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Evaluate when to introduce a digital writer’s notebook
The first few weeks of the writing year revolve around establishing workshop procedures and identifying writer expectations. This includes introducing and explaining the writers’ notebook.
For many, this may be a spiral or composition book, a pocket folder, or three-ring binder. But for those with 1:1 technology–where every student has their own device–this is where the digital writer’s notebook comes into play.
Digital notebooks have great value in the 21st Century writing classroom. It’s vital that students learn how to read off a screen, collect notes and pre-write off a screen, and then compose a first draft on a screen. However, it may be a good idea to delay the roll-out of the digital notebook.
If the first weeks are intended to establish writer behaviors, build writer stamina, and in general get kids writing during Writing Time, evaluate whether using a digital notebook would be helpful. Do students remember how to access their folders on the server? Do they know how to title and name digital documents? Can they independently locate Google documents? Often, the answer is no to these questions–not without significant support and/or review. Consequently, instead of 10-15 minutes spent writing, students are actually engaged in troubleshooting technology issues.
Consider postponing the start of a digital notebook for a couple weeks. Instead, provide each student with 20-30 sheets of paper stapled together. Identify this as the “temporary paper notebook.” This will buy the teacher some time to execute the necessary technology lessons outside of the writer’s workshop. Then, once kids are savvy with the tech and writer procedures are established, replace the paper notebook with a digital one.