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Much of the communication that takes place through computer technology involves written language. From taking notes in a word processor to writing email, text communication is the most frequent use of the computer and Internet.

It's the message, not the media that matters. However keep in mind that different writing styles may be needed in different situations.

try itUse the Internet Archive: Texts to explore the wide range of texts available through their site including thousands of open source books. What do you have to contribute?

Software Tools

Although most people think of word processors such as Microsoft Word, there are other tools for creating, editing, and organizing text. Also seek out tools that facilitate collaboration. For example Adobe's InCopy a professional writing and editing program for collaborative editorial workflow with InDesign.

Text editors became popular with the introduction of word processing, but have expanded their options to include project tracking, collaboration tools, language translation, voice recognition, and speech. In addition, newer high tech text editors can be found within writing and learning spaces in most technology environments today from smart cell phones to 3D worlds.

If you're interested in document storage, try Docstoc.

Word Processing

Word processing was one of the first applications of the personal computer. For collaborative word processing, consider online tools such as Google Docs. Also, look for templates to facilitate writing such as Google Docs Templates.

Stand-Alone Software

Web-based Tools

Notes and Task, Citation and Reference Management

From highlighting to sticky notes, it's possible to take notes online and organize tasks and lists.

Page Layout

Sometimes you need a tool that can organize text along with graphics and other elements. Seek out desktop publishing packages. Also, consider the end product. In other words, the PDF (P) file format has become a very popular way to share electronic documents because anyone can download the Adobe Reader software.

Stand-Alone Software

Web-based Tools

Page Layout and Presentation

Sometimes you need a tool that can organize text along with graphics and other elements. Seek out desktop publishing packages. Also, consider the end product. In other words, the PDF (P) file format has become a very popular way to share electronic documents because anyone can download the Adobe Reader software.

Stand-Alone Software

Web-based Tools

Publishing

In the past, an author worked with a professional publisher to produce a book. Today, individuals can use one of the many online publishers. For instance, students at Decatur Discovery Academy in Grades 7-8 published their own historical fiction book called That A Man Can Stand using Lulu.

Web-based Services

 

Web Development Tool

Web design and development tools are used for producing web pages. Although most word processors and page layout programs allow users to generate web pages, they don't have the tools and flexibility needed for high-quality web design. Also, look for tools that allow for collaboration in web construction. For example, Adobe Macromedia Contribute makes website maintenance easy by letting everyone in an organization publish to websites.

Stand-Alone Software

Web-based Tools

Data-base Text Tools

Features of High Tech Text

Before the introduction of computer-based text editors, the writing process was a time-consuming chore requiring the writer to physically write then rewrite each draft using pencils, typewriters, and erasers. The introduction of the word processor allowed writers to save time and energy at each stage of the writing process. Unfortunately, many people still think of the word processor as an expensive typewriter and miss many of the features that make it a powerful tool for learning.

Collaborative Writing. Using traditional tools, collaborative writing was difficult. Authors worried about being able to read the handwriting and notations of their peers. Each draft had to be physically moved from one location to another. Writing an article could take months or years. Today's collaborative tools such as wikis allow writers to work on documents simultaneously from locations around the world. They can add notes, track changes, and apply text styles instantly.

tabletpcEditing Tools. Text-editing tools allow users to easily add, cut, copy, and paste. In addition, there are many other options for creating, organizing, and manipulating text. Today's tools can be manipulated by a mouse or track pad, however tools such as Smartboard and tablets allow the use of fingers and wireless pens for manipulating text. These wireless pens can also be used for writing on tablet notebooks (see photo) and electronic paper.

Hyperlinks. From website links to interactive novels, hyperlinks is one of the key benefits of digital writing. Through the use of tools such as anchors, bookmarks, and links, creators can provide access to help, glossaries, more information, alternative approaches, or endless other materials. Hyperlinks allows non-linear access to text documents.

Tags. The use of tags is changing the way that text and other information is accessed on the Web. Tags are keywords or descriptive terms used for classifying information. Folksonomies are informal, dynamic methods of retrieving digital information through the Internet using these tags as a labeling system.

logitech penTranslators. Language translators allow people to easily translate documents or write in different languages.

Voice Recognition & Speech. Many tools are available to read written word aloud providing access to visually impaired learners as well as poor readers. Speech recognition software allows writers to speak into their computers and have the computer turn speech into text in a word processor.

Smart Tools. From smart cell phones to smart pens, there's a wave of new tools for writing "on the go". For example, digital pens such as the Logitech io Digital Pen (see photo) can capture and store hand-written notes that can be imported into a word processor like Microsoft Office.

High Tech Text Tools in Learning

The key to using a word processor in learning is thinking of writing as a process. Use the word processor for brainstorming, then prioritizing ideas. Use the editing features such as cut, copy, and paste to treat your work as a living document. As new information is found, reorganize or replace ideas.

stop and try the activityOpen the word processor of your choice. There are many features you may not have used before. Read about each of the following features that can be used in learning. The instructions provided are for Microsoft Word, but may apply to other word processors. There are many more, but this will get you started thinking about your word processor differently.

Font Color. Use font color as a tool in collaborative writing. Each participant uses a different color for adding their ideas and revising the text. Dark colors work best. When everyone agrees to the final draft, you can turn the whole thing back to black. This is a fun way to write a collaborative book review or group report.

Color can also be used by individual writers as they prioritize, categorize, or brainstorm ideas. Different colors can also be used as new phrases or descriptive words are added. Students can see their writing evolve.

colored text

Comments. Students, teachers, and facilitators can all use the comments function in many different ways. Students can use comments for personal notes and peer review. Teachers can provide comments without intruding into student work. Facilitators can provide activity ideas, guidelines or suggestions. You can also use comments to provide student assignments.

commentTo use the comments:

Forms. Create interactive stories using the forms option. This is particularly helpful for children who are practicing new vocabulary.

barTo use the forms:

Spell and Grammar Checker. Although some educators may think of the spell and grammar checkers as a way to avoid good mechanics, they can also be a tool for learning.

Ask students to write with the checker off. Then, turn it on to check their spelling. Keep of log of common spelling errors, correction, and problem. Soon students will begin to see patterns in their errors.

spell checker example

Tracking. Most word processors have a way to track changes. This is useful for tracking your own changes from draft to draft. It's also helpful when collaborating with others.

To track projects:

speechSpeaker. For auditory learners, the speech elements in Microsoft Word are particularly valuable. Learners can listen to the flow of a sentence. When students get writers block, it's helpful to listen to the sentences to stimulate ideas. Reluctant writers can find hearing their work motivating. The speaker option is also useful in reading directions that are above the reading level of the student.

To listen to speech:

Digital Reading and Writing in Learning

Many readers and writers have shifted from paper and pencil to electronic communications.

Digital Reading

Whether you're using a Kindle, Nook, or iPad, ebook reading has become a popular activity. Many electronic books such as Google Books can also be embedded into web pages (see book on the right).

An increasing number of ebook formats and reading software is available. Although Adobe Reader remains popular, other tools such as blio provide attractive interfaces for electronic reading. The tool Copia is described as a reading experience incorporating social learning elements.

Digital Writing

Over than past 20 years, many educational researchers have investigated the use of word processing in learning. Many studies (Bangert-Drowns, 1993) found that word processing improves the quality and quantity of student writing. However as writing becomes more collaborative and the line between reading and writing is blurred, new questions are being posed about writing in learning. For example, educators and librarians have always stressed the importance of the author and authority in writing. However, what happens to the idea of authorship as more texts are created in collaborative environments?

checkRead Why Teacher Digital Writing? Check their pop-ups for additional information including videos.

In addition to text-editing tools, some software packages for young people provide writing prompts and starters. For example, Storybook Weaver by Riverdeep, EasyBook by Sunburst, and Imagination Express by Sunburst provides graphics and other resources to help students write stories. Diary Maker from Tom Snyder inspires young people to write their own diaries through reading young writers such as Anne Frank, Latoya Hunter, and Zlata Filipovic.

 

Learners, Multiple Intelligences, and Digital Writing

Use of text editors match well with Howard Gardner's verbal/linguistic intelligence. These "word smart" people learn best through language including speaking, writing, reading, and listening. They are able to verbally or in writing explain, convince, and express themselves. They enjoy writing and creating with words. They would also enjoy e-books, interactive books on CD-ROM, and other text-based software.

They enjoy being the secretary, taking notes, and using the word processor. They would enjoy organizing the group's text and putting the project together. They enjoy the researching, listening, reading, and writing aspects of a research project.

Consider how text technology tools could be used with verbal/linguistic learners:

Explore ideas for using the word processor in learning:

Learn More

100 Useful Web Tools for Writers

Bangert-Drowns, Robert L. (Spring 1993). The Word Processor as an Instructional Tool: A Meta-Analysis of Word Processing in Writing Instruction. Review of Educational Research, Volume 63, Number 1, pp. 69-93.

Barton, Matt. Using Computers to Improve Your Writing by Matt Barton. Professor of English explores ways to think about using computers in learning.

Urquhart, V.A. & McIver, M.C. (2005). Using Technology with Teaching Writing in the Content Areas. MCREL.

Links to the materials in this section can be found in the navigation bar on the left side of this page. Continue to the arrow means an internal linkTools: Illustrations page.


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