Whether you love it or hate it, technology is front and center in our modern lives. At times the intrusion into our privacy and personal time is offensive, but every homeschooler loves putting library books on hold and paying bills without a check. So instead of fighting and bemoaning technology’s presence, let’s find ways to make it work for us and our homeschools.
Writing is one area that holds tremendous potential to help our children develop the skills they will need in the technological world they will be living in. It seems ironic there was a time people envisioned a paperless society, yet we are writing more than ever before. The need for powerful and correct writing increases every day, and we should teach our children to use the tools available to improve their writing.
Help Learning and Using the Fundamentals of Writing
All the technological tools in the world won’t help our students if they don’t have the necessary skills needed to construct a sentence, nor the organizational skills required to write an essay. First, they must learn the fundamentals of grammar and usage.
Online grammar instruction, like egummp.com, allow a student to proceed at their own pace and focus on learning the material, not just keeping up. Online programs are easy to use, challenge the student, and provides self-paced learning.
Once students have mastered the needed skills, they can then use web-based tools to check their writing for misspelling, incorrect usage, and even plagiarism detection. No spell checker is perfect, but the recent advances in this type of technology have been significant. Some useful tools include:
- Dictionary.com – Online dictionary
- Grammarly – Spelling and Grammar check
- Quetext – Free plagiarism detector
- Thesarus.com – Online thesaurus for finding the perfect word
Technology can go a long way to increase understanding of the fundamentals of grammar, as well as correct errors.
Using Technology for Collaboration in Writing
Using technology for writing collaboration in the homeschool isn’t usually considered, but it can be beneficial. Using platforms such as Google Docs or Evernote provide you with a non-confrontational means of correcting writing. For some children, this could be exceptionally useful.
When your child creates a Google Doc and then shares it with you, you can leave notes, make edits, and give feedback on the document. No red pen to increase everyone’s anxiety.
Google Docs can also be a great way to encourage a “pass-a-story” type game. Alternate back and forth with your child or children, as every person writes one sentence in the story. Who knows what you will create?
When You Don’t Know What to Write
Sometimes the hardest part of writing is coming up with the idea! Who doesn’t remember staring at a blank paper and being told to write a story? Your mind goes blank.
Don’t fear; endless ideas are just a click away.
Sometimes our children just need a little nudge, a bit of a prompt. Don’t panic; it’s not up to you as the parent to come up with the ideas either. Here are some places to get the creative juices flowing:
- NY Times Writing Prompts – current events, picture prompts, and opinion pieces
- Writer’s Digest Prompts
- Google “writing prompts for X grade,” you’ll have more than you could ever use
Pictures can also inspire writing, so think of something they’re interested in, find an image, and see how it sparks their imagination. Technology doesn’t have to be all academic, it can be used for softer skills as well.
How Technology Benefits the Struggling Learner
All students can benefit from the use of technology in their writing process, but it can be especially helpful for struggling students. Don’t be afraid and consider technology an avenue of “cheating.”
If you have a student with dyslexia or dysgraphia, you know the struggles they have getting their thoughts organized, much less error-free on a piece of paper. Technology can help them flourish and achieve their goals.
People with dyslexia tend to be visual learners, so web-based learning programs are appealing. They also find it difficult to type or write at a speed conducive to getting their thoughts on paper because they often struggle with spelling and mechanics. Speech-To-Text software can be extremely helpful in getting more advanced ideas from you dyslexic because they don’t feel trapped with only using words they can spell.
If you have a struggling learner, consider adding technology use to their language arts study. As they enter adulthood, knowing how to use these technologies successfully will only help them. No one will know nor care if they dictate an email when they’re 30 years old.
Have Your Homeschool Benefit from Technology
Technology is here, and instead of creating a false separation from it in our homeschools, let’s use it in a way that will benefit our children throughout their lives.
Whether it’s learning the in and outs of the English language, correcting a five-paragraph essay or searching for creative writing inspiration, technology can help if we will use it with an end-goal in mind.