Constructor Lab
Leadership Summit
Edtech Advocacy &
Policy Summit

Where All Students Love to Write: Digital Writing Strategies for Every Learner

Location: W196c

Participate and share

Participate and share : Interactive lecture

Tuesday, June 26, 1:15–2:15 pm
Location: W196c

Rusul Alrubail   Christopher Lehman   Kristin Ziemke  
Digital creation tools, paired with best-practices for writing instruction, can unleash the writer in every student! This jam-packed session marries teaching strategies with innovative tools to build voice and authenticity. From poets to procrastinators, this session will give all students a reason to fall in love with writing.

Skill level: Beginner
Attendee devices: Devices required
Attendee device specification: Smartphone: Windows, Android, iOS
Laptop: Chromebook, Mac, PC
Tablet: Android, iOS, Windows
Participant accounts, software and other materials: All platforms will be open and accessible without accounts.
Focus: Digital age teaching & learning
Topic: Communication and collaboration
Grade level: PK-12
Subject area: Language arts
ISTE Standards: For Educators:
  • Design authentic learning activities that align with content area standards and use digital tools and resources to maximize active, deep learning.
For Students:
Digital Citizen
  • Students engage in positive, safe, legal and ethical behavior when using technology, including social interactions online or when using networked devices.
Creative Communicator
  • Students publish or present content that customizes the message and medium for their intended audiences.
Additional detail: Session recorded for video-on-demand

Proposal summary

Purpose & objective


Technology has given educators and students tremendous opportunities to write and share like never before. From 1-1 laptop programs, student blogging, social media and more, students can write and create in news ways and literally share with the world. The challenge, however, is that while tools give more access, students are still students! Now, more than ever, writing instruction that is based on the decades of research from the literacy field needs to be blended with the opportunities afforded to today’s digital writers. This session aims to support educators in providing purposeful, and classroom-tested writing instruction to improve student confidence, voice, and writing skill.


Provide educators, grades K-12, an inspirational vision for overcoming students’ writing challenges
Explore known and emerging tools and provide practical steps for how to embed them within writing instruction (Twitter, KidBlog, Wordpress, Padlet, Today’s Meet, Instagram, etc.) to connect learners with a global audience.
Address classroom-proven methods for strong writing instruction that support students towards standards achievement
Connect teaching and learning pedagogy with digital writing practices and a variety of platforms.
Explore methods for helping students access and interpret feedback and then leverage that feedback to revise and refine their digital (and personal) identity.
Use technology and digital platforms to both engage student writers of all ages while also lifting the level of writing craft and quality.
Foster digital connections and writing communities through different digital platforms as a way to increase student motivation and confidence
Model practices across teacher demonstration, student conferences, and assessment
Engage attendees to craft writing samples during the session that can then be shared as mentor tech models with students
The presenters are nationally recognized authors and consultants who work in classrooms across the US and around the world to develop best-practice literacy instruction both digitally and “analog.” This session will be designed to be both inspirational and extremely practical. We aim for participants to leave the session with essential ideas they can implement the next school day.


The panelists firmly believe learning is not a passive exercise, and so the session will be organized into four main sections that will provide for as much participant interaction as possible:

The first section, of about 10 minutes, will provide background and context for the topic, situating the work within the current context of the ISTE Standards, Common Core State Standards, the standardized test, as well as the everyday realities of teachers working to support student writing achievement. This section will include time for the participants to share experiences and concerns with one another in regards to writing and digital writing and the panelists will aim to weave these into the presentation.

The second section, of about 20 minutes, will be an audience interactive inquiry aimed at participants reflecting on the real reasons behind phrases like, “I hate writing!” or “I have nothing to write about!” This section grounds the presentation in the struggles of writing - for students and adults alike. The presenters will share field-based research and participants will add in their own reflections on times, forms and platforms when writing comes more easily (and more difficulty) than others. This interactive inquiry will pose questions like, “What kinds of digital writing comes easy to you - texts, social media updates, online reviews, blog posts, digital slideshows? What kinds are difficult? What forms and platforms motivate you? Leave you intimidated?” In this section, participants will connect their personal inquiry to those of their students, examining reasons kids struggle engaging with writing, both on and offline.

The third section, of about 20 minutes, will bring the audience-interactive inquiry into practice and introduce participants to novel, concrete strategies for developing more engaged, voice-filled, well-crafted writing. The presenters will engage the audience in a brief classroom simulation to experience a method firsthand. With partners, participants will once try out this strategy and then debrief their experience. This “demonstration, try, reflect” structure will be repeated through a few brief exercises, including: finding a purpose for digital writing and communication, using writing as an agent for change and responding to trouble, crafting digital writing responses to construct online identities and engage others in conversation, writing well across a variety of digital platforms, using in-the-moment revision to craft a unique online voice.

The fourth section, of about 10 minutes, will help participants plan work not only within their classroom but consider how to bring ideas back to their colleagues. It will also focus on practical and engaging ways of taking up the Common Core State Standards’ call for “Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences,” providing students with multiple opportunities to practice these skills.

Throughout the session presenters will run a backchannel where teachers can share, interact and respond to the ideas presented in the session. Using several of the tools recommended for students (blogs, Twitter, Instagram) we’ll invite participants to create, respond and communicate their thinking with the group. Additionally, attendees will leave with a website address that shares resources, student work samples and additional ideas for tools to support student engagement, as well as writing craft and voice across a variety of platforms.

Supporting research

The methodologies presented are derived from our review of research, classroom practice, professional reading and developed and refined over the course of writing and piloting content for professional publications.     
The presentation draws on the large breadth of writing research and practice from Donald Graves, Donald Murray, Rozlyn Linder, Nell Duke, Lucy Calkins, Stephanie Harvey, Harvey Daniels, Sara Kajder, Troy Hicks, Sonja Cherry-Paul, Dana Johansen, among others. Additionally, drawing on the meta-analyses Writing Next (2007, Carnegie Corporation), The Horizon Report (The New Media Consortium) and Visible Learning (2008, Hattie).

Further evidence and practice is drawn from the work of research and organizations exploring digital content creation, including Renee Hobbs, Julie Coiro, Henry Jenkins, the Center for Digital Storytelling, the National Association of Media Literacy Education, National Writing Project’s “Digital Is,” and the Digital Youth Network.

The presenters have authored and coauthored publications related to the methods and practices in this session, including Amplify: Digital Teaching and Learning in the K-6 Classroom; Digital Writing for English Language Learners; Energize Research Reading and Writing; Pathways to the Common Core; Reviving Disengaged Writers; Connecting Comprehension and Technology.

Our presentation is also informed by the presenters’ professional study with organizations including the The Educator Collaborative; Apple Distinguished Educators cohorts; ISTE’s DigCit PLN; Teachers College Reading and Writing Project at Columbia University.

Further research comes from the following texts:

Fletcher, Ralph, and Joann portalupi. Writing Workshop: The Essentials Guide. Heinemann, 2001.

Golinkoff, R. & Hirsch-Pasek, K.. "Active, Engaged, Meaningful and Interactive: Putting the 'Education' Back in Educational Apps." The Huffington Post. January 10, 2014. Accessed December 22, 2014.

Harvey, S., Goudvis, A., Muhtaris, K. & Ziemke, K. 2013. Connecting Comprehension & Technology: Adapt and Extend Toolkit Practices. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Hicks, Troy. Crafting Digital Writing: Composing Texts across Media and Genres. Portsmouth: Heinemann, 2013.

Hicks, Troy. The Digital Writing Workshop. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2009.

Hobbs, Renee, and David Moore Cooper. Discovering Media Literacy: Teaching Digital Media and Popular Culture in Elementary School. Portsmouth: Corwin, 2013.

"Integrating Technology with Student-Centered Learning." The Nellie Mae Education Foundation -. Accessed March 31, 2015.

Konnikova, M. "Being a Better Online Reader." The New Yorker, July 16, 2014. Accessed December 3, 2014.

McConatha, D., Penny, C., Schugar, J., & Bolton, D. (Eds.) (2014) Mobile Pedagogy and Perspectives on Teaching and Learning. Hershey, PA: IGI Global Publishing.

Muhtaris, Katie, and Kristin Ziemke. 2015. Amplify: Digital Teaching and Learning in the K-6 Classroom. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Pahamov, L. 2014. "Making Reflection Relevant." In Authentic Learning in the Digital Age: Engaging Students Through Inquiry. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Tabor, S., & Minch, R. 2013. Student Adoption & Development of Digital Learning Media: Action Research and Recommended Practices. Journal Of Information Technology Education, 12203-223.

Ziemke, K. (2016) “Balancing Text and Tech: How it Isn’t an Either or Scenario.” Literacy Today, Jan/Feb, 24-25.

Ziemke, K., Goble, D. (2016) “Beyond Text: Literacy for a Digital Culture.” Literacy Today, Jul/Aug, 8-9.

More [+]


Rusul Alrubail, Parkdale Center for Innovation
Christopher Lehman, The Educator Collaborative
Kristin Ziemke, Big Shoulders Fund

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