apps · digital tools · technology · writing workshop

Infusing Technology: It’s More Than Apps and Devices

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As I sat down to write my post for the upcoming series, titled: Dreaming Big for This Year’s Writing Workshop I thought back to when I opened my writing workshop to digital tools. I thought of all the things I wished I had known. I quickly learned technology was about more than devices, apps, and how to use them in teaching and learning. In reflection, my journey to technology was about courage.

I have to admit it, opening the workshop to digital tools was scary, and that fear made me feel vulnerable. In the Ted Talk, The Power of Vulnerability, Berné Brown says, “Showing courage means doing things that make you feel vulnerable.” Later she shares,  “…it’s also the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love.”

I hope sharing what I learned inspires you to prepare for dreaming big with digital tools in your workshop. I’m looking forward to sharing all my “get started” strategies in the post for the series. Until then, here are some ideas to ponder as you wrestle with what might be making you feel vulnerable.

Purposefully Know Your Students

Why: When students use digital tools, we can feel disconnected from them and their work. Purposefully knowing my students helped me to trust they were making intentional choices.

How: Being intentional does not only involve learning about your students’ interests. It is also important to know the why behind these preferences.  When I confer with writers about their choices, I learn their intentions and the process they use to make choices. I hear how they self-monitor as learners. Confident the writer is working deliberately, together we develop a trusting balance, and I’m able to step back with ease.

  Use Your Students As Mentors to Your Teaching

Why:  The work students do is a formative assessment and can guide teaching and inspire other students.

How:  Watch and listen to students during share time.  Students talk is informative and teaches us the thoughts behind the work of the writer.  Note how writers approach the writing process, how they apply new learning and the tools they choose. Use these anecdotal notes to create lessons, plan conferences, and inspire other students.

Students Need Ownership

Why: Students learn to be thoughtful and practiced problem solvers when ownership is encouraged. Students work with authenticity and creativity with they design their work.

How: Expose students to open learning environments where decisions about topics, genres, tools, and workspaces are commonplace. Allow students to make mistakes. Encourage students to grapple with dilemmas.

Teach the Writer

Why: A writer’s choice in topic, genre, or tool does not change the fact that we are teaching a writer. I find confidence in Ruth Ayres words, “Writing is writing.”

How: When you sit down with a writer to confer, listen to a writer share their choices and why they made this choice. Talk to the writer, ignore the tool.

Keep Your Schedule

Why: When technology is a natural part of your workshop student learn to see them as just another tool. 

How: It’s a choice; it’s always a choice. “Writing is writing.” There’s no fanfare, no special technology day, no particular lesson, just a simple yes.

“Can I use my tablet?”


Its writing workshop, the students are spread out turning the classroom into a labyrinth. Students are on the floor, at tables, and standing at high top tables. They are writing in notebooks, on iPads, others on paper. The marking tools in their hands include pencils, pens, keyboards, markers, and colored pencils.

Now, I step back to watch my students, they are my mentors. I trust them to lead the way.

Teaching is messy. We can’t make it not messy, but we can lean in and embrace the discomfort.

I hope you’ll come back on Monday when I share my series post titled: Five Small Steps Make a Big Impact where I unravel the ways I worked to infuse technology in our workshop time.

5 thoughts on “Infusing Technology: It’s More Than Apps and Devices

  1. Thank you for putting into words what I’ve been feeling for a long time! We’ve got a pretty good sized amount of tech in our district….and I worry that it can easily start to take the place of solid – 1:1 conversations between student and teacher during the writing workshop. Tech as a tool -YES, YES, YES. I can’t wait for the rest of this series!!


  2. This was a wonderful post. I particularly loved the “Purposefully Getting to Know Your Students” section, and the “Students as Mentors.” I love what I learn from the children! They are such great teachers as well.!


    1. Libearyn,
      Thank you for your comment and for reading. I have found knowing my student’s intentions helps me to trust them to lead their learning and problem solve their hurdles. My motto is to assume positive intentions.


  3. I love this post! This past year for the first time I really embraced technology as a writing tool for my 3rd graders. I have to admit it was so hard to see notebooks, pens and paper disappear. Reality was that I gave students choice, once they were efficient enough to use Google Docs for writing they had a choice to use technology or not. I quickly discovered for a few kids that their volume went up drastically when given the choice for keyboarding. Many became very efficient at planning on the computer and also were more willing to revise because for them, “it didn’t look messy”. Others, still chose to write with pen and pencil.


    1. Christy,
      So glad to hear you gave your writers a choice! Adding technology should always be just another tool, never taking paper and pencil out. Allowing your students a choice like you did offers writers to find what worked best for them! Thanks so much for sharing your comments!


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