Both high-tech innovations for learning and the inability of many American schoolchildren to write well have been major talking points in educational circles for quite some time, but oddly enough, one may offer a solution to helping remedy the other. There are a variety of tech tools and methods out there for teaching writing that can make the process easier and more fun for both teachers and students. While not every high-tech way of teaching writing will work for every class or every student, there’s enough variety that there’s bound to be something for everyone. Here, we offer just a few tech-focused ways to help students learn grammar, essay-writing, and, most importantly, why good writing is so important to their futures.
With many teachers trying to grade the work of a hundred or more students, giving the kind of comments and insights that students need to succeed can be difficult, if not impossible. While budgets can’t allow for teachers to take on a lighter class load, there are some high-tech solutions to the problem that can ensure that students get the help they need and that teachers aren’t overburdened with grading. Increasingly complex and comprehensive programs are available to help students fix errors in their writing, and can offer feedback during the writing process, when it matters most. Students can use the feedback to make changes before handing in a paper and can get it in more manageable chunks so that it won’t feel overwhelming. While programs like these are still evolving, they will undoubtedly become a go-to tool to help teachers teach students writing in the coming decades.
Many students struggle to understand grammatical principles, even if they’ve been taught them in class. They simply can’t bridge the gap between the conceptual idea and putting it into practice in their real-life work. Direct interactions with teachers can help, but tech can offer another avenue for overburdened teachers. There are hundreds of sites that provide grammar tutorials, some that even come complete with exercises and activities to engage students and help fill gaps in their knowledge. New software is also being released that can help students as they write, addressing grammar issues as they happen. With this kind of support and guidance, students can learn to become better writers both from teachers and from technology.
Writing-focused software is also available to help teachers keep an eye on student progress as they produce a paper or complete an assignment. One such product is called Essay Punch. It helps students through the process of writing an essay step-by-step, from pre-writing to publishing, even offering contextual help and feedback throughout. It also allows teachers to monitor the progress, or lack of it, that students are making in crafting their essays. It’s not the only product of its kind, and tools like this can make it possible for students to get help from start to finish not only from their teachers but also as they write each word of an assignment.
Today, there are hundreds of free multimedia tools out there for teachers to use in the classroom, many of which combine perfectly with writing assignments that challenge and engage students. Looking for some ideas? Some teachers ask students to combine videos they’ve shot with poetry they’ve written or to write the scripts for short films. Others allow students to turn their stories into animations. While a small investment in technology may be necessary to get these kinds of programs off the ground, many teachers report that students who get to be creative and use high-tech tools to augment their writing actually work harder, are more willing to revise, and want to create something that will be truly great, not just please the teacher.
New technology makes it easier than ever for students to collaborate on just about anything, including writing projects. Even free products like Google Drive allow students to work together on a project or to give each other feedback that can be useful in the writing process. Teachers can also chime in so long as documents are shared. While there are numerous platforms that allow for collaboration, Google has actually created a tutorial and some useful materials in partnership with Writing for Teens for teachers and students to use that can make collaborative writing with the web-based service easy and productive.
Blogs force students to create writing that is geared toward a wider audience, which can give quite different results than asking students to craft an essay or a journal that will be read by the teacher alone. There are a number of education-centered blogging sites that can help to address any security and safety issues parents might have and still allow students to craft web-ready writing. On these sites, students can work together to craft a classroom blog or work independently to develop a blog on a given topic. Much of the writing students will do in their future work may be digitally-based, so learning to write in the digital sphere is a key skill to develop. What’s more, most kids love getting the chance to share their writing through a blog, so it can be great motivation for reluctant writers.
Tablets are becoming a standard tool in today’s classrooms, and writing hasn’t been exempt from their influence, and for good reason. Tablets offer an easy way for students to share and view what they’re witting. They can also be loaded up with apps that can help students to practice grammar, translate their writing into other media, or work together with classmates on a variety of different projects. Research supports their use, too. A recent study found that students who had access to a tablet in their classroom were 6% more likely to pass a state reading exam and 8% more likely to pass a state writing exam.
As Common Core standards begin to be applied to schools in most states, many teachers are looking for ways to help students tackle the new writing guidelines laid out by Common Core, many of which focus much more heavily on non-fiction writing. Common Core may not be nationwide just yet, but there are already useful tech tools that teachers can use to teach students writing within the new guidelines. One such site is StudySync, which provides access to hundreds of digital books, offers weekly writing practice, has online writing and peer review, and even incorporates multimedia writing lessons. It offers a pretty rich assortment of tools that can be useful in helping teachers adapt to new standards, and in getting students at any level to learn to love (and excel at) writing.
Sadly, many students hate writing because they find it boring and not particularly useful. Many students just aren’t learning practical ways to apply what they learn and create. After all, when was the last time you had to write a five-paragraph essay for, well, anything? Experts suggest that teachers can facilitate greater student engagement through emphasizing the real-world purpose of student writing. The Web can be a valuable tool for doing that, as much of the communication students do these days is via online forum. Students can compare and contrast products, write short essays detailing their position on a particular issue, or even build research-based websites that can inform and educate readers.
When students are proud of the work they’ve done, they love seeing it in published. Additionally, knowing something will be published for others to see can motivate students to produce better work from the get-go. There are a wide range of publication options online that teachers can use to promote student work. Students can be featured on a school website or blog, but other sites offer different options. Google Drive and Zoho Writer make it possible to turn a writing assignment into a webpage and Yudu and Issuu help make them into a newsletter or e-book. Those are just a few of the many options out there that can help to get students excited about writing.