Two Tech Tools for Enhanced Literacy Instruction

Another busy week is about to conclude and here on Team Summit, that means we are winding down work on two fairly significant writing pieces.  The first, a response to literature based on the novel Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson, focused on using evidence to identify plot structure and elements of literature. The second, a research paper on yellow fever, probed student understanding of the movement and migration of disease and the impact that can have on cultures and community.

For the most part, these CCSS based writing tasks are the norm for language arts and the development of literacy. What may be more important are the processes and tech tools we are utilizing to enhance the writing process. The first, and most accessible, involves student-teacher collaboration using Google Docs. I’m assuming that this platform is becoming the norm throughout writing classrooms and workshops.

In my experience, I am seeing significant improvements in student submissions since establishing Google Docs as our standard writing platform. Because we have shared, reviewed, and revised our work so frequently and seamlessly using the Google Docs share function, the writing process has become, in a sense, an ongoing revision process. Students continually make improvements and I am attempting to monitor their progress and provide feedback in as timely a manner as possible. Some key points from this experience:

  • Importance of Positive and Constructive Feedback: Because students are being asked to share their work on a regular basis, it is critical that they have the language and tools that will allow them to provide effective feedback to their peers. This has required additional instructional time and consideration.
  • Self-Editing and Reflection: Google Docs allows students to continually revise and receive feedback from peers and teachers. It pays for teachers to stop the process and thoughtfully direct students in the art of self-editing and reflection. This can provide students with a “break in the action” and the opportunity for teachers to give mini-lessons as needed.
  • Student Input: as part of our developing practice, we are surveying students at the end of each assessment task to get their input on materials, methods, and the most effective teaching strategies. Using Google Forms, each assessment exercise presents opportunities for improvement based on student input.

Screen Shot 2015-01-22 at 9.43.30 PMA second tool that I utilized during these writing processes was passed along by Adam Deyo (@adam_deyo) in a workshop on Monday. Padlet is a free, easy-to-use app that allows a teacher to create a wall, or pad (pictured), that students can use to pose questions, resources, and responses. This is a very easy application that allowed our students to collaborate with each other to find answers, research information, and share links to relevant information.

For teachers looking to increase student collaboration, student engagement in the revision process, and tools to build a writing community, the use of Google Docs and Padlet come highly recommended.

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