Tech Enhances Writing

A few weeks ago our ELA team discussed next year's writing benchmarks. Being a tech connoisseur, I was ready for us to move to the next level and require our students to type their benchmarks. After all, this year our ELA team has done a decent job learning and experimenting with using technology to enhance instruction.

"No," was my team's overwhelming reply. "I have no problem using Google Drive and online resources for instruction,  but students write more on paper. "

Having taught with tech for years, including requiring my students to type their writing benchmarks, I disagreed with this statement. When used properly, technology can enhance writing skills; it does not limit it.

Today my 8 year-old son started "Mama Summer School." He gets to sleep in and have tons of playtime provided that he completes lessons with his mama - me. He even gets an online Minecraft account. As he explores academics, I practice best methods of technology use to enhance writing. (Have you figured out the theme of this post yet?)
  1. Read a choice book in bed.
  2. Handwrite a book summary.

    As you can see, my 8 year old's writing appears to be a significant amount, yet it is sloppy and lacking in quality. (We start cursive lessons next week).
  3. Learn science, in particular, agriscience. No technology is involved in this hands-on, outdoor gardening activity.
  4. Practice computer and typing skills with the school district adopted (My son will have both neat, cursive handwriting AND typing skills by August).
  5. Type the book summary in a shared Google Drive document.
    When you do a side by side comparison of the handwritten and typed book summaries, the handwritten one does look longer; however, neither are quality writing, and one offered an easier opportunity to revise. Revision is where the real learning takes place.
  6. Feedback was the longest and most frustrating lesson of the day. My son is used to writing short, undetailed summaries that fit on a worksheet. Typing meant that he could add information wherever or whenever he (or I) pleased.
The following Slides presentation shows the process my son and I followed as he revised his book summary. 

Oh, my! My 8 year old just wrote a three paragraph book summary! That is obviously more than he had initially handwritten.

Could I have taught the same draft/revision lesson without tech? Of course, but I could not "pop" into his document and make a suggestion while he was working. I proudly observed my son correcting similar mistakes after I provided him with both verbal and written feedback.

The feedback lesson took the longest; not only because it was the most important, but also because my boy wanted to take the easy way out. At the end of the lesson, I helped him find images on, and he pointed out the country of Pakistan on the map.

This lesson also provides evidence that technology enhances writing, but does not replace handwritten drafts and revisions. Did you notice that the first draft was written by hand? Writing by hand is not archaic! In fact, it is extremely productive and necessary at various stages of the writing process.  One of my dissenting ELA colleagues said that she required students to handwrite their draft so that they unconsciously make revisions as they type. This is an excellent strategy.

My team has been embracing technology to enhance instruction this year in baby steps, but they have been moving forward. I am proud of their progress, and their desire to question me. Debate results in better student instruction.

I still believe that typing our writing benchmarks will enhance learning, but I am keeping my esteemed colleagues' concerns in mind as I mold an even better benchmark/rubric/feedback/revision plan that incorporates both handwriting and typing. After all, my team has our students' best interests at heart. And, technology does enhance writing.


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