#SOL15: Day 15, Reflections on Tech in Writing Workshop

Margaret Simon’s blog Reflections on the Teche has link up every Sunday that highlights technology use. I haven’t posted much because I didn’t think I had anything to share.

The Slice of Life Story Challenge has changed my understanding of this link up. Today I’m not highlighting anything new and amazing. Today I’m sharing a reflection on my technology usage in the classroom.


On Friday, in honor of Digital Learning Day I borrowed enough iPads to have a 1:1 learning environment. My intent was to give students a large block of time to blog and comment. Initially, I saw this as celebratory move of our digital learning.  What I didn’t anticipate was how this would change my outlook on teaching in this environment.

After a few technical issues, all students were engaged on their blogs. I walked around with my laptop (thankfully a Mac Air) balanced on my arm, looking over shoulders. Conferences in this electronic mode happened in a slightly different way.

Timely feedback is always an issue in my writing workshop. With so many students, I always feel like I don’t get to them quickly enough, making my feedback less “effective” and sometimes too late.

Seeing their work come up on my screen for “teacher review” was my invitation to step up. While the feedback wasn’t perfect, it was close to immediate in timing.  In those moments, my teaching went up a notch or two on John Hattie scale of effectiveness.

The mid workshop interruption I made was decidedly tech related, yet edged into a real life writing concern, respecting copyrights. I saw a lot of students pulling up pictures from the internet for their posts.  A perfect and necessary time for me to introduce the need for using the advanced search tool on Google.

I projected the images for a sunset on my class iPad. Then demonstrated how to find usage rights. Most understood that they had to pay for a song on iTunes.  I explained this is the same thing. To use some pictures, we must either give credit to or pay for the author’s work.  If we don’t, we are stealing. There is a practical and an ethical side to this lesson I hope a few of them got.

Another outcome of this work was how students naturally moved from publishing a post, to reading other posts. The mentor effect of this was immediate. I didn’t have to tell anyone to try a technique another writer used. If a student found inspiration, they did this naturally.  Writing work continued throughout our workshop. No one said, “I’m done! What do I do now?”  No one wanted to stop writing.

The work was smooth and glitches in technology were minimal. The work was writing work. The technological aspects of the work enhanced writing. As a writing teacher this matters. In the early stages, using devices can seem to be more about the technology and less about the writing. We are finally getting to a point where the technology is a tool for writing.

Student blogging offers an authentic world for students to grow as writers and a 1:1 environment allows teachers better access to student work and ability to provide better feedback. At the end of the day, I decided that 1:1 needs to be a weekly practice. Sharing 15 iPads is good, but 1:1 is great.

Thank you, Anna, Beth, Betsy, Dana, Stacey and Tara of Two Writing Teachers blog for hosting the Slice of Life March Story Challenge. Read other bloggers slices here.