Building 21st Century Writers
This was a question recently posed by THE Journal in an article about building 21st century learners. “Writing isn’t typically the first skill that comes to mind when one imagines a high-tech learning initiative.” We happen to disagree, fourth-grade teacher Arlene Anderson at Saugus Union School District explains why:
If students do better in writing, they’ll do better across the board in other subject areas.
Saugus received software and netbooks as part of the Student Writing Achievement Through Technology Enhanced Collaboration initiative, an initiative that encourage writing across the curriculum.This initiative, also known as SWATTEC, is helping to prove that schools can see improvement in student achievement and engagement by harnessing 21st century tools to enhance writing skills.
Writing itself is a higher-order area of the curriculum in terms of thinking. If students do better in writing, they’ll do better across the board in other subject areas.
Anderson’s thoughts here are echoed across the education community. Writing enlists students to be active in their own learning process, as well as encourages them to think critically and communicate clearly. Therefore, better writers become better learners.
Saugus made use of our MY Access!® platform to get their students writing and revising, but motivating students to continue the writing process is what is important for all learners. We certainly do not have the monopoly on this process, as it is indeed a state-of-mind rather than a simple program. Successful implementation cannot occur without commitment across all areas of learning and follow through to see results. MY Access! simply allowed these classrooms to better build 21st Century writers through the use of their technology.
The obstacle before was the rewriting; they just don’t want to rewrite an entire handwritten report to improve it. If that’s the simplest thing you take away, because on a computer you don’t have to rewrite the entire assignment, then you add the collaboration and sharing that the web provides, it transforms writing from a dull, monotonous task to one of the most exciting things you can do at school. - Dan Maas, CIO Littleton Public Schools
The now-exciting task of writing really pays off for the students:
…Researchers noted that, after the first year of implementation, test scores for Littleton fifth-graders improved by 25 percent and, for sixth-graders, 20 percent. In Saugus, writing scores improved 10 percent when the writing program was available part of the year and 23 percent when available the entire school year. Similar improvements for English language arts scores were 8 percent and 33 percent, respectively.
Also, Saugus’ fifth- and sixth-grade teachers report that students are coming out of the fourth grade with better writing and critical thinking skills than they had previously demonstrated.
So, why writing? It’s like asking “why thinking?” Proficiency in writing is critical in creating 21st learners and greatly enhances quality of life after graduation and beyond.