How do we, as educators, effectively incorporate technology into our classrooms and assist students in developing writing skills necessary for achieving academic, personal, and professional goals in today’s world of global technology?

An informal interview was conducted with a group of Language Arts Teachers from a middle school in Chandler, AZ. Teachers were asked what their biggest challenges were with writing and technology in the classroom. Discussion followed; covering topics including budget cuts, class size, testing, and a student mentality that technology is the quick solution to every problem presented. The one recurring theme was that “The kids want to write like they are engaged in an online chat, texting a friend, or sending an email. They do not value learning and applying the basics to communicate effectively.”

Following the discussion, teachers formulated a list of what they considered part of the necessary foundation for developing effective writing skills. The list includes:

  • Writing in complete sentences vs. using fragments. Teachers relate this issue with the style of communication used when messaging.
  • Recognizing parts of speech.
  • Rewording the question in order to formulate an answer.
  • Note taking and outlining skills.
  • How NOT to plagiarize but to paraphrase using your own words.
  • Elements of “typed” documents: font size, spacing, margins, alignment, visuals, headings.
  • Grammar and punctuation.
  • Homonyms, synonyms, antonyms, homophones.
  • Reading and following instructions.
  • Proper use of abbreviations.
  • Correct spelling.
  • Recognizing errors in our own work.

Based on the conversations and interviews, this resource blog was designed for students ages 9-13. The blog will be relevant to students’ development of more effective writing skills. Features, content, and functions:

  • The blog contains static content and dynamic content. Both types of content will be presented in a format that requires and allows for student interaction and input.
  • The blog will allow for each teacher to have a page specifically designed for her classroom.
  • The blog could also incorporate content from other subjects and assignments students are working on-such as science, social studies, and even math.
  • The blog has an administrative function which will allow teachers to preview student submissions to the site and approve them for posting. This administrative function also protects the site from postings by individuals who are not members of the class.
  • The alt-attribute feature which is alternative text associated with visuals. This alternative information appears if the pointer is held over the image. This alternative information assists students, with visual impairments, in their utilization of the visual features of the site.
  • The ability for students to select an avatar to include in their responses.
  • Target categories and topics relevant to students’ development of effective writing skills.
  • Content coinciding with the language arts curriculum for this age group of students. Content is relatively standardized from district to district so materials should be relevant for all students.
  • Use of the site will require no registration and no fees.

Note: This page was designed for providing information relating to a specific assignment for English 519: Technology & Visual Literacy. In a classroom situation this page could serve many different functions. It could be a “current events” page related to school events and activities in other classrooms. The page could have limited access and be used for teacher communications. It could be another target area for students.

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