Supporting Young Writers through the Writing Process in a Paperless Classroom

Supporting Young Writers through the Writing Process in a Paperless Classroom

Rebecca S. Anderson (The University of Memphis, USA), Jessica S. Mitchell (The University of Memphis, USA), Rachael F. Thompson (The University of Memphis, USA) and Kim D. Trefz (Presbyterian Day School, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5982-7.ch017
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In this chapter, the authors describe fifth-grade students' perceptions of how digital tools support writing instruction in a paperless classroom. Extending a constructivist paradigm that embraces student-centered pedagogies, this study explores both the teacher's approach as well as the students' perceptions of the digital process approach to writing. An overview of each stage of the writing process is provided that includes research supporting digital writing tools for that stage. This is followed by the findings from each section which includes: 1) how the teacher implemented the digital writing tools, and 2) the students' perceptions of the digital tools. The chapter concludes by offering areas of future research as well as offering the limitations of the study.
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This study was grounded in a constructivist paradigm (Moll & Greenberg, 1990; Vygotsky, 1978) that embraces a shift away from teacher-centered classrooms to a learning environment where students explore and discover through social interactions with others. We also view the digital learning environment as an extension of such paradigms, agreeing with sociolinguistics (Gee, 2007; New London Group, 1996) that the social practices of society influence the ways literacy is created and valued. As Leu, Kinzer, Coiro, Castek, and Henry (2004) contend, understanding Internet practices “has become this generation’s defining technology for literacy in our global community” (p.1159). Likewise, this study considers that when technology is merged with constructivist classrooms, the resulting practice reflects an “insider mindset” (Knobel & Lankshear, 2005), transforming not only “what is to be learned,” but also “how it is to be learned” (p. 93; italics in original). Thus, adding digital tools to constructivist classrooms provide new avenues for students to engage with one another and reflect on their learning in ways that traditional classrooms cannot. For example, online discussion forums offer authentic contexts for students to share their views with others and reflect on their learning while at the same time eliminating the intimidation of face-to-face conversation by creating “safe space” for sharing viewpoints (Martin-Stanley, 2007). Additionally, digital tools within constructivist classrooms extend “participatory cultures” (Callahan & King, 2011; Jenkins, 2009) within larger classroom and school contexts by positioning students as both creators and distributors of knowledge.

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