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Using Cloud-Based Apps for Planning, Writing, and Publishing Texts

By Kimberly Kimbell-Lopez, Carrice Cummins, and Elizabeth Manning
 | Aug 24, 2018

Technology IntegrationThe start of a new school year is a great time to revisit some cloud-based digital tools that can be used when writing and publishing texts. Our students have such a vast array of digital media tools they can use to create a digital text that incorporates hyperlinks, digital images, video, animation, voice narration, and other features. By pairing innovative teaching with powerful technologies, we can transform our students’ understanding of tools that can be used when moving through the writing process.

Brainstorming and organizing

Students can begin the writing task by creating a storyboard/textboard in Google Slides or Google Docs, which can serve as a map of critical elements they want to include in their text, depending on the type of writing assigned. For example, the three types of writing identified by Common Core State Standards Initiative are as follows:

  • Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence. 
  • Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
  • Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details and well-structured event sequences.

According to the type of writing assigned, students can include the key structural information as part of their storyboard/textboard. For example, if students are writing an opinion piece, they can state an opinion and identify the potential arguments/counter arguments. This information establishes the plan that students will follow as they continue their writing.

For brainstorming and organizing what to write about, Popplet can be used to create a graphic organizer where related topics are grouped together. Students can incorporate text, pictures, and video as part of the graphic organizer. Ideament (formerly Idea Sketch) is another graphic organizer app students can use to brainstorm what they will write about, illustrate a concept, or create an organizational chart. Students can opt to display the info in diagram or outline form. A third option, iBrainstorm, enables the user to add a note, then drag and drop it anywhere on the iPad's screen to create a desired order or pattern.

A great way for students to start the school year is to write an “All About Me” informational text. Students can use Google Docs to list key categories they want to include in the text (e.g., family, hobbies, etc.) and then use one of the graphic organizer apps to make a web that adds key information for each category. They can complete this same task in Google Docs. The graphic organizer app allows information to be displayed in a more visual format.

Drafting and publishing

There are a variety of digital media tools that can support students as they begin drafting. The initial draft can be written using Google Docs—students can add text, pictures, audio, and hyperlinks as they flesh out their writing. Once the initial ideas are down on paper, they can begin exploring what format they want to use to share the work. For example, Google Slides, Prezi, and Slideshare are presentation tools where students can insert text, pictures, audio, video, hyperlinks, and the like. Students can also opt to share their writing using Glogster, which allows users to create a poster format to share key information about a topic. They can incorporate text, pictures, video, audio, and hyperlinks with this app as well.

Students may also choose to post information using a blog format, consisting of dated entries with pictures, embedded videos, and links to external information. As part of their blog entries, they can post links or embed work they created in Slides, Prezi, and Slideshare. For example, students can post an entry that summarizes their “All About Me” piece and insert the link or embed the presentation as part of that entry. Regardless of the tool used, students can share their story by blending text, pictures, and voice narration.

Although this is not a comprehensive list, it can serve as a reminder about possible digital tools we can use in the classroom. As a bonus, these tools enable writers to collaborate with others either through coauthoring of text or providing suggestions and feedback to authors for works-in-progress. The fact that their work can be shared with an audience also makes the writing task more authentic. There are so many cloud-based digital tools that students can use as they write in the classroom, so just give them a try and see what works best for you and your students! 

Kimberly Kimbell-Lopez is a professor in the Department of Curriculum, Instruction, and Leadership in the College of Education at Louisiana Tech University. She has been an educator for over 30 years, and her areas of expertise include literacy and technology. 

Carrice Cummins is a professor in the Department of Curriculum, Instruction, and Leadership in the College of Education at Louisiana Tech University. She has over 40 years’ experience as an educator with primary areas of interest in comprehension, content area literacy, and teacher development. She served as the 2012–13 president of the International Reading Association.

Elizabeth Manning is an assistant professor in the Department of Curriculum, Instruction, and Leadership in the College of Education at Louisiana Tech University. A veteran K–8 teacher of over 25 years, her areas of interest include content area literacy, writing workshop, and curriculum design and development.

This article is part of a series from the International Literacy Association Technology in Literacy Education Special Interest Group (TILE-SIG).

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