Many teachers are building on the strong foundations of their writing programmes by adding technology and digital skills to the mix. Although this has been integrated often, there is finally beginning to be a shift in pedagogy through more deliberate and explicit teaching using support from tools such as iPads, iPods and laptops. Then there are a variety of means for delivering the skills to children such as wikis, blogs, online boards such as wallwisher and linoit. The purpose is the same. The outcome of skills is the same. But the presentation method and delivery is often not recognised as the same.
I have found this a powerful tool with the special needs children in my classes over the past few years. Whether they were working on an iPad or laptop, they were happiest when able to cut out one mode - the pencil on paper. With dyslexic children particularly it is wonderful to see them freely 'write' - uninhibited by NOT having to make another connection in their cortex i.e. forming letters from inside their head to look the same on paper. This connection is the one that causes them the biggest issue when recording, so if we allow them some precious time of just 'getting the ideas out of their head' (quote from one of my learners), we are actually relieving them of one stress, which is huge.
Now don't assume for one moment that this means that children do no recording on paper. There is still a need for communicating through this mode (it may become obsolete one day!) and so we still have a diary writing book in our class which they free-write in once a week. But for the rest of the week, the technology assists them by allowing them to get their ideas down, manipulate them, edit them and publish them quickly, clearly and with all of the focus being on the content and the process rather than the spelling and the accuracy of letters and words.
The focus has to be the processes - we can use the most amazing means to deliver this now and we have more and more ideas and options growing and changing daily! My class love to choose their own ways to present their ideas such as using iMovie, keynote, voki, vocaroo, podcasts, blog entries and so on. They enjoy creating ComicLife pages, Pages posters/brochures, grouping their Stickies - they love the choices, they like to have control over the style of presentation that suits their writing, they enjoy sharing their writing through a range of media as well as sharing online through their wiki pages and blogposts. And through all of that, the learning continues through explicit teaching throughout with the drafting, editing and publishing processes - we use googledocs for a lot of the drafting and brainstorms so that I can see the changes in their writing as the process develops.
Writing in the digital age is still writing...what began as a stick in the sand, grew into a pencil on paper...letter on a typewriter, became a letter on a keyboard and is now just a screen to tap - is all just writing. What we need to come to grips with is how learners like to move with change and enjoy being able to communicate in the language of their time and in the mode of their time. Leading them into this age is the best way that we can support this and giving them as many choices and opportunities to explore these modes is ideal.