Answered by Nathalie Paquet-Bélanger
Writing is one of the most complex tasks for all students, and particularly for students with LDs. In this response, we will consider four stages of the writing process (planning, composing, revising, and sharing) and technological tools that prove effective at each stage. For each stage, educators may select different technological tools depending on the learning objectives targeted.
The first step, planning, consists in:
- ensuring that students understand the instructions and expectations;
- activating prior knowledge related to content and form;
- generating ideas, organizing them, and selecting the most relevant ones; and
- developing an outline that will allow students to move on to the composition stage.
One type of technological tool that is extremely helpful at this stage is visual learning software. This technology gives users the ability to easily move elements around and adapt the formatting as they reflect on their ideas. For example, the boxes containing ideas that will be included in the text can be coloured green, while those that will not can be coloured red.
Examples of visual learning software:
- Inspiration or Kidspiration
- Microsoft Evernote
- Google Docs
Educators can encourage all students to complete the composition phase using word processing software instead of pen-and-paper. When students type their work, they can more easily add, delete, or move sections of text to improve the quality of their work. As a result, they may find it easier to respond to feedback and add elements such as transition words, descriptive adjectives, or complex sentences.
Additionally, encouraging students to type their work allows those who struggle with their handwriting to reduce the amount of effort spent on this task, and instead focus on conveying their ideas effectively and editing their work. Not to mention, word processors often have built-in text-to-speech features and automatic spelling and grammar checkers, which provide students with immediate feedback to help them refine their writing at the composition stage.
Examples of word processing software:
- OpenOffice Writer
- Microsoft Office – Word
- Google Docs
For the revision stage, there are many editing software options to choose from. For one, electronic dictionaries can support students to correct their spelling and find synonyms to improve their vocabulary. Similarly, for students who have difficulties with spelling, modern spell-checkers can predict the word students are trying to spell as they type, therefore offering instant feedback as well as more accurate suggestions to correct misspelled words.
It is important to note, however, that these tools are not necessarily permitted to all students during assessments and evaluations. For this reason, other writing and revising strategies should also be taught explicitly and alternative tools should be offered.
Examples of editing software:
- Google Read&Write
- WordQ and SpeakQ
The final stage of a written task involves sharing your work with others, and technology greatly increases opportunities to do just that. First of all, collaboration tools allow students to post their work, read others’ work, and to share constructive feedback with each other. As such, it is best to use these collaboration tools before the final draft so that students can integrate feedback from their peers.
Educators can guide student feedback with prompts, such as:
- Tell your partner what you think is the strongest part of their text.
- Have they completed their work according to the instructions?
- Has your partner provided rich descriptions?
- Is the ending predictable or unexpected?
- Have they included all the elements in the rubric?
Examples of collaboration tools:
- Google Docs
Digital portfolios have similar benefits as the collaborative tools discussed above. These are online portfolios where students can post, organize, and share their work as well as spaces to guide reflection. They have the added benefit of contributing to the development of metacognition and self-esteem.
Examples of digital portfolios:
Finally, there are a variety of software and applications that allow students to produce the work in an interesting format, such as book or newspaper creators. Creating an exciting and professional-looking final product can act as motivation for students who may otherwise tire of the long writing process.
Examples of book and comic creators:
- Book Creator
- UDL Book Builder
Related Resources on the LD@school Website
Nathalie Paquet-Bélanger is the French Learning Disabilities Consultant of the LD@school team. She is completing a Masters degree in education science at the University of Quebec at Rimouski. She holds a bachelor degree in special education from the same university and a certificate in ICT integration in education (TELUQ). She is also a sessional instructor for the integration of ICT in education at the UQAR. Her current position is special teacher at the Charlesbourg Public Secondary School where she enjoys working with teenagers and a diversity of learning difficulties. Nathalie is glad to bring her contribution and expertise to the LD@school team and to network with teachers sharing the same passion for the success of students with learning disabilities.