collage of photos showing the center facilities

Teaching Writing with Technology

OVERVIEW

When we talk about “teaching with technology,” we typically mean teaching with Web 2.0 technologies, such as blogs, wikis, social networking sites, RSS and podcasts. These tools provide exciting possibilities for teaching writing, particularly as they enable online sharing, dialogue and collaboration. For writers, these tools can help create a broader and sharper sense of purpose and audience. For teachers, these tools can provide you with new and exciting ways to engage your students and even make them want to write!

This page on teaching writing includes an overview of these tools and resources for teaching writing using a variety of these tools, as well as a section on teaching writing with Canvas (which is the course management software we use at Montclair State).

Related reading:

Selected List of Browsers

Web 2.0 browsers are tabbed, extension-rich, and mostly open source allowing the web community to build tools that enhance and accelerate the online experience.

  • Chrome – Google’s browser
  • Firefox – One of the best known open source browsers made to handle web 2.0 applications with features such as tabbed browsing, a spell checker, incremental find, live bookmarking, a download manager and more. Functions can be added through add-ons, created by third-party developers, a feature that has attracted many of Firefox’s users.

Classroom 2.0 A social network for those interested in Web 2.0, social media and participative technologies in the classroom.

Computers and Writing 2009: Ubiquitous and Sustainable Computing at UC Davis 
Posted to iTunes U: June 25, 2009

Official Description: “Sessions at the Computers and Writing 2009 conference transcended traditional boundaries: among school, work, and play; among academic disciplines; between k-12 and higher education; between online and offline; and among organizers, attenders and presenters. The conference theme bridged what can sometimes be divergent context for inquiry. Critical to the vision for Computers and Writing 2009 was a sustainable perspective on lifelong computing and communication, which the conference participants achieved partly by integrating k-12 teachers as conference participants. By make k-12 as well as postsecondary education an integral part of the conference, UC Davis challenged conference participants not only to think about ubiquitous and sustainable computing in their own classrooms or workplaces, but within broader social and cultural dynamics across our lifespan and across learning institutions.”

Digital Research Tools (DiRT)

“This wiki collects information about tools and resources that can help scholars (particularly in the humanities and social sciences) conduct research more efficiently or creatively. Whether you need software to help you manage citations, author a multimedia work, or analyze texts, Digital Research Tools will help you find what you’re looking for. We provide a directory of tools organized by research activity, as well as reviews of select tools in which we not only describe the tool’s features, but also explore how it might be employed most effectively by researchers.”

Helpful Online Tools 

  • 30Boxes – an online calendar application with built-in social networking features
  • Animoto – a web-based service for creating a music video from your pictures
  • Digg – a social networking website where users can discover and share content – news stories, blog posts, web links, photos and videos – from anywhere on the Internet
  • Dimdim – a free web conferencing tool
  • Evernote – a note saving tool that functions on the web, on your desktop or on your mobile phone
  • Feed 43 – a free, web-based tool for converting web pages to RSS feeds or customizing existing RSS feeds
  • Flickr – an online photo management and sharing application that allows you to organize your photos into sets and collections, to tag them, and to share them with friends and family
  • Gliffy – a diagramming tool
  • Goodreads – a social network for readers
  • GoogleBooks – offers users the opportunity to view and search the full content of books
  • Google Calendar – a free time-management tool available to anyone with a Google account
  • Google Docs – an application that allows you to create documents (text, spreadsheets or presentations) on a shared server location and then collaborate with others to edit them in real time
  • Google Photos –  a cloud-based photo sharing and storage service
  • Google Sites – created for online team collaboration and allows for easy attachment and incorporation of documents, calendars, videos and gadgets
  • iMacros – a record and playback tool for your browser.
  • LibraryThing – a social website revolving around books that allows users to create online catalogs of their personal libraries, tagging and rating their books and making them available for others to view
  • Slideshare – a community for sharing presentations
  • Survey Monkey – enables users to easily create and customize professional-looking online surveys and publish them online
  • Tag Galaxy – “a mashup that searches and sorts the tagged images in Flickr and displays them on a multi-picture sphere”
  • Talkshoe – allows anyone to easily create, join, or listen to live “TalkCasts,” which can be interactive discussions, talk shows, conversations, podcasts or audioblogs
  • Tumblr – a form of tumblelog, which has come to mean a blog that is populated with many pictures, URLs, videos, etc.
  • Voice Thread – an application that allows users to create interactive slide shows
  • Voki – a social website where you can create your own personalized animated avatars
  • Zotero – a Firefox add-on that allows you to collect and organize research material from within your web browser and can automatically extract bibliographic data from online catalogs, journal articles and more

The Machine is Us/ing Us (Final Version) (Michael Wesch, Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology, Kansas State University)
Posted on YouTube: March 08, 2007 | length: 4:34
Now considered the classic video on the concept of “web 2.0.” A must see for anyone interested in understanding web 2.0.

Teaching Writing Using Blogs, Wikis and other Digital Tools companion website (Richard Beach, Chris Anson, Lee-Ann Breuch, and Thom Swiss)
This companion website for the book Teaching Writing Using Blogs, Wikis, and other Digital Tools published December 2008 includes exhaustive lists of links to Web 2.0 technologies of use in the writing classroom. For example “Chapter Two: Using digital writing tools for collecting, connecting, and organizing information” includes links to pages on online whiteboards, tools for collecting, organizing and note-taking digital text, tagging, and polling. Each page includes lists of links to Web 2.0 tools in these categories. Because it is a companion website, the annotations to the links are in the book and not online. For that commentary, one needs to purchase the book.

Top 100 Tools for Learning 2015 (Jane Hart, Centre for Learning and Performance Technologies)
A list of online tools submitted by educational professionals. Each tool is linked to a page that explains the tool and gives its URL, cost, availability and previous rankings. It also includes comments from the learning professionals who selected the tool as one of their top 10. This is a great place to survey the online tools educators are using. For a full list of the 3000+ tools for formal and informal learning divided into 25 main categories visit the Centre for Learning and Performance Technologies website.

Web 2.0 Tutorial
Written with educators in mind, this wiki provides a nice definition of web 2.0 with explanations and resource links for key categories of web 2.0 tools used by educators such as social bookmarksblogs and wikis.

Writing and Web 2.0 (Keith Hoffman)
Posted: May 8, 2007 | length: 52:00
This is presentation Keith Hoffman gave on writing and Web 2.0 at the University of Wisconsin. This podcast is from the series I’d Rather Be Writing: Exploring Technical Writing Trends and Innovations by Tom Johnson, who podcasts about the latest trends in technical communication through interviews with tech writing luminaries around the world.

BLOGS

Overview of Blogging
A page that provides an overview of the concept of blogging, its uses in education, what blogging does for students and lots of links to blogging resources in education.

Blog Search Engines

Blogging Tools

  • Blogger – Google’s free blog publishing tool
  • TypePad – A popular blog platform that makes blogging simple. The service requires a fee.
  • WordPress.com – A free hosted blogging service that allows you to start a blog without any technical knowledge

INSTANT MESSAGES, VOICE AND VIDEO CHAT

Instant messaging, voice and video chat tools allow people to connect in real time over the internet.
Voice and Chat

  • Google+ Hangouts – “Hangouts works the same everywhere – computers, Android and iOS devices, so you can get the whole gang together no matter what device they’re on.” Have group conversations, share photos, and chat with videos on your computer, tablet, or mobile device.
  • Skype –A free voice and video calling program that operates with an internet connection on PCs and Macs.

MICROBLOGS

Microblogging is a combination of blogging with a 200-character limit and social networking.

Tumblr
Allows you to share text, photos, links, music and videos from your browser, phone or email.

Twitter
A service that allows people to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent text answers to one simple question: “What are you doing?”

Twitter in Plain English (Commoncraft)
Release date: March 5, 2008 | length: 2:23
Description: A short video that explains Twitter and microblogging. Commoncraft also has a video on Twitter Search in Plain English.

MINDMAPPING AND BRAINSTORMING

Technology has brought us new and engaging ways to “brainstorm.” Here are a few tools that can help your students brainstorm:

bubbl.us
A free web-based brainstorming application that lets you create and share colorful mind maps

FacilitatePro
“Type your idea into an electronic notepad and post it to the flip chart along with the ideas contributed by everyone else. Add as many new items as you want or build on existing ones. Ideas can include links to Web sites, text, data or image files, or e-mail accounts. All this with no user training and just a web browser.”

gliffy
“Create professional-quality flowcharts, Org charts, UML diagrams, Network diagrams, Wireframes, Technical drawings and more.”

PODCASTING

Podcasts are a series of audio or video digital files that are released periodically and made available for listening and downloading. How can you use podcasts to help teach writing? How can you create podcasts on writing to help your students? These resources will provide you with answers to these questions.

How to Record, Edit and Promote a Podcast (techsoup.org)
This is written for nonprofit organizations, but the information is helpful to anyone–including educators–seeking to create their own podcasts.

Podcasting in Plain English (Commoncraft)
Release Date: April 21, 2008 | length 3:00
An introduction to podcasting in Commoncraft’s short and minimalistic animation video style.

Tools for Making Audio Podcasts

  • Audacity – Popular with academic podcasters, this is a free and open source software for recording and editing sounds.
  • RecordForAll – “RecordForAll makes it simple to record audio files, layer audio files and edit audio files for podcasting. Podcasters can record voices, or music files or other sounds.”

Locations for Finding, Downloading, and Listening to Podcasts

  • iTunes U– “iTunes U is a part of the iTunes Store featuring free lectures, language lessons, audiobooks, and more, that you can enjoy on your iPod, iPhone, Mac or PC. Explore over 100,000 educational audio and video files from top universities, museums and public media organizations from around the world.”
    • iTunes U audio and video podcasts are only accessible to listen to and download through the iTunes Store. You must have the iTunes digital media player installed on your computer to access these audio/video programs. Download the player for free or learn more about iTunes U.
    • There are no unique URLs for iTunes U podcasts. Therefore, to locate the podcast you will need to do a search within iTunes. A suggested search string (text used for searching) is provided for each iTunes U podcast.
  • TuneIn – Use Google, Facebook or e-mail to register for an account and start listening to podcasts today.

REALLY SIMPLE SYNDICATION (RSS)

RSS (Really Simple Syndication) is a tool for publishing or monitoring frequently updated content such as blogs and news headlines.

RSS Overview
A general overview that explains the purpose and uses for RSS (really simple syndication) feeds

RSS for Education Description
Powerpoint slides from a presentation by Leonard Stern explaining RSS and its uses in education. Though a bit dated (published in 2006), it does provide a good survey of RSS uses in education.

RssPublisher
“Create, edit and publish your own RSS feeds with RSS publisher.”

Selective list of RSS readers – NOTE: Many of the newer browsers have RSS capability built in.

  • Feedly – “Feedly is a better way to organize, read and share the content of your favorite sites. It weaves the content from the RSS feeds of your favorite websites into a fun magazine-like experience and provides seamless integration with social networks.” (Description from AlternativeTo)
  • Feedspot – “Offers awesome productivity features like Search, RSS feeds for your starred items, tags and folder. You can share on Twitter, Pocket, Evernote, Bufferapp and other sites.” (Description from AlternativeTo)
  • InoReader – “Fast RSS Reader for power users with Search, HTTPS, Statistics, Internal social and broadcasting features (with option to turn them off), Android App and iOS Apps integration via open API.” (Description from AlternativeTo)
  • NewsBlur – “NewsBlur is a personal news reader that brings people together to talk about the world. It shows you the original site and allows you to read stories directly off the site while keeping track of what you read. It also filters and highlights stories you like and dislike. NewsBlur has an active community of shared stories, published on each user’s blurblog.” (Description from AlternativeTo)
  • RSSOwl – “RSSOwl collects data from RSS-compliant sites are called RSS readers or aggregators. RSSOwl lets you gather, organize, update, and store information from any compliant source in a convenient, easy to use interface, save selected information in various formats for offline viewing and sharing, and much more. It’s easy to configure, available in many many languages and the best of all: It’s platform-independent.” (Description from AlternativeTo)>

SOCIAL BOOKMARKING

Social bookmarking is a way Internet users can store, organize, search and share the pages they bookmark with others. The term was coined by social bookmarking company Delicious, which pioneered the concept of online tagging that is the core of social bookmarking.

Selective list of social bookmarking tools

  • Diigo – An online annotation tool that allows you to highlight, write notes and share web pages
  • Zotero – A Firefox extension that aids in collecting, managing and citing research sources found online

Social Bookmarking
An article explaining social bookmarking and its common uses and benefits.

Thirteen Tips for Effective Tagging

SOCIAL NETWORKING

A service that brings together an online community of people who share similar interests.

Social Networking in Plain English (Commoncraft)
Release Date: June 27, 2007 | length: 1:53
A short introduction to the concept of social networking.

Selective List of Social Networking Sites

  • Facebook – A free social networking website that was originally developed for college students to keep in touch but is now the most used social network worldwide.
  • Ning – A free online platform for people to create their own social networks. Very popular in the K-12 education community. There is a Ning community on web 2.0 tools for education called Classroom 2.0.

VIDEOS

How can you find videos that will help you teach writing? Here are some useful websites.

Google Videos
Google Videos is an index of videos available for viewing on the web from personal videos to TV shows, movie clips, music videos, and documentaries.

YouTube
A subsidiary of Google, this is a website where users can upload and share videos.

WIKIS

A wiki is a website that enables group collaboration. Anyone can add and edit the content (note that you can create “private” wikis that are only available to specific users–e.g., to a group of students).

Colbert Vs. Wikipedia (From Comedy Central’s “Colbert Report” on July 30, 2006)
Posted on YouTube by powmadeak47 on January 30, 2007 | length: 3:48
This video clip humorously exploits the credibility concerns regarding information posted on the massive online wiki encyclopedia Wikipedia.

Selective List of Wiki Applications

  • Google Docs – A free, web-based word processor, spreadsheet, presentation, and form application by Google that allows users to create and edit documents online while collaborating in real-time with other users.
  • PBwiki – Free and easy-to-use wikis for the educational community.

Wikis in Plain English (Commoncraft)
Release Date: May 29, 2007 | length: 3:34
“A short introduction to wikis that illustrates how they can be used to organize a group’s information, in this case, for a camping trip.”