Making Writing a Digital, Participatory Process

girl writing on a desk


Professional development, Preadolescents, Curriculum and instruction, Student engagement

District Partner

  • Ames

Project Duration

From 2017 to 2018

Background and Purpose 

This study focused on expanding professional development (PD) for upper-elementary school teachers. The study investigated how PD can be integrated into teachers' instruction in order to improve their ability to make writing a more digital, participatory process. 

Theoretical perspectives pertaining to technology use in education specified that students should be encouraged to create their own media rather than consuming information from other sources. An emphasis was placed on making this creation process a social one. However, recent research on preadolescents has shown that while these students are using technology more in schools, they are often using it to consume media rather than create it. 

Furthermore, literacy teachers in particular have identified barriers to effectively integrating technology into their curriculum. Thus, there is a critical need for PD that helps teachers more effectively integrate technology into their classrooms. 

The objective of this study was to develop a PD model that helped teachers engage students in writing as both a digital and social process. The essential elements studied in this model included the following:

  • sustained PD including the gradual release of teacher inquiry,
  • writing as a social practice, and
  • the use of digital tools to engage students in writing. 

The researcher studied the implementation of this PD model in summer institutes and in teacher classrooms through both qualitative and quantitative data. 


  • The current standards and curriculum do not align with the changes needed to foster new media literacy
  • Teachers want to integrate technology into the literacy curriculum, but the tools needed for this integration can be overwhelming
  • Professional development must become easier to understand and more cross-sectional to help teachers not only integrate digital tools into their curriculum but feel fully comfortable with the tools as well

Resulting Publications

Follow-On Grants


Emily Howell headshot
Howell, Emily

Assistant Professor, School of Education, Clemson University