Does technology really improve writing skills?

I get asked this question on a regular basis.

I view technology as an incredibly efficient way to differentiate in the area of writing. I can help support student’s learning and pin point the area they are struggling with and usually find a tool that will scaffold their learning. I have some students use mind mapping software or webs, some students use voice recordings or dictation. I have some of my students using Word Q, which is a word prediction software. Students who have issues with fine motor use the SMART board to draw and write their assignments on. Apps such as My Story-book maker for children and Puppet Pals help my students publish their work in a more professional way and inspire a lot of writing. I surround my students in a sea of technology and help them navigate their way around.

I’ve had many parents say, “yeah, but I want them to be able to write and not be dependent on the technology.” The parents are viewing writing as physically printing words. Is that what writing is? Is that my students’ perception of writing? It certainly isn’t my view. I see writing as a way of communicating a message. I see text as anything that conveys a message. It could be sound, moving images, photographs, slogans, stories, poems, recounts, titles under artwork, posters, ads, cards, reports, graphics, music, songs and so on. I use my biweekly newsletters to help build my parents’ understanding of what we are ‘writing’ each week.  So is writing merely putting pencil to paper? I think not.

Last week our school celebrated Earth Hour. My problem was Earth Hour fell during our class’ writing block. I debated with colleagues about the use of iPads. It was decided that anything that required battery power that needed recharging couldn’t be used. So, I had a writing block with no technology. Oh, no! Well, I still had an authentic writing task. My students had to write a letter to their parents and try to convince them to participate in Earth Hour on Saturday night.  I was a little uneasy about the lack of technology but the students understood it was for a good cause. One child advocated for herself. “But Mrs. Harrison, I really want to write a letter to my parents and I want them to take it seriously. If I write by hand I will have a lot of reversals and they won’t be able to read my letter very well. Can I please use my own iPad and take the letter home so my family can see a ‘professional’ letter?” I couldn’t really argue with that. So off to the side of the room she went and she wrote a lovely letter to her parents. Our school special education resource teacher was in the classroom for this block and we were both blown away with the quality of work that was done by all students. The children took the letters home to their families that evening. It was some of the best writing I had seen from my students all year. So, to answer the parents’ and my administrator’s questions, yes the technology provides the supports necessary for improving writing and once the scaffolding is removed the students’ writing does demonstrate an increase in achievement. Big sigh!

 

How is writing viewed in your community?

Angie Harrison

 

One thought on “Does technology really improve writing skills?

  1. Angie I have also found that having so many different apps on my one class iPad I am able to find the just right app for the student that needs that very specific support (or enrichment). That’s what I love so much about technology (iPad or other wise). It helps us better meet our students’ individual needs.

    But I also feel it is very important to have children write with non digital tools as well. Technology doesn’t replace our good teaching, it only makes it better.

    I love learning from/with you. Karen

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