ICTs are not a magic or quick fix to get students writing. But to NOT use them when they are available would be a mistake. The classroom teacher needs to do more than just let a student go on the computer to type something up - there needs to be a hook. For most students (and certainly the ones I've worked with) the hook is their audience. Even the 6 & 7 year olds recognized that blogging created an amazing audience for their writing and resulted in them thinking and working harder on their writing.

Dean Groom writing in a post entitled 'So you think your robot can dance?' talks about his 6 year old son encountering blogging for the first time:
"...and I was pretty impressed when Mr6 renamed himself for the blogging and feedback session. He’d never written a blog post before, but soon made short work of it. I don’t think he needs to learn to blog, he needs a reason to."

He went on to say:
The future of innovation and learning is not by dividing kids into ages and subjects. The future is by creating places that they want to go to learn. That means selecting people who can innovate and providing spaces that support it.

Those spaces include online spaces. I can't say this more clearly - It is imperative that students have a purpose for writing. If they have no purpose then why would they bother to write? One of the best that I've found is the medium of blogging.

In my classroom, students have a choice when it comes to story and topic writing. They can write by hand if they wish, and some do. Or they can use Google Docs to draft their writing.

The differences between the two are quite profound in several ways.

When they write in their book, conferencing has to be done at school with both the student and me present. When they go away from the conference they have to remember what I’ve said - something quite difficult for many to do. They then have to work out how to do their re-crafting, and once that’s done, they have to publish to their blog (which is where their writing often goes).

When they write their story in a document conferencing can take place anywhere - I often read and comment in my own time - as do many of my students. I write my comments down and they will comment back or ask questions to clarify my meaning. Sometimes we conference at the same time and my students feel very empowered working together with me even though we may be quite a distance apart. The students don’t have to remember what I’ve said - it’s there for them to read.

Once they've finished their story - having gone through the draft, edit, re-crafting process - they then publish it to their blog. I use as our blogging platform. Each student has the freedom to post their own stories and posts as well as the ones we do as a class. Some of these are then posted to our class blog.

I'm still learning about how to use ICTs in the classroom to best support my students. I find new things all the time and have to work out what it is my students are going to use. What a fantastic dilemma to be in - there are so many different experiences our students can have, especially to support writing.

These, then, are my conclusions - thus far:

1. Writing has to have a purpose
2. Writing doesn't always mean putting pen to paper
3. Writing is a personal experience
4. Writing can be collaborative
5. We need to provide our students a range of choices/media to write in

My journey into the unknown - the 'here-be-dragons' territory - opened up more questions than were answered. However, I hope that what you've read here has provoked your thinking about writing in your classroom.

How do you work with ICTs in your classroom? Please add your voice to this conversation below:

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