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Reimagining Writing Instruction With Digital Tools

By Kristine E. Pytash, Richard E. Ferdig, Enrico Gandolfi, and Rachel Mathews
 | Jul 01, 2016

ThinkstockPhotos-165084596_x300Instructional goals should drive teachers’ approaches to technology integration and implementation. Not only is this important in meeting teaching and learning objectives, but we’ve also found that students are more engaged when a teacher’s pedagogical beliefs are aligned with the technology being used. 

Often educators are advised to first consider their instructional goals and then find a digital tool that will help them in satisfying their teaching needs. However, we’ve found that by exploring digital tools and apps, teachers can see new possibilities for writing instruction. Therefore, learning about digital tools can act as an impetus for considering alternative approaches for strengthening writing skills. 

At Kent State’s Research Center for Educational Technology, we have the privilege of collaborating with local teachers and students to integrate technology into their education and learning. Teacher and student cohorts visit our technologically advanced classroom for six weeks, five days a week, for two hours each day. This spring, we observed a second-grade teacher as she received situated professional development for integrating technology into her literacy instruction while her students had opportunities to explore digital tools for writing.  On the basis of that implementation, we offer suggestions for programs and mobile applications that might best help educators facilitate writing activities and assignments in their classrooms.

Preparing students for writing

  • Why It’s Important: Although the writing process is not a lockstep, there is strong evidence to support that students are more successful as writers when they understand it. Therefore, engaging students in prewriting and organizing activities before they start the first draft improves the quality of their writing.
  • Digital Tools: Digital notebooks, such as Penzu, can serve as writing journals for students to generate ideas. In addition, applications like Popplet and Padlet can provide a space where students may independently or collaboratively brainstorm about topics or genre elements. By using these digital tools, students can make their planning visible as they can easily organize and reorganize ideas. 

Multimodal compositions

  • Why It’s Important: Technology is changing how people write. By composing with images, audio, and video, students learn to use multiple modes to convey meaning. For students who might be considered struggling writers, composing with a variety of modes can also help students be more strategic in their rhetorical decision making.
  • Digital Tools: There are a number of apps and digital tools that allow students to produce multimodal compositions. Haiku Deck, Buncee, and Adobe Spark are a few tools we routinely use with teachers and students. However, we would also encourage teachers to think about how programming and coding with apps such as Daisy the Dinosaur and Scratch Junior might also help their students engage in digital storytelling. 

Publishing students’ writing

  • Why It’s Important:  When students publish their writing for a wide audience, they have opportunities to receive authentic feedback. This process develops their writerly voice: They become more aware of who will be reading their composition and tailor their voice according to the purpose, the context, and the audience. 
  • Digital Tools: Digital platforms, such as Edmodo and Seesaw, are spaces for students to share their writing and then receive feedback.


Apps should align with pedagogy; however, teachers can reimagine how they can implement engaging, research-based writing instruction by exploring digital tools. This reimagination can also be facilitated through conversations with others; teachers grow by seeing the best practices of others. In addition to providing some examples in this blog, we also developed and have now opened access to SpedApps, a database with over 400 apps. This resource is not only a collection of mobile apps for content instruction (e.g., literacy) but is also a community where teachers can share the promise and pitfalls of mobile-based instruction as well as add their own favorite apps. 

Kristine E. Pytash is an associate professor at Kent State University. Richard E. Ferdig is the Summit Professor of Learning Technologies and Professor, IT, Research Center for Educational Technologies. Enrico Gandolfi is a research fellow at Kent State University. Rachel Mathews is a doctoral student at Kent State University. This work was funded, in part, by a corporate gift from AT&T.

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



Leave a comment
  1. Erin Kent | Jul 22, 2016
    Nice article!
    I already thought that digital development will change not only our life, habits and jobs, but our children's life completely! I mean, just imagine, our children will not understand why phone icon in IPon is shaped as phone handset! And what about writing? Well, in worst case they will continue <a href="">buying essays at this website</a> without their own ideas. But we can do more, we can teach our children use these new technologies and create new ones!
  2. <a href="">Gary</a> | Jul 05, 2016
    Excellent post that describes the importance of reading and writing.
  3. sagar | Jul 05, 2016
     Main reason for this difficulty is lack of reading and writing Main reason for this difficulty is lack of reading and writing

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