#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.



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

  1. Don’t you love how writing begets reading begets more writing? That’s how things happen in my classroom. They put this on their SOL chart of What is a Slice? Trends. Thanks for linking up and sharing your thoughtful reflections.

  2. I’m just visiting for the first time through SOL. What grade do you teach? My school is talking about getting an ipad cart for each grade level to share next year (two classes instead of ten like we currently have). I would love for my third graders to have their own blogs, but I can see how this would work best in a 1:1 environment, and right now I only have one ipad for my classroom to use at all times. Any tips for someone just starting out?

    -Amanda at http://teachingwanderlust.com/

    • Amanda,
      I started my kids with paper blogs, meaning they started blogging with paper and pen. They wrote their posts, posted them on the bulletin board and then students commented on them with post-its. There is a lot of teaching around commenting and how we are supportive of other writers. I use Kidblog and love it because of the ability to mediate all posts and comments as well as select the audience you want to publish to. Start small and build just like anything. Check out Pernille Ripp’s site for tips (I used a lot of her ideas) and Tara Smith’s posts on slicing. Both are invaluable. Hope that helps.

      • I’ve had my students post a couple of times on our classroom blog, but I’ve not gone so far as to create blogs for them. I love the idea of having a paper blog on a wall. I will be sure to look up Pernille Ripp and Tara Smith. Thanks for the ideas!

  3. I can only imagine the creative writing buzz that is happening in your classes. Loved that you didn’t hear “I’m done”! Authentic writing and reading of other’s writing is the ideal situation. Yay!

  4. Julieanne,
    I love how writing means that there is more reading to do and also more thinking as a result! And isn’t technology such an “aid” to building an authentic audience?

    The biggest shift I am seeing and hearing is that students get so “engrossed” in working – reading, writing, thinking – that they really do NOT stop the process when they walk out the door. Kinda like the addictive nature of our own reading and writing via Twitter, blogs, and chats! ❤

  5. Julieanne,
    It sounds like a great day of learning. I felt like I was right beside you as you moved from student to student to confer.

    Like you, I have found image use to be something I’ve had to talk about with students participating in the challenge. I want to start those good habits early. I still need to show them how to find the copyright information. I decided to share links to student friendly sites with acceptable use copyright images available.

    I have a feeling you’ll be hoping to fill your class with devices again in the very near future.


  6. So many great ideas here, Julieanne! I’m thinking about grabbing the iPad cart and launching some blog work now myself. Kids have state tests this week, and part of next…so when they’re done, it will give them a chance to put a little choice back into their writing. I’ve seen Kidblog mentioned more than once this week. I’m going to get on it! Thanks!

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