Center for Digital Education & Converge: research in education technology for K-12 and higher education

Technology Jumpstarts Student Writing in Rural School

on October 7, 2013

Technology integration has helped improve the writing abilities of students in a rural Tennessee middle school.

Hickman County Middle School in Tennessee is embracing technology and online tools as part of its culture. Students have applied skills they’ve learned from online programs, resulting in a noticeable improvement in their writing.

Teacher Gayle Mathis has been using SAS Curriculum Pathways for the past three years. During that time, her students’ writing scores on state tests have gone up significantly. Since the school year started in August, she estimated that her students' writing abilities have doubled.

In addition, “Writing Planner,” one of the tools contained in SAS Curriculum Pathways, enables students to brainstorm an introduction, a conclusion, sentence openers and transitions. The tool provides sample sentence openers and transition words that the students can pick.

The technology has had an immediate impact on the quality of students’ work.

"I was jumping up and down with some of the writings that I had graded," Mathis said. "I hear their voices when I'm reading their writing, and I can just tell how much they have grown, and that's making me so happy."

The school is using a variety of other online educational tools. One is NoRedInk.com, a program that customizes grammar and writing quizzes for students based on what they're interested in. Another is Newsla, which allows students to build their reading comprehension with daily news articles at easy, medium and hard levels.

Hickman County Middle School doesn't have many resources at its disposal. But the school uses what it has to the max, especially when it comes to technology, said Jeremy Qualls, the school’s principal. He added that while 70 percent of students qualify for the federal free and reduced lunch program, 73 percent of them have smartphones, which makes learning with online tools a key step to effectively preparing students for the next level.

"If we don't integrate technology into our schools period, we're losing a battle," Qualls said. "We're trying to train kids for relevancy and current things going on, and we're trying to train them for jobs that are not even created yet that will be dealing with technology."


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Tanya Roscorla

Tanya Roscorla covers education technology in the classroom, behind the scenes and on the legislative agenda. Likes: Experimenting in the kitchen, cooking up cool crafts, reading good books.

E-mail: troscorla@centerdigitaled.com
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