This collaboratively written article provides some great ideas for leveraging today's mobile technologies to help students enhance those vital writing skills.
The use of smartphones in the classroom is no longer clearly something to be frowned upon. In fact, some teachers are now looking to use them as tools to get the best out of their students. Initially, smartphones were distractions, with students playing games or engaging in texting, taking attention away from group activities or lectures. But as today's society embraces technology to an increasing degree, there is much to be said for leveraging it in the classroom. Traditional dynamics still have a place – the teacher is still the source and disseminator of information and the students are still the recipients, but with technology in the classroom, students can pursue independent learning even further, guided by the instructor.
With smartphone and tablet apps, users get to choose from a wide array of helpful programs for the individual tasks they need to perform. Writing can be considered a (mammoth) task in this regard as it depends solely on the individual’s ability as well as preference/style. No amount of reading thick text books or easy writing formulas can teach someone to write like Austen or Dickens; however, writing clearly and formally – in other words writing well is an important skill and must be taught. Android and iOS apps can be a great tool for this purpose as they involve a) an independent/autonomous approach on the part of the student and b) can often be accessed anywhere at any time.
Introducing activities in the classroom which involve the use of apps can be a great idea. A large number of apps are available in the market that cater to learning skills, and apps to help with the writing process are abundant.
Students should be encouraged to have various writing apps and make use of them whenever they are writing, whether it is an essay for class or a formal letter or even a note for a friend. Here are some must haves for students started and a additional ideas.
1. Dictionary/Thesaurus Apps. Chambers Dictionary and Thesaurus 12th edition for iPhones, iPods, and iPads is an amazing app for iOS. It's also available here for Android based devices. There are plenty of alternatives available as well, just be sure to look over some reviews before paying for an app. A user friendly dictionary and thesaurus app is clearly a must-have.
2. Note taking apps. A quick place to capture ideas on the fly can be a huge help to the budding writer, and Evernote (which is free) is an outstanding tool for the job. Install Evernote on all of your devices and computers and it keeps your notes in synch across all of them – how cool is that?
3. Brainstorming and Outlining Apps. In order to produce a coherent piece of writing it is essential that students learn to organize their ideas and thoughts before sitting down to write. This Nov 2012 “Outlining App Showdown” provides assessments of a handful of outlining tools for the iOS platform (some of these are also available on Android devices). Other brainstorming techniques include the use of ‘mind mapping' tools like MindNode and apps like Lists for Writers for cataloging.
4. Developing writing skills. There are a wealth of apps geared towards developing skills. A quick search for phrases like “apps for improving writing skills for students” can yield plenty of options to check out, like these:
- Writing Apps for Kids: http://bestappsforkids.com/category/apps-for-education/writing-apps-for-kids/
- Improve english writing skills: http://appfinder.lisisoft.com/ipad-iphone-apps/improve-english-writing-skills.html
- 50 Popular iPad Apps For Struggling Readers & Writers: http://www.teachthought.com/apps-2/50-popular-ipad-apps-for-struggling-readers-writers/
- The Best Android Apps for Writers: http://www.androidauthority.com/best-android-apps-for-writers-note-taking-56006/
5. File Storage and Organization. Teaching students to be good writers also means teaching them to have good organization skills and practices. A tool like Dropbox can make organizing files, and making sure you've got backups, really easy! Dropbox works on multiple devices and keeps a local folder in synch across the cloud, so not only are there copies backed up, but it's a quick and easy way to make your writing work accessible from on multiple devices (if you have more than one), so they're right at your fingertips.
Getting students to write better is always a heartening task and any experienced teacher will tell you that students require examples of good writing rather than just general guidance. Allowing apps in your writing class, and using apps yourself to produce material for demonstrations is a good idea. Further, asking students to bring their favorite apps to class to share is another good way to generate interest in better writing through technology.
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