Keep Your Whits About You

That’s no typo – earlier this month at the TIA Conference, I attended a session led by two Whitneys: Alexanderson and Parlin.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from a session titled “Engaging 21st Century Writers.” A teacher at my school checks out our Chromebooks every single Friday for her students to write blogs, an idea that has helped them blossom in self-confidence in their writing. But on the flip side, I’ve certainly witnessed teachers use technology less than effectively, relying on iPads as babysitters while they pull small groups for RtI – not ideal, to be sure!

I was delighted to see that this TIA session was run by two women who GET technology. They started by saying that they firmly believe that technology isn’t the be-all, end-all when it comes to writing. Amen! Technology is only as effective as the teacher behind it. If you don’t understand technology and have an objective for using it, are you really using it effectively?

The session introduced me to some features, like the dictation tool in Google Drive, that I was unfamiliar with. I was so excited to learn about many of these tools because they got my teacher wheels turning – “THIS IS PERFECT FOR DIFFERENTIATION!!!” I wrote in all-caps in my session notes.

They also suggested some new ways to use technology I was already familiar with. One great idea was to have students open a document in Google Classroom and write silently on a prompt for 20 minutes. During this 20 minutes, the teacher opens a few papers and adds comments to help guide the writers. Students get feedback in real time and are able to learn in a silent conference. How cool is that?

I was so energized by this session. As a former journalist, I hold writing very close to my heart. It was great to learn some new techniques for exciting students about writing!

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