Using EdTech tools to provide real contexts for student writing

Gavin Hawkins, CEO of Squirrel Learning Limited and a Board Member of Naace (the UK EdTech Association) shares his views on opportunities and future of EdTech.

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The article “Simplifying Digital Learning Through Real Life Experiences,” written by Sesh Seshadri of Twig Education in the Nov/Dec 2021 edition of All About Book Publishing, resonated with a drive here in the UK to find contextual opportunities for young people to benefit from the rise in EdTech provision within schools.

Balancing EdTech opportunities…

For too long, there has been a disconnect between the objectives of the Computing curriculum, where coding and programming are perceived to have a greater weighting than other aspects of digital literacy and multimedia. And whilst it is true that we need to motivate young people to enter the worlds of software development and cyber security, for example, we also need to find engaging ways to encourage other young people to enter the spheres of digital publishing, film, and audio content.

Film can be a great motivator and stimulus for young people and is an ideal medium for engaging with curriculum opportunities, experiencing other worlds, suspending disbelief, and broadening horizons beyond their locality.In addition to film, the written word can have a similar effect; we have all experienced that wonderful feeling of being “lost” within a book as we become immersed in the author’s descriptions of character, settings and action.

So, given the importance we place on young people understanding the writing process, and the complex teaching required to encourage detailed descriptions or character development, why are so many of those writing opportunities restricted to the eyes of the teacher only and are never shared beyond the classroom? Should we not be placing the same value on young people’s creativity as we do on their ability to sequence and de-bug algorithms, for example?

GoWrite…

At Squirrel Learning, we have developed our own collaborative writing platform which provides a real context for young people’s writing. With GoWrite, pupils have an authentic audience for their writing – their classmates, teachers, and parents. Children respond to a stimulus, often written by a published children’s author. When they have finished their response, which could be a follow-on chapter, a poem, a piece of non-fiction, etc. they peer-review each other’s work anonymously to decide a class winner for each piece of writing.

The process continues until the teacher has decided that the writing is complete and there are sufficient contributions to publish a book. Once the book has been “finished,” individual copies of the book are printed using our print-on-demand service and all participants receive a personalised copythat includes their own writing, with the names of all participants included as a contributor.

The true purpose of creative writing is of course to be published and GoWrite provides fantastic motivation for pupils to not just write, but to write to the best of their ability.

Curriculum opportunities…

GoWrite is deliberately designed to create memorable writing opportunities that can be easily adapted to school planning formats and teaching expectations. Increasingly we see it used in language lessons to support writing as teachers set curriculum targets or focus on specific objectives.

In addition to formal language learning, GoWrite is used to enhance cross-curricular writing in contexts such as science, history, or geography where non-fiction narrative is required.

The platform supports pupils across the age spectrum with very young children accessing the platform with support, to older young people writing independently or collaboratively with other young people in different classes, schools or even countries.

Parental engagement…

As young people become increasingly confident in their writing ability, proud parents want to share their progress with other family members and friends and additional copies of the published book make for ideal gifts or as a record of their child’s language progress.

Sharing the writing journey with parents at a publishing celebration event brings a school community together in a positive way and can help engage parents with the writing process that goes on within schools.

EdTech is the future…

EdTech provides the tools to ensure that young people have meaningful and engaging experienceswithin real-world contexts. This ensures that high level strategies and expectations are met through innovation and creativity and who knows, we may just find the next million selling author in the process (and they may still be at school…!)

GoWrite will shortly be available to schools and teachers in India, for further details visit our website https://go-write.co.uk/

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