Tag Archives: digital literacy

Authentic Research, Authentic Writing

My Chippewa River Writing Project colleague, Sharon Murchie, and I are presenting this weekend in the 4T Virtual Conference on Digital Writing (#4TDW). We wrote this piece together as a preview of our session and a brief explanation of our journey toward more authentic research and writing in the classroom.


We met in 2015 at the Chippewa River Writing Project’s Summer Institute. Janet was a returning CRWP Teacher Consultant and Sharon was a Red Cedar Writing Project Teacher Consultant joining the CRWP for the summer.  When given the opportunity in the institute to fashion our own inquiry project on writing, we both identified the research process as an area that intrigued us. As teachers we have always loved research — even back to the days of card catalogs, index cards, and microfiche.

Yeah, we’re geeks like that.

In all seriousness, though, the process by which students select topics of interest to them, dig deep into sources, fashion their own opinions through their critical reading, and then synthesize their thinking and sources into an original piece is one of the most cognitively complex processes we undertake in the English Language Arts curriculum.  Yet it is also one that hasn’t experienced widespread change to match the connected world in which our students live. That summer, we found ourselves researching the research process, asking such questions as, How do we authentically teach students to be discerning researchers? and How do they write about what they have learned in a way that will have implications and applications long after they graduate from high school?

We learned that we had been taking parallel routes in our high schools in exploring ideas like blogging, website creation, wikis, and Genius Hour to encourage broader audiences for our young writers. We were pretty sure we were not alone in thinking that it was past time for the research process and product to undergo a significant revision, and our conversations with our colleagues that summer — and our larger conversations since then — have confirmed that for us.

Teaching students how to be critical researchers has to be more than just an assignment or a unit. There has to be a shift in how we teach and in how students approach “doing research.”

Classroom Tools That Work: Research Tools

The apps and extensions that help power our Google Apps for Education paperless classroom

This is the third in a five-part series about favorite apps and extensions for Google Chrome and Google Drive.

In the first post in this series, I covered some essential tools for managing the new apps and extensions that you’ll want to add to your Chrome browser. In the second, I shared tools that help writers be better writers.  Fair warning up front, though, it’s the research add-ons, apps and extensions that I really love! I am old enough to remember research pre-Internet. I recall sitting in the stacks with the Reader’s Guide, thumbing through microfiche to find articles, writing out copious notes on index cards and legal pads.  Not anymore! Since research is such an important part of the ELA curriculum, this third post will be dedicated to those game-changers that help students conduct research, capture source information, organize ideas, and cite within a research paper or project.

Classroom Tools That Work: Helping Writers Be Better Writers

The apps and extensions that help power our Google Apps for Education paperless classroom

This is the second in a five-part series about favorite apps and extensions for Google Chrome and Google Drive.

In the first post in this series, I covered some essential tools for managing the new apps and extensions that you’ll want to add to your Chrome browser. In this post, I’ll share the tools that my students and I have found to help writers be better writers.  

Four tools that help writers be better writers

Read&Write for Google

What is it?

Read&Write for Google is a Chrome Extension that is used within a Google document. Teachers can sign up for premium features free; students start with a 30-day trial; some features disappear after the trial, but many remain.

Read, Write, Repeat

After a summer off, I am returning to blogging with a new, and I hope, lasting, enthusiasm.  This summer when I wasn’t adding anything to my blog, I dedicated time to reading the blogs of other educators and thinkers whom I admire.  I guess I would say that I went looking for other mentor texts to explore a greater variety of topics, styles and techniques.  Here’s what I learned.  

Becoming Authentic Writers, Part 3

How the paperless classroom goes beyond teacher convenience

This is the third in a series of posts about the impact of a paperless approach on the writing process and product.

In the first post in this series, I talked about using technology to improve my feedback to high school students, and in the second, I wrote specifically about the growth I see in my students as a result of using the tools in Google Drive.  This post will explain how I organize a paperless classroom using Google. I delayed writing this post when I found out about Google Classroom, a learning management system to be released in the fall for schools using Google Apps for Education. Now that I have had the time to preview Classroom, I’ll explain what I do to stay organized in a paperless classroom using Google, and I’ll touch on how I anticipate Google Classroom complementing my paperless classroom next year.

Becoming Authentic Writers, Part 2

Image by Anasuarezrivero (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
How the paperless classroom goes beyond teacher convenience

This is the second in a series of posts about the impact of a paperless approach on the writing process and product.

In the first post in this series, I talked about using technology to improve my feedback to high school students.  My earliest experiment involved using my smart phone and using an iPad app called Explain Everything to provide audiovisual feedback for students.  My paperless classroom, though, has evolved quickly, and this year, we went Google.

Evolving Literacy

Literacy has been on my mind again lately. It should be. I’m an English teacher, after all. What I have really been thinking about, though, is the rapid change in what it means to be literate for the future. Some people wonder whether books will die in an era of e-readers or whether cursive will become extinct. The real question, though,