I’ve had quite a few conversations recently about writing and technology at the elementary level. Some teachers feel that it’s not developmentally appropriate. Many of us are using the Lucy Calkins’ Writing Workshop materials, and there’s either no mention or very little mention of integrating technology into that model. These concerns are definitely valid, especially for me as a past primary level teacher. I don’t think we need to scrap using pencil and paper to teach learners how to write. However, as much as I honor these perspectives, we need to push through and find ways to provide some opportunities for our students.
This past summer, I worked with primary-level educators in a course and we focused specifically on this topic. Lo and behold, a few months later, all of the teachers have found ways to weave in digital tools in support of the writing process. Some have delved into Kidblog, others are introducing the tools in Google Drive, and others are using various iPad apps. This is all happening with students at the K-2 level! Yes, they can!
Last week I attended the VermontFest conference in lovely Killington, Vermont. It was sponsored by Vita-Learn, our ISTE affiliate. I did a presentation on the topic of writing and technology at the elementary level. It was well-received. I’m sharing the site I put together for the presentation here. There are many resources, ideas, and examples there for you to peruse.
One component of the class and the presentation was to build a repository of ideas collectively. I borrowed Tom Barrett’s (@tombarrett) idea for the Interesting Ways series and have created our own Interesting Ways to Integrate Technology into Writing at the Elementary Level. Feel free to add to it.
I encourage educators to use these resources and let me know how things evolve. Writing permeates most of what we do; let’s make it engaging and powerful.
Comments and ideas are more than welcome!
Image created by me at canva.com
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Today I had the opportunity to work with our preK-2 teachers during a faculty meeting devoted to technology. We had some wonderful shares to open the meeting. One teacher shared an example of an iMovie project some first/second grade students created on iPads. Another shared a new collaborative Voicethread project that she’s hosting for other Vermont educators.
After that wonderful opening, we got to the nitty-gritty of the meeting. A colleague in our district went through all of the ELA Common Core standards and pulled out those that incorporated technology, by grade level. I shared the K-3 list with this element of our faculty. We looked for things we noticed, celebrated what we’re already doing, and brainstormed some next steps. One thing we noticed was that the Production and Distribution of Writing standard (the one that ends in .6 at each grade level) is essentially the goal we set as a school last year and that work continues this year as well. It was a validation that we’re on the right track on many levels.
Then we moved on to looking at the SBAC. In preparation for having one grade pilot a portion of the SBAC last spring, we installed the secure SBAC browser on our computers. Today I demonstrated how to access it, log in as a guest, and choose grade level and subject area (math or ELA). We went to the tech lab to give this a try with a special focus. I asked the teachers not to focus on the content of the sample items, but on the technology skills our students would need in order to feel comfortable taking the test. That was a challenge!
Teachers logged in and took a close look at the 3rd grade items. It was frightening for them, which wasn’t my intent. I wanted them to be aware of the technology skills embedded in the assessment. Our current 2nd graders will take this in the spring of 2015 as third graders. What authentic tasks can our students could do NOW to help them feel comfortable in that testing environment then?
Here are some thoughts and observations that were shared after about 15 minutes exploring some items. Students will:
- Need to scroll up and down to make sure all items are complete.
- Click and drag quite a bit
- Draw lines, shapes, use tools
- Highlight text
- Use a notepad
- Compose directly on a computer or device to respond to questions (no rough draft on paper first!)
- Need strong typing skills/know the location of keys on the keyboard well
- Need to be comfortable reading long passages online
Teachers were scared for their students. They were alarmed at the amount of reading required. They did thank me for exposing them to this now rather than later so that they could ponder next steps. Some ideas that came forth- blogging with students will support many of the skills, reading eBooks on iPads and responding to questions, teachers write longer blog posts for students to read online, and more.
Readers- do you have more suggestions or thoughts?
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