Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Writing Process that Utilizes Tech Integration

I've been thinking about ways to utilize the efficiencies of edtech and create consistencies for our students lately. While teachers may all expect MLA format at our school, do we also expect the same process in writing? I am not an english teacher but I do enjoy writing. Our school does a wonderful job of growing students that can whip out a paper in no time. It's definitely one of our academic strengths. I believe that is because we see writing across the curriculum, which is a wonderful thing. I also know that some rubrics are either being worked on or are in place to grade papers equally no matter what the subject matter. I love that. 

I can't help but wonder how does technology support that well-oiled process because well...that's what I do...wonder about technology. So I am using this blog post to brainstorm possible ways to suggest technology be utilized both for efficiencies of the teacher/grader as well as to create efficiencies, standardized expectations, and additional learning opportunities for the students.
Prewriting: That time when students are gathering together in their mind what this paper will say and look like. It's the prep stage. I'll always remember sitting in on a fourth grade teacher explaining the parts of a paragraph to his students as a hamburger. I had never heard that before and it has always stuck with me. We, as educators, work hard to help our students learn to write. For many students this planning stage might best be done through pen and paper. Why not allow students to plan using the Wave Rocketbook notebook that would back up to their Google drive? Or let them use some mind mapping tool like Popplet to organize their thought processes to decide which direction to go? Or let them organize their main parts of their paper in Google Docs and allow peer review feedback via comments? 

Drafting: We are a school that uses GSuites. The ability to create their first draft in Google Docs adds so much robustness to the writing process because of the ability to give immediate feedback as soon as a peer or teacher makes suggestions. The ability to see past correction histories in the process can help writers maneuver forward in creating a very good paper. The beauty of self-saving Google Docs is there is less pressure to work on the fine tuning and more ability to just GO while writing. Research shows us that in the process of paper writing creativity is stronger when typing due to the fact that the brain works faster than we can physically write. The act of "writing" slows us down. While I don't believe technology integration = typing papers in class, I do believe the efficiencies of faster creation and a teacher working the room either virtually in a document or reading over a student's shoulder is a huge benefit to today's classrooms. 

Revising and Editing: There are multiple ways that Google Docs aids the revising and editing stages even before anyone other than the author lays eyes on it. For instance, teaching students to turn on the editing options (to the upper right of the paper) as they type allows them to learn as they go. 
One of the more recent features of Google Docs that can help students in researching is the "EXPLORE" feature that allows a student to access a web browser within the Google Doc to quickly look up things to support their writing. This can be found under the Tools tab on the tool bar.

While talking about research, here is where others might disagree with me but I think we are at a time where it is more imperative than ever that we help students learn what plagiarism is and we allow them to make corrections before they actually "turn in the paper."  When I was in high school (a long time ago) I think it was easier to realize if you were plagiarizing or not. I went to a library to gather a limited amount of resources and I read through them. Because it was a limited amount of resources, it was easy to remember what I read verses what I inferred from what I read. Today's students can pick up their device and have access to oodles of information on any given topic. I think it is easier than ever before to plagiarize and not even realize it. Look at all the hot topic media reports of various celebrities and politicians being called out for plagiarism. I know this is a judgment on my part but I wonder if it is truly intentional plagiarism much of the time. 

By expecting students to import their papers to something like before turning it in for grading, we help our students become aware of what plagiarism is in the process. Not only that, we put the owness on our students to correct grammatical errors before they get to the teacher (this works unless you are actually grading for grammar obviously). The point I'm trying to make is this can become an effective teaching tool in itself and make for efficiencies for our teachers. I do not think running a paper through a self-checking software means it is a good paper. I do think it can be part of steps that could ensure a paper is well written though.

Rewriting: Teachers being able to give feedback during the revisions stage (after going through something like via Google Docs comments allows the teachers to see if corrections to suggestions were actually made or just ignored. Instead of having multiple papers in front of them of drafts, this makes for efficiencies as well. On the student side, to be able to click "resolve" in the process of rewrites creates a neatness of process for the student. Dare I say receiving suggestions or questions from a teacher via comments instead of pen marks potentially written all over a page is also both easier to read for the student and less overwhelming when doing final writes?

Publishing: In the past, a "published" document basically meant a teacher and maybe the students in the class got to see the finished document but in today's world the ability to allow students authentic feedback from the world at large is both an amazing ability and meets the ISTE (International Society for Technology Education) standards for students in multiple areas in regards to educational technology. What if our students added their paper to a blog? Shared their paper with a prominent author on the subject of their paper? Created an opportunity for authentic feedback by emailing the paper to scientists, historians, or others they feel might connect with what they have said? 

To repeat the process I think might best meet both student and teacher needs in integrating technology into writing:

  1. Students receive rubric for assignment when the assignment is explained.
  2. Students create mind maps in their planning stages, either by using digital paper or online graphic organizers.
  3. Students draft their paper in Google Docs and utilize both the editing options and the explore options during this process.
  4. Students upload the paper to to look for both grammatical and plagiarism issues and then rewrite after receiving the results but before sharing with teacher/grader.
  5. Students share document with teacher/peers for review and feedback. Comments in Google Docs are used to make the process of corrections more streamlined for students.
  6. Expectations for publishing are in place for (x) number of papers a year for every student.

I know I am not an English teacher so I wonder what parts of this seem worrisome? A burden?....Thoughts?


  1. Great read! Google concepts carry over to our Microsoft district as well. I agree that plagiarism is a more challenging and increasingly important piece in digital literacy.

  2. Thanks for your comment Amy. Do you currently require steps in the writing process to check for plagiarism?