Five Tools: The History of Digital Writing

Let's explore the history of digital writing through five technology tools:

1 - Word Processing Tools

Word processing software was one of the first, popular software applications for the microcomputer. It allowed writers to easily enter, edit, and revise text. Word processing software evolved to include images, audio, and even multimedia elements. However the software is still primarily used to create pages that can be printed or shared electronically. Microsoft Word remains the most popular. Software such as Pages for the iPad incorporate some of the unique features of the new technology such as sharing.

  • Pages ($9.99) is Apple's word processor for the iPad.
  • MyWriting Spot ($4.99) contains the full range of writing tools including a dictionary and thesaurus, spellchecker and sharing.
  • SmartNote provides a wide range of tools for writing along with highlighting, sticky notes, audio notes, and other elements.

2 - Visual Layout Tools

With the introduction of Mac and Windows, the computer became a more visual tool. Software such as page layout tools, presentation tools, and hypermedia tools allowed writers to infuse visual elements into their work. Designs included complex print materials like folder brochures. However increasingly materials like Microsoft PowerPoint were created for the computer screen without the need for printing.

  • Keynote ($9.99) combines words, images, and multimedia elements for presentations.
  • Prezi. This tool brings words to life. A cross between a word cloud and a presentation tool. You can create online, then view on the iPad.
  • Comic Tools
    • Comic Life ($4.99) is very similar to the desktop version.
    • Strip Designer ($2.99) allows students to create comic strips from photos.
    • ComicStrip ($.99) allows students to put speech bubbles on photos.
    • Comics Creator ($.99) provides templates for making lots of different comics.

3 - Correspondence Tools

Remote written communicatons between people were originally in the form of letters. In the 1980s, e-mail became a popular method of communication followed by chat, bulletin boards and forums, blogs, and texting. The focus was on quick sharing of ideas without the need for paper. The written works are often viewed as ephemeral and not intended for permanent storage.

  • Lifecards is a postcard app that allows students to combine images and text to create postcards.
  • TextPlus Free Texting + Group is a way to provide the experience of texting without using a phone.

4 - Collaboration Tools

The widespread availability of Internet has increased our ability to easily access information anywhere, anytime. The infusion of open-editing tools into easy-to-use online applications has made the collaborative process much easier. Wikis are a wonderful example of an open environment for writing. However many other types of tools such as concept maps, timelines, and electronic whiteboards provide these features for collaborative writing.

  • Google Docs is a very popular tool for all formats. The key is the ability to share and collaborate.
  • Sundry Notes allows real-time collaboration including notes, links, and images.
  • Doodle Buddy allows users to draw, color, and write as well as connect with others for collaborative writing over the Internet.
  • Edmodo provides a ways for teachers and students to stay together through file sharing, forums, and messages.

5- Transmedia Tools

Traditionally writing was conveyed through the paper format. Increasingly there are many different ways to experience a story, explore ideas, or interact with others. Transmedia writing involves creating communications that bridge different media. A story may be told through a written narrative along with other forms of communication such as text messages, audio, video, and collaborations.

  • Journals: Middle School Love and War is an e-book and digital diary. It's also a podcast and advice column.
  • Countdown is a wonderful book by Deborah Wiles. The author incorporates media into her book. For instance, Duck and Cover from YouTube and an iTunes playlist to go with the book. There's also a great Scholastic guide and a slideshow. Encourage students to begin incorporating media elements into their writing.

Go to Re-defining Writing.