turnitin – Revision Assistant – that used a powerful technology to assess writing and would turn the data it uncovered into feedback that students could apply to their essays immediately. We decided to give it a try.
We took a measured approach and piloted Revision Assistant in August 2016 with a small group of English and History teachers. At around the same time, our administration department asked us to align department objectives so that writing instruction reflected CCSS and the Smarter Balanced-style prompts. We needed benchmark assessments that would not only measure student achievement, but also able to drive instruction.
This summer, Ask a Tech Teacher is holding five Summer Learning classes:
- Tech-infused Teacher (Certificate edition for CEUs or grad class for college credit)
- Tech-infused Class
- Teach Writing with Tech
- 20 Webtools in 20 Days (and the Structured Learning curriculum edition)
- the Differentiated Teacher
Most award Certificates at completion, for CEUs. The Differentiated Teacher and Tech-infused Teacher can be taken for college credit. The following three tools are part of what you learn in Teach Writing with Tech: