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Promoting writing in learning using ICTs

Roger Matthews, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada


Voogt and McKenney (2007) observed that the lack of writing skills development in learning is a hindrance to development across all curricular areas for students and is a “substantial determinant of later academic performance” (p. 92). Wong et al. (2002) found that, when writing skills are not fully developed, the impact to learning is notable in students’ understanding and achievement in areas such as literary understanding, critical thinking as well as many specific curricular areas.

Students often find writing to be a difficult and frustrating task (Cihak and Castle, 2011). Many students require assistance with writing in order to successfully complete their academic requirements (Conroy, 2010). Students have demonstrated problems with writing ranging from basic sentence construction to more complex ideas such as organization and cognitive writing strategies (Cihak and Castle, 2011). Students who are deficient in the area of writing will find they are missing a key skill needed for success in both the academic and professional world and, as such, the “development of students' writing skills is therefore an explicitly formulated educational goal” (de Smet et al., 2014, p. 352).

The traditional modes of teaching writing in the classroom are not always effective and therefore other modes to promote writing in learning must be developed (Arslan and Sahin-Kizil, 2010).

Role of ICTs

Yang et al. (2005) suggested that using ICTS can “enhance interactions among students and the teacher over the conventional writing environment” (p. 214) and thereby benefit student writing. Rao et al. (2009) observed that through the use of ICTs teachers were able to enhance students’ engagement and subsequent development of writing skills. They noted that integration of ICTs “provides students with nontraditional avenues to practice and gain confidence with their writing skills” (p. 37).

Voogt and McKenney (2007) observed an increase in student literacy achievement when technology was used on a regular and frequent basis. The use of ICTs aids the development of student writing skills in organization and flow through tools such as electronic outlining (de Smet et al., 2014). Liu (2011) also observed the positive impact of computerized concept mapping on writing development. ICTs have a positive impact on the growth in students’ writing rate, writing quality and increase their opportunities for practice (Prest et al., 2010). When using an ICT such as online digital storytelling, Xu et al. (2011) discovered that student self-efficacy, in terms of writing abilities, increases.

Suwantarathip and Wichadee (2014), when examining the impact of Google Docs in writing instruction, observed that the use of ICTs can also enhance traditional means of writing development, such as collaboration, by adding a digital element which makes students more accountable for their contributions and actions. Seror (2013) postulated that “writing is no longer the solitary act it was” (P. 11) and that through ICTs students are better able to collaborate and access resources in the digital world than in the traditional writing classroom.

Through the use of ICTs known as e-portfolios Nicolaidou (2013) observed increased performance in student writing abilities and peer feedback. Seror (2013) found that the ICT known as screen capture technology provided students with recorded feedback of their own writing process and allows them to reflect and improve upon their development. Kilickaya and Krajka (2012) noted that the use of an ICT known as Comic Life, a type of comic strip creation software, led to increased engagement and improved grammar in writing for EFL learners.

Woo et al. (2011) noted that, through the use of ICTs such as wikis, students are provided with greater opportunities for peer feedback and collaboration which develop skills such as critical thinking, problem solving and writing. Nakamaru (2012) also observed a positive relationship between engagement with wikis and a growth in student writing skills and abilities.

ICTs such as blogs allow the teacher to extend the classroom beyond its four walls into the digital realm and thereby increase both student engagement and student contact with instructor, both in an effort to improve writing development (Arslan and Sahin-Kizil, 2010). Arslan and Sahin-Kizil (2010) also found that students who used blogs in their coursework surpassed those who didn't use them in ratings of writing content and organization.


Lovell and Phillips (2009) observed that teacher knowledge, comfort, preparation and planning were all barriers to using ICTs to promote writing in the classroom. Prest et al. (2010) suggested that the assignment of additional resources to teachers may help overcome these barriers.

Nair et al. (2013) observed that due to technical issues and poor time management skills, the use of computers for writing online was “distracting” (p. 118). Nakamaru (2012) argued that repetition of a given activity leads to greater and greater academic achievement over time, therefore writing online is something that needs to be revisited over time in order to become more effective.

Lovell and Phillips (2009) also argued that many of the ICTs available for purchase to promote writing were dated and based on decade-old technologies and teaching concepts. However they acknowledged that more up-to-date ICTs were available but had not made it to approved lists for use and, therefore, these lists need to be updated.

Lin et al. (2011) argued that using blogs did not result in an increase in student writing performance and that the time and energy spent on creating and maintaining these blogs were not worth the marginal gains made. Arslan and Sahin-Kazil (2010) found students who used blogs outperformed classmates who received only in class writing instruction.

Lovell and Phillips (2009) observed that many writing ICTs can be considered non-instructional and therefore have little value in the writing classroom. Kilickaya and Krajka (2012) argued that, rather than simply focus on instruction, ICTs “provide students with real-world tasks that have value outside the language classroom” (p. 163).

Works cited

Arslan, R. & Şahin-Kızıl, A. (2010). How can the use of blog software facilitate the writing process of English language learners?. Computer Assisted Language Learning, 23(3), 183-197. doi:10.1080/09588221.2010.486575

Cihak, D. & Castle, K. (2011). Improving expository writing skills with explicit and strategy instructional methods in inclusive middle school classrooms. International Journal of Special Education, 26(3), 9. Retrieved from: https://www.uv.uio.no/isp/forskning/aktuelt/aktuelle-saker/2011/dokumenter/journal_spec.ed.26%203.pdf

Conroy, M. (2010). Internet tools for language learning: University students taking control of their writing. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 26(6), 861-882. Retrieved from: http://www.ascilite.org.au/ajet/ajet26/conroy.html

de Smet, M., Brand-Gruwel, S., Leijten, M. & Kirschner, P. (2014). Electronic outlining as a writing strategy: Effects on students' writing products, mental effort and writing process. Computers & Education, 78, 352-366. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2014.06.010

Kilickaya, F. & Krajka, J. (2012). Can the use of web-based comic strip creation tool facilitate EFL learners' grammar and sentence writing?. British Journal of Educational Technology, 43(6), E161-E165. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8535.2012.01298.x

Lin, M., Lin, C. & Hsu, P. (2011). The unrealistic claims for the effects of classroom blogging on English as a second language, students' writing performance. British Journal of Educational Technology, 42(6), E148-E151. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8535.2011.01225.x

Liu, P. (2011). A study on the use of computerized concept mapping to assist ESL learners' writing. Computers & Education, 57(4), 2548-2558. doi: 10.1016/j.compedu.2011.03.015

Lovell, M. & Phillips, L. (2009). Commercial software programs approved for teaching reading and writing in the primary grades: Another sobering reality. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 42(2), 197-216. Retrieved from: http://www.ualberta.ca/~lphillip/documents/jrte-ft.pdf

Nair, S., Tay, L. & Koh, J. (2013). Students' motivation and teachers' teaching practices towards the use of blogs for writing of online journals. Educational Media International, 50(2), 108-119. doi 10.1080/09523987.2013.795351

Nakamaru, S. (2012). Investment and return: Wiki engagement in a "remedial" ESL writing course. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 44(4), 273-291. Retrieved from: http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ976469.pdf

Nicolaidou, I. (2013). E-portfolios supporting primary students' writing performance and peer feedback. Computers & Education, 68, 404-415. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2013.06.004

Prest, J., Mirenda, P. & Mercier, D. (2010). Using symbol-supported writing software with students with Down Syndrome: An exploratory study. Journal of Special Education Technology, 25(2), 1-12. Retrieved from: http://www.tamcec.org/jset-index/using-symbol-supported-writing-software-with-students-with-down-syndrome-an-exploratory-study/

Rao, K., Dowrick, P. W., Yuen, J. L., & Boisvert, P. C. (2009). Writing in a multimedia environment: Pilot outcomes for high school students in special education. Journal of Special Education Technology, 24(1), 27-38. Retrieved from: http://www.tamcec.org/jset-index/writing-in-a-multimedia-environment-pilot-outcomes-for-high-school-students-in-special-education

Seror, J. (2013). Screen capture technology: A digital window into students' writing processes / technologie de capture d'écran: Une fenêtre numérique sur le processus d'écriture des étudiants. Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology,39(3), 1-16. Retrieved from: http://www.cjlt.ca/index.php/cjlt/article/view/707/373

Suwantarathip, O. & Wichadee, S. (2014). The effects of collaborative writing activity using google docs on students’ writing abilities. Turkish Online Journal of Educational Technology - TOJET, 13(2), 148-156. Retrieved from: http://www.tojet.net/articles/v13i2/13215.pdf

Voogt, J. & McKenney, S. (2007). Using ICT to foster (pre) reading and writing skills in young children. Computers in the Schools, 24(3/4), 83-94. Retrieved from: http://engagingalllearners.wikispaces.com/file/view/Using+ICT+to+Foster+Reading+and+Writing+in+Young+Children.pdf

Wong, B. L., Kuperis, S. & Jamieson, D. (2002). Effects of guided journal writing on students' story understanding. Journal of Educational Research, 95(3), 179-191. doi:10.1080/00220670209596588