Today, Two Writing Teachers brings you a voice from the community. Anna Davis is a Technology Integration Coach for Northbrook / Glenview District 30 where I teach. Anna’s pretty humble in her responses, so I’ll take it upon myself to tell you: Anna works miracles. It’s not just that she comes with a wide range of knowledge about apps, strategies and hardware. Anna helps teachers like me articulate goals for students, choose effective (and exciting!) ways to get there, and she offers hands-on support both in and out of the classroom. I can only hope that every school has an Anna. Here’s what she had to say.
Anna, tell folks who you are and why your job is important for writing instruction!
I am a former fourth grade teacher turned Technology Integration Coach and have been in this role for the past six years. The pandemic shifted educators from integrating technology to a dependency on it. Teachers who weren’t as comfortable with their technical skills had to work with me to broaden their knowledge. And guess what? I’m not complaining! I was able to capitalize on my role more than ever to truly show teachers how we can be stronger together.
In the past few years we’ve stepped outside of our comfort zone and discovered how a hands-on job like teaching can be shifted to a digital learning environment.
If teachers want to incorporate digital writing, where should they start?
Digital writing can be a basic replacement for paper-pencil work, but can also extend the walls of your classroom. Don’t know where to start? Reach out to a member of the technology integration team. My role as a Technology Integration Coach is to have an overall knowledge of the curriculum and help teachers utilize technology to make it engage, extend, and enhance the content. Personally I find the Triple E Framework of technology integration to be a straightforward model to look at a lesson without technology and then how it can be incorporated to make the lesson even better!
Let’s start with Google Docs. What’s not to love? Google Docs is digital writing in its simplest form as a word processor, a collaborative tool between students and teachers, students and students, which also has publishing and exporting options. Google Docs is an integral piece of writing workshop that has changed how we imagine rough drafts:
- Creating small moments to write in depth about
- Developing characters with internal and external attributes
- Adding dialogue, figurative language, and conflict
These drafts are living and changing, and it wasn’t as easy on paper before. Now students can edit and revise without completely redrafting an entire story. Google Docs is also a great way to show progress in writing, because the Google Docs revision history shows, step by step, how students’ writing evolves during the workshop model.
What about learning management systems? How can they help teachers of writing?
I can’t speak to all of the learning management systems there are: Blackboard, Desire 2 Learn, Edmodo, Canvas…it all depends on how they integrate with Google. The two learning management systems my school district uses are Seesaw and Schoology. As an ambassador for both of these programs, I can share ways that I’ve used them for writing instruction.
Schoology can take your Google Docs to another level. Google integrates with Schoology in a way that allows you to connect your Google Drive directly within the assignments you create. Talk about app smashing! Schoology’s Google Drive Assignments feature is a great way to use Google Docs in a streamlined way for educators. This Schoology feature automatically duplicates the teacher’s template after a student opens the assignment. For writing, a blank template allows students to start from scratch in the writing process and teachers can view everything in one single window. The Google integration into Schoology allows teachers access without having to individually update sharing settings or organize multiple documents. Everything is at a teacher’s fingertips.
As the writing workshop progresses, students can use the submission tool to show they have completed the next step of revisions and are ready to conference. Schoology puts everything together for feedback and management of student work, not to mention that the collaborative tools within Google Docs are all still there. Through comments, teachers can offer guidance and support. Google’s integration into Schoology was a real game-changer.
Seesaw Blogs is also a feature that allows students to post their work to a public (or password-protected) version of their Seesaw class. This allows more opportunities to share and connect with others, even in different states or countries! Extend the writing process further by using the Seesaw Blog and become digital pen pals with another class! I was able to help a first-grade class participate in digital pen pals using Google Slides where each pen pal would use every other slide to ask a question. Then the pen pal would reply on their own slide to answer!
The blog feature also enables others to share, comment, or reply to other students. This could be another great way to share digital writing and earn feedback, or simply practice digital writing skills by communicating with someone else!
What other apps do you recommend for sharing student writing?
What happens after the writing process? Is the writing done and filed away? In some cases, yes. In others, perhaps the student is going to present their digital writing by creating an informational book, a video, or a presentation. Let student choice shine here! Using apps like Pages, Canva, or Book Creator, are great resources to enhance the digital writing experience on a new platform. Some of these tools provide templates for students to choose from where their digital writing can easily be copied and pasted into the new final product. With these tools, students have ways of adding audio files, videos, photos, GIFs, and stickers that would not have been possible in paper-pencil writing.
There are countless creation apps to share student work, almost too many to mention! Click the graphic below to see how students can learn and explore more in publishing their work.
What advice do you have for teachers working with a tech specialist?
Working with a technology specialist/coach in your district is a partnership. The expertise of each will naturally align with what you want to create. I rely on teachers for the content objectives, and the teacher can rely on me for technology apps, websites, or hardware needed to be successful.
The most important thing to remember? Don’t wait until the end to reach out! Include the technology coach at the beginning of the unit or project. This allows the specialist to further understand outcomes the teacher is looking for and provide strategies to achieve the end goal. After the initial planning meeting the next steps are to co-teach together!
For example, I worked with a fourth-grade teacher on their informational writing unit. We decided presenting their information in a digital book was the way to go! Since Book Creator is an app used frequently in the primary grades, we wanted to mix it up. We decided on the Pages app which not only was a new app to students, but allowed them to easily create because it has numerous templates to choose from. The teacher completed the writing instruction in class and students composed using Google Docs.
Towards the end of the unit as students were getting ready to publish, I taught students how to use the Pages app, copy/paste from Google Docs, use the media placeholders, and edit the formatting to make it look more professional. I then pushed into class a few times that week to help as students worked on their final products since it was a brand new app to them. Because the teacher reached out, I was able to provide the technical knowledge and hands-on support, and writers produced something that went beyond their expectations. We completed the writing and shared work by being “stronger together!”
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Throughout the week, we’d love to hear your thoughts. We even have a book giveaway for those of you who share comments!
- This giveaway is for a copy of Your Students, My Students, Our Students: Rethinking Equitable and Inclusive Classrooms by Lee Ann Jung, Nancy Frey, Douglas Fisher, and Julie Kroener. Many thanks to ASCD for donating a copy for one reader.
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