5 Ideas for Writing with Technology

Jacqui Murray shares how we can encourage an improvement in writing using technology. These creative ways will help you think about how to help children, particularly those who struggle with handwriting and typing.

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5 Ideas for Writing with Technology

Link to show: www.coolcatteacher.com/e235
Date: Friday, January 19, 2018

Vicki: Today we’re talking with Jacqui Murray @askatechteacher about writing with technology.

Now we will include in the Shownotes the K-8 Curriculum, which has a lot of the tips.

But, Jacqui, how do we teach writing with technology?

Jacqui: I think what happens to a lot of teachers is that they confuse the idea of teaching writing — when they are talking about technology — with teaching handwriting or keyboarding.

But I try not to do that.

I try to focus in on the standards of the writing curriculum I’m using — augmented with Common Core or whatever other standards I’m using — and focus on those, rather than sitting there with a paper and pencil and doing it that way.

I think that there’s handwriting without tears. Obviously, a lot of kids have a lot of trouble with handwriting and keyboarding.

Tip #1: Focus on What You’re Trying to Get Students to Do without Letting Mechanics Get in the Way

So if I remove that feature from it, then I can focus on the things that writing teaches kids, like my national standards for writing:

  • Provide evidence and support of opinions,
  • Examine complex ideas and information clearly and accurately
  • Communicate in a way that is appropriate to task, audience, and purpose

You see, that never mentions what tool to use to do that. It just says that’s what kids should get out of writing.

Tech Options to Accomplish the Same Goals, But Without the Pain

So that’s what I think.

Vicki: So you let them write whichever way they’re more comfortable with — handwriting, typing? How do you do that?

Jacqui: I do it even more than that. I focus on what I want them to get out of the writing — which is examining ideas or providing evidence — and then I might do it through Minecraft.

Example of Tip #1 Use Minecraft to Scaffold Story Writing

I might take a Minecraft and then pose questions to them, saying, “What is the story behind what you’re building? Who are the characters in your made up world? What is the setting?”

I’ll have a series of (these questions) that applies specifically to their grade level appropriate writing standards.

But they do it through something like Minecraft, or I can do it with art, or an audio program that they talk it, rather than get caught up in handwriting or keyboarding.

Do you see where i’m going with that?

Vicki: Yeah. So you’ve got the writing standard, but they may actually meet the standard without written expression?

Jacqui: Yes!

Now obviously I do want them to write also, because lots of kids are very good at writing, and they love it.

So I’m making it available to the kids who are kind of afraid of handwriting or writing — putting their thoughts on paper — and giving them these options that accomplish the same goals I want them to accomplish without the pain that goes along with it.

Tip #2: Use Audio or Voice Dictation

Vicki: Well, I teach my students voice dictation. You know, there are some student who are far better at voice dictation than they are at typing or handwriting.

Then they go back and edit. I mean, they still have to edit.

Jacqui: Correct.

Vicki: But you’re just saying that as long as we end up getting “there,” that kids may go multiple pathways to get to that final destination of a written piece?

Jacqui: Yes.

Yes, that is the way I teach it.

Now I teach online classes. I teach grad school classes for teachers. So this is an alternative I propose to them when they have students really struggling with writing.

(These students) have the ideas in their head. They know exactly what they want to do, but they can’t get it down on paper. So we do it that way instead. It just gives them options.

Vicki: Well, and it doesn’t make the child say, “I hate writing!”

Some of the most creative writers actually struggle with the mechanics of writing.

Jacqui: Exactly. Exactly.

Another one I really like is this 140-character novel in Twitter.

Tip #3: Twitter Novels

Kids love Twitter. They just — they love it!

So to write whole novel in a 140 characters? You start by saying, “It’s impossible!”

But you remind the kids of how you tell a story and the requirements of that.

You have them write the story. Now they can do 280 characters, but synthesize it down to a Twitter post.

If you search 140 character novel on the internet, you’ll find a ton of very good ones. They grab you instantly. You can just get caught up in them, even though you think, “Who could do that, with 140 characters?”

So that’s a very fun one that takes the focus off of the writing, but reminds them of what they’re supposed to do with writing. They’re still writing, because it’s Twitter. But it’s not a lot. And they love Twitter!

Vicki: And of course, if Ernest Hemingway can do it, we can do it too, right?

Jacqui: (laughs) Yes, exactly!

Vicki: (laughs) He wrote a very short one.

OK, so you talked about alternate ways of getting to the written word.

You talked about 140-character novels, or 280-character novels.

What are some other strategies?

Jacqui: You know, a really fun activity I do for older students? Once they have the basics of writing — say middle school or high school — is to take the class and write an eBook.

Tip #4: Authoring eBooks

It could be fiction or nonfiction. But they do all of the steps you would normally take in writing a book.

  • You write it.
  • You meet with your critique group to go over it, and you can do that virtually on Google Hangouts or Skype.
  • Review the writing.
  • Edit it and refine it.

At the end of the probably year-long — I don’t have a too many people who do it in a semester class — they have a book they can publish.

Vicki: (agrees)

Jacqui: So it’s very fun for them to come out of that. First, to go into a writing class with this wonderful goal, and then come out of it with something in their hands.

Vicki: Absolutely. And I’ll link to some. My students did eBooks this semester. Some of them did it on Google Docs and then pulled it over to Book Creator.

When they have an audience, when it’s an actual book they can open on their iPad or they can print a PDF, it’s just such a powerful piece to have in your portfolio. But also, it so great to know that THEY created it.

Jacqui: Yes! Excellent.

Vicki: Awesome.

Jacqui: Very nice.

Vicki: OK, so what other idea do you have for us?

Jacqui: You know, I’m a real fan of blogging.

Tip #5: Blogging

I think blogging accomplishes so much of what we want kids to do now, which is

  • collaborate with each other,
  • share their ideas,
  • Task-Audience Purpose (write for the task at hand, the audience that’s reading it, and the purpose they have)

Blogging does all of that. I’m a real fan of that for any subject, for any purpose. It could be expository or fiction or nonfiction or essay — whatever it is. The allow students to share it with each other and comment.

So I like that one a lot, too.

Vicki: Oh, blogging is wonderful.

So, Jacqui… you've given us five great ideas for writing with technology.

Is there anything that you think that teachers may make as a common mistake?

Jacqui: In using these?

Vicki: Yes, in writing with technology, specifically.

Jacqui: I do.

And I’m glad you brought that up. I do.

Mistakes Made in Teaching Writing with Technology

A lot of people, when they think of writing with technology, they think of (things like) www.spellingvocabulary.com. Or something like that comes to mind.

Not to pick on them, I don’t mean it that way, but they think of — if you know the SAMR model (Substitution Augmentation Modification Redefinition), then you know that the spellingvocabulary.com website is at the Substitution, maybe the Augmentation level.

But technology is very effective in Modification and Redefinition — which are the ones I’ve mentioned, with Minecraft and Twitter Novels and blogging a little bit.

So, yes, I think they make the mistake of thinking they have to do it like, “OK, I’ve taught writing. Now I’m going to use technology to practice their vocabulary and spelling, rather than Modify and Redefine.”

Vicki: Just not taking it to that higher level of thinking and problem solving that we need to get to, so that our students can be critical thinkers and creators.

Jacqui: Exactly. Exactly.

Vicki: Excellent.

So we have gotten today five ideas for writing with technology from Jacqui Murray.

We have lots of links in the Shownotes to her curriculum, her K-8 Tech Curriculum, Keyboarding Curriculum… All kinds of material. (Note from editor: Scroll down to Jacqui’s bio below.)

She’s a fantastic resource. She’s been teaching K-8 for 20 years, so she has a lot of experience, a lot of different grade levels.

I love these ideas, and I hope that — if you teach writing, it’s so important to engage students in the process of writing. Sometimes that means NOT getting too hung up in the mechanics before you get them excited about writing itself.

So thanks for listening, and get out there and be remarkable!


Transcribed by Kymberli Mulford


Bio as submitted

Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-18 technology for 20 years. She is the editor/author of over a hundred tech ed resources including a K-8 technology curriculum (https://www.structuredlearning.net/book/k-8-tech-curriculum-set/), K-8 keyboard curriculum (https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Ultimate-Guide-to-Keyboarding-K-Middle-School-3325931), K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum (https://www.structuredlearning.net/book/k-8-digital-citizenship-curriculum/). She is an adjunct professor in tech ed, Master Teacher, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine reviewer, CAEP reviewer, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, and a weekly contributor to TeachHUB. You can find her resources at Structured Learning (https://structuredlearning.net). Read Jacqui’s tech thriller series, To Hunt a Sub and Twenty-four Days (available on Kindle).

Blog: https://askatechteacher.com

Twitter: @askatechteacher

Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored podcast episode.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via cash payment, gift, or something else of value to include a reference to their product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies I can recommend. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” This company has no impact on the editorial content of the show.

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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1 comment

Jacqui January 19, 2018 - 11:16 am

Thanks for hosting me, Vicki. I love how you clarified and organized our conversation.


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