Using Technology in Informational Writing: Expand the Possibilities Blog Series

There are times students need tools to grow, but then there are times when tools can create possibilities beyond expectations and inspire writers in new and creative ways. When I think about how technology shifted the writing in my classroom years ago, I think of Roman the most. Roman was a striving writer who used technology to inspire himself, his classmates, and his teacher.  With guidance, technology can shift the learning environment in the classroom and inspire writing. 

How can technology inspire creativity in informational writing? 

Technology can inspire creativity by offering students unique opportunities for collecting and presenting information. Students have limitless access to digital information, and options for presenting information can also seem limitless. Some of the ways we can digitally process and share Informational writing can include blogging, vlogging, using images, podcasting, and radio. In our classroom, students have shared work through blogging, podcasting, and guest visits to our local radio station. 

Another unique source of inspiration is created when students include researching previous informational student work, as a part of their research. Student work, as mentor text, can be a great source of inspiration for students. In our classroom, students are invited to read the posts of former students to notice text structures. Information can also be collected from past student posts to share, collect, and share again. This sharing of information can become cyclical, as students try out different informational structures to present their work.  

EAL (English as an Additional Language) Note:  It is important to create authentic experiences for students to share their multiple language abilities. Authentic experiences, where students can use their abilities in multiple languages, helps nurture language development, growth, and self-efficacy.

What are some digital tools and resources students can use to process and share informational writing? 

Kidblog (Blogging)

Kidblog is a safe blogging platform where students can publish their writing, audio, visual, or video projects. In our classroom, we use this digital platform to blog, maintain eFolios (electronic portfolios) for collecting writing and publishing writing. Students can also benefit from teacher shared mentor texts, photographs, and video, as well as previous student writing that can also be used as mentor text, ideas, and source of inspiration. The possibilities can seem endless when students can receive, share, and respond to information and feedback as a group in a safe and teacher-guided digital environment. Kidblog is password protected and can be published to four different groups: the teacher, the class, class connections, and to the public. 

Flipgrid (Video or Audio)

Flipgrid is a fun digital audio-video feedback tool. These short video presentations can be used to give peer to peer feedback. Flipgrid allows one minute to a few minutes of video response time. Teachers can add information, questions, and deadlines. Sentence stems can also be added as a resource for EAL students. It is an engaging way to help students practice authentic oral responses. Flipgrid is password protected and visible only to class members and guests.

Podcasting (Audio)

Podcasting is the digital recording of information. It helps students inquire, plan, collaborate, create, and deliver their own informational work to a listening audience. Below are two resources, But Why: A Podcast for Curious Kids on Apple Podcasts and an article by Ditch That Textbook, Why your students need a podcast: How to do it fast and free.

But Why: A Podcast for Curious Kids on Apple Podcasts is a Vermont Public Radio Podcast for kids. “But Why is a show led by kids. They ask the questions and we find the answers. It’s a big interesting world out there.”

Why your students need a podcast: How to do it fast and free 

“Imagine a student podcast for special projects or Genius Hour …

  • Students gather information and prepare for completion of their project.
  • They chronicle what they’re learning with regular audio segments.
  • They pull it together into episodes of a podcast.
  • They reflect back over the progress of their project after it’s done — and help others learn about the same topic.”

Radio (Audio)

Each year, for the past five years, a small group of students and I have visited our local radio station to share our informational work, as well as other genres of writing. When we create opportunities for students to orally share their writing in digital spaces to large audiences, it gives birth to unique possibilities that allow for deep engagement. Students work hard and often beyond expectations, when they are deeply engaged and inspired. Reach out to your local radio station and ask if they will allow your students to share their writing work. 

EAL (English as an Additional Language) Note: Having technology available for EALs throughout the school day can offer students the necessary tools and resources needed to work independently with their monolingual peers. EAL students can develop independence, acquire language, and self-advocate when translation tools are easily accessible. 

Technology is a rapidly changing environment. Author Randy Bomer, in his book, Building Adolescent Literacy in Today’s English Classrooms (2011), reminds us that “(t)he most important thing we can do with our students with regard to the constantly evolving nature of literacy in our age is to keep inquiring alongside them…” (p.245) That is important advice I hope to continue to practice each year in the classroom, right alongside my students.  

There are many ways we can use technology in informational writing to expand the possibilities of our students’ informational writing. 

A note about Roman – On occasion, I have the opportunity to ask about Roman. He continues to talk about the experience he had with technology in our classroom with his teachers. He misses the thriving writing environment we created. Roman is thriving and growing as a learner and a writer. 

Related Readings and References:

Building Adolescent Literacy in Today’s English Classrooms, by Randy Bomer

Top 10 Tips for Student Blogging, by Marina Rodriguez

NCTE Beliefs for Integrating Technology into the English Language Arts Classroom, National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE)

The Next Decade of Digital Writing, by Troy Hicks

 21st-Century Literacies, National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE)

Multimodal Literacies: An Introduction, by Jennifer Sanders and Peggy Albers 

Giveaway Information:

  • This giveaway is for a copy of each of the following books: Craft and Process Studies: Units that Provide Writers with Choice of Genre (Link to: https://www.heinemann.com/products/e09973.aspx) by Matt Glover and Focus Lessons: How Photography Enhances the Teaching of Writing (Link to: https://www.heinemann.com/products/e10917.aspx) by Ralph Fletcher. Thanks to Heinemann (Link to: https://www.heinemann.com) for donating a copy for one reader. (You must have a U.S. mailing address to win a print copy of this book.)
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