Amanda McClelland 2/13/18
My Professional Learning Network
Because I am interested in the dynamic between writing and technology, I focused on looking at resources centered around teaching writing and reading. For many adults, most writing happens on a computer, whether it be typing emails or a novel. However, I wonder if writing skills should develop on computers for children. Is there a difference between learning to write on paper versus on a computer?
I first visited the National Council of Teachers of English website. I searched their blog with the keyword “technology” and found a few interesting posts. One was titled “Study finds Access to Technology May Lower Student Performance” and mentioned that “studies have shown for years that writing ideas, concepts and the like in longhand accesses one’s long term memory.” Another blog post showed the “Policies around Effective Use of Technology” and declared NCTE “supports dedicated funding streams that make accessible educational technology that ensures all students have access to appropriate tools, to adequate bandwidth for accessing and creating resources, and to learning practices that make effective use of these technologies as they develop powerful multimedia literacies.” Most of the other related blog posts seemed to focus on adequate funding that would allow equal technology access for all students. I also visited NCTE’s facebook page, and under posts, I once again searched “technology.” I found some interesting posts there, and the neat thing about the facebook is that teachers can comment on the posts and share their stories and experiences. So to connect to the adequate funding issue, there was a post titled “Is Technology Widening Opportunity Gaps between Rich and Poor Kids?” There were some interesting thoughts from teachers:
“I work with high schoolers and most do not have internet access at home. But every conference or training I attend out right states that it is ok to assume that kids have internet access.”
“The real problem is not a lack of technology devices or a lack of internet. The REAL problem is a lack of parent access. The biggest thing that jumped out at me in this article was that children of poverty sat at computers alone in the public library while children of means had a parent sitting with them scaffolding.”
“The problem in both situations is that students of both socioeconomic groups don’t know how to use technology academically. They all know how to use tech for their social lives but when it comes to producing academic work using technology they seem unable to use their creativity.”
Another post linked to an article titled “Why Theater Majors are Vital in the Digital Age” with the quote “Theater (slow, communal, physical) may be the cure for what ails us in the digital world.” Some teacher comments:
“Theater teaches children and adults to work together, to feel emotion, to appreciate diversity,to love the written and spoken word.”
It is hard to tell if that comment is in opposition to technology, or just for the love of theater. Finally, there was a post titled “No Longer a Luxury: Digital Literacy Can’t Wait”, which is “a passionate plea for teachers to incorporate technology in more meaningful ways, the authors offer specific suggestions for teaching in-depth digital literacy skills.” The only comment from a teacher on this post was:
“I’m trying! Some days using technology in the classroom is like death by 1,000 cuts. In my heart, I know it’s what’s best for kids.”
This article suggests five practices that are destroying digital literacy:
- Counting Slides (powerpoint is the be all, end all of tech)
- Using a Blog without Blogging
- Criticizing Digitalk (texting language)
- Asking (only) Questions That Can Be Answered by a Search Engine
- Using “Cool” Technology to Deliver a Planned Lesson
It seems like these English teachers are trying to decide what is important and valuable for students to learn. It is a big question to grapple with. To get a few more ideas, I headed over to Reddit, and searched “technology in the classroom”. There were some good resources here, actually, and it seems like an active space for teachers to share ideas and thoughts. On the feed I looked through, many of the ideas were focused on extra practice or assessment ideas (ex: Quizlet, Kahoot, Padlet, Plickers). Someone also linked to a youtube channel that is dedicated to Teacher Tech.
Then, I actually made a Reddit account, and asked a question on the Teacher subreddit: “Do you think elementary students should practice their writing on computers?” I got a lot of responses, most of them positive as far as writing on computers goes. Keep in mind though, that these are the teachers who peruse the teacher reddit in their free time. Here are a few examples of responses:
“I teach 4th and my kids do all writing on Google Docs. I love it because I can comment all throughout the process instead of having to read through horrible handwritten pages. I also can keep them on task more. I then can insert my rubric using a Chrome Add on. Lastly, I have noticed a huge improvement with my kids that struggle because of being ELL or ADHD.”
“I switched to mostly typing with my high school ELs and have noticed a huge (positive) change. Students are clearly less frustrated now because it’s so much easier for them to revise their work multiple times over eraser. It also saves us all a great deal of time as well. On the other hand, they make many mechanical errors that they would not make while handwriting. So far I’ve had little success drawing their attention to this through self-editing, peer editing, or teacher feedback…”
“I think it is just one way to practice writing. Often times they enjoy doing it so it gets them excited to write. The more they write, the longer they get to use the computer haha. It probably shouldn’t be the only way they write, though, especially for the littles. We still need to practice our handwriting and fine motor skills.”
“Absolutely not. They should practice typing, but until they can type faster than they can write, they should not be doing composition on computers. I have my students write paragraphs by hand and then they choose one to type. They love it! I tried having them type paragraphs instead of writing them first, and only 10-20% of them were even close to being at the same level as writing by hand.”
I think Reddit might turn out to be an interesting and supportive resource.