Tag: educational technology (page 1 of 2)

The Future of Writing is . . . Writing Brad Wilson's Alphabetical Take on the Future of Writing

Our students have an opportunity to write on an incredible range of platforms.  These include emails, texts, blog posts, and other more traditional platforms.  So, how does the plethora of platforms influence the teaching of writing?

Brad Wilson, in a presentation at the Michigan Reading Association’s 2015 conference, discussed the teaching of writing in this new technological milieu in this thought-provoking presentation, The Future of Writing.

Using COW in the Classroom

COW is a unique tool for teachers and students to use in their writing programs.  A question arising with teachers is, “What does a classroom using COW look like?”  Here are some of the ways a typical classroom can use COW–

Ms. Brown teaches a 7th grade class of thirty students. Every Monday, the class looks at this week’s COW Writing Challenge. They discuss the topic, the genre, and have a class brainstorming session of possible ideas for approaching this writing challenge. 

Before some writing sessions, Ms. Brown will introduce a new writing challenge she has created for her class. She does this by doing the writing challenge together with her class using the SMART board or projector. After modelling this writing challenge, she takes the class to the computer lab or brings in the school’s trolley of Chromebooks and turns the students loose on the writing challenge. She allows them enough time to write, enabling her students to reach the minimum word goal of 100 words with each writing session.

Occasionally, Ms. Brown tells the students that it is “COW Time!” Once again, students are given access to computers and are engaged in free writing time. Students can choose to write the weekly COW Writing Challenge, one of Ms. Brown’s custom designed writing challenges, or simply select Free Writing (which draws upon the bank of COW prompts and bonus words.)

During some busy weeks at school, Ms. Brown assigns COW Time to her students as a homework assignment. She ensures those students with limited internet access at home are provided with other means of completing their homework, such as giving them access to the computer lab after school.

Once a week, Ms. Brown logs into her teacher’s account and checks her class’s stats page to see how much writing her class has done over the week. She takes note of her most active writers, as well as the students who have done no writing that week. 

Once or twice a week, Ms. Brown checks her class list to read unread student writing. After reading the stories, she approves stories to be shared on the Class Bookshelf and leaves comments for her students on their writing.

An important part of Ms. Brown’s writing program is the weekly sharing session which she holds every Friday. Students know that they can share their writing to the Class Bookshelf throughout the week for classmates to read. During this Friday sharing session, students have the opportunity to read their writing to their classmates or have a discussion about the content and form of the writing. Sometimes, Ms. Brown has the students share their writing on one particular writing challenge. This enables her students to see the various approaches each writer took to the same prompt and bonus word list. During these sharing sessions, Ms. Brown always stresses the importance of positive and constructive criticism of student writing.

Once every three weeks, Ms. Brown has her students select one of their pieces of writing to take through the editing process. Her students carefully examine the text analysis stats to target areas of improvement. In addition, she teaches mini-lessons on certain aspects of composition she wishes her students to apply to their revisions. Her students then use COW’s Edit Mode to revise their drafts. After the first revision, she pairs students up for peer-to-peer revision. With certain students, she meets individually to review changes to be made to their piece of writing.

On a weekly basis, Ms. Brown and the students review the class’s writing goals and set a target for how many more words the class will write during the upcoming week.

Every teacher takes the resources at their disposal and adapts them to their own needs and the needs of their students.  As a teacher, you may wish to use COW in a very different way from Ms. Brown.  We’d love to know how you use COW in your classroom! Please leave a comment below or send us an email at contact@alieogames.com.

Developing the Habits of Outstanding Writers How COW enables students to develop effective sentence construction

There is no singular set of rules for becoming an outstanding writer.  There are, however, a number of habits writers acquire which become second nature in the creation of effective writing.  These include an awareness of sentence construction. 

Two critical aspects of sentence construction for outstanding writing include:

1.  A variety of sentence length.

2.  A variety of sentence openings.

Among the feedback students receive after each writing session with COW is a graph of sentence lengths.

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By examining this graph, students receive a comprehensive view of the variety of sentence length in their composition.  The length of their longest sentence is also indicated, giving an immediate “heads up!” to the dreaded run-on sentence.

Another graph that reveals an important aspect of student writing is “Sentence Starters.” 

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This graphs shows students how many times they have used specific words to start sentences in their composition.  Overusing certain words to start sentences, such as “The” or “I” becomes immediately apparent with a quick glance of the “Sentence Starters” graph. 

By giving students feedback on these important aspects of sentence construction on a continual basis, they can become much more mindful of these important compositional aspects during the writing process. 

In the end, they’ll be better writers.

Still More New Features in COW 2.0 Writing Goals

The Monthly Writing Goal

One of the goals of COW is to motivate students to write more frequently. With this in mind, we’ve created an all new Monthly Writing Goal. Students are challenged to write at least twelve sessions a month. They can chart their progress as they write their way through the perils of Alieo’s Universe toward a final reward– a special free item from the avatar store!

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The Class Writing Goal

There’s nothing like a common goal to build teamwork and keep a class writing throughout the year. In COW 2.0, we’ve taken the Class Writing Goal into the stratosphere and beyond! Entire classes can strive to write their way towards a bronze asteroid, a silver moon, a golden planet, and finally to arrive at a platinum star. At each new stop along their journey, they’ll be rewarded with the ability to buy a special avatar item.

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Coming Soon . . . COW 2.0 New Stats for Teachers and Administrators

On August 1st, 2015, Alieo Games will be unleashing COW 2.0 upon an unsuspecting world! We’ve been working on revamping the site in a big way. Included in COW 2.0 are a number of new features to make COW an even more effective tool for improving student writing and enhancing classroom instruction. Over the next few blog posts, we’ll be highlighting some of the new features of COW 2.0.

Class and School Usage Stats

Teachers and Admins will now have a veritable smorgasbord of stats on student use of COW. These stats will include:

  • number of student logins over the past week.
  • number of words written on a daily or weekly basis.
  • number of daily writing sessions.
  • top students writers for a week and for the year.
  • a list of students who have not used COW over the past week.

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These stats provide teachers and administrators with a quick and insightful overview of how COW is being used by their students. By more closely monitoring student usage of COW, teachers will be better able to adapt their instructional approaches in writing.

The Contentious Adverb To adverb or not to adverb?

Look up the use of adverbs in writing, and the response you’ll get from many editors and writers is an uncategorical, “AVOID THEM!”

One would think that the adverb might have a status right up there with the adjective as an untouchable, revered aspect of descriptive writing. Apparently not.

Just look and see what Stephen King has to say in The Adverb is Not Your Friend.

Elmore Leonard, the New York Times writer, wrote, “To use an adverb this way (or almost any way) is a mortal sin.”

Have a look here to see some of the reasons why so many writers are anti-adverb.  (Apparently, J.K. Rowling isn’t one of them.)

Whether you are on the pro-adverb or anti-adverb side, the text analysis tools provided by COW (Creative Online Writing) will prove useful.

I’m sure if Stephen King wrote a story in COW, he would be very happy with a stats report showing an adverb goose-egg.

Chromebooks versus iPads What's the best tech solution for schools?

Over the past year, I’ve had the privilege of visiting a number of schools in various jurisdictions around British Columbia and Alberta.  As a former teacher with a strong interest in the use of technology in schools, it’s always enlightening to talk with teachers about their tech set-up.

One particularly interesting trend I’ve seen is the move away from the traditional computer lab towards having mobile trolleys with class sets of Chromebooks. 

Another trend is the move away from iPads to Chromebooks.  There are a number of significant advantages of using Chromebooks over iPads.  Chris Hoffman’s article, “Why Chromebooks are schooling iPads in education” outlines some very compelling reasons for this development.

Can Technology Help Students Become Better Writers? Food for thought in the brave new world of Ed. Tech.

Although the question posed by an article in EdTech Magazine was, “Can Technology Help Students Become Better Writers?” a much more compelling question is, “How are teachers using technology to help students become better writers?”

According to a survey by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project and the National Writing Project, technology is used to teach writing by the use of wikis, websites, blogs, interactive whiteboards and various tools to help students edit their own work and review the work of others.

Missing from this list are a number of key elements for effective writing instructional programs.  The use of technology in writing instruction should also address:

  • how to motivate students to become engaged in the writing process.
  • how to develop the all-important skill of writing fluency (i.e. the ease with which a writer is able to generate ideas and put them into words.)
  • how to develop original ideas and think critically.
  • how to give students feedback on their writing so that they can become self-regulating learners.
  • how to cater writing assignments to individual needs.

All of these elements have been key in the development of the writing app COW.  Our goal is to provide educators with a practical and effective tool that enhances writing programs with the use of technology.


Bring Your Own Device Can this really work?

One of the major hurdles facing many teachers wishing to integrate technology into curriculum is, quite simply, student access to technology.  In visits to many schools and conversations with a multitude of teachers, so often, teachers voiced their frustrations in dealing with limited student access to technology– not enough computers or tablets, slow networks, and the list goes on.

One solution that’s been batted about is the idea of “Bring Your Own Device.”  This entails students using their own laptops, tablets or smart phones at school to improve access to technology during school time.

Is this really a practical solution for giving students greater access to technology for meaningful educational pursuits?  Are there too many potential problems accompanying this approach to make it workable?

Sherry Langland, a junior high school teacher in Edmonton, Alberta, spearheaded a B.Y.O.D. at her school.  Her blog post, “Our ‘Bring Your Own Device’ is a Success!” describes the steps her school took to make B.Y.O.D. a practical, workable solution to the challenges of giving students more access to technology.

Algoauthors and the Brave New World of Writing How Writing Alogrithms and Other Technological Advances Should Change the Way We Teach

Before reading any further, take this very brief quiz:

Did a Human or a Computer Write This?

If you’re anything like me, you were bamboozled on more than a few of these questions. The capacity for a computer algorithm to generate text is quite astonishing.

This immediately raises a few questions in my mind, including:

  1. What role will humans play in the future of writing?
  2. What implications does this have for writing instruction?

We’ve already seen a revolution in the world of writing with the advent of the word processor and its accompanying tools such as spelling and grammar checkers, autocorrect, and other text analysis tools. As we look back at these writing tools and ahead to what may be available in the future, what adaptations have we, as teachers and curriculum leaders, made in the teaching of writing?

  • Can we shift our emphasis away from the teaching of spelling, grammar, and other conventions when such tools are available?
  • How much time is spend with students maximizing their ability to use these tools to improve their writing?
  • With such tools to help with the conventions of writing, can more emphasis now be placed upon the essence of writing– generating and communicating ideas?

As technology advances, educators must be in a constant state of re-evaluation, questioning their instructional strategies, curriculum content, and fundamental classroom structures. In no curriculum area is this need for questioning more pertinent than in the teaching of writing. It’s this constantly shifting landscape that makes teaching relentlessly fascinating.

Oh, and by the way. This was written by a human.

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