Center for Educational Transformation

Making Writing a Digital, Participatory Process

Emily Howell


  • Emily Howell, Assistant Professor, School of Education, Clemson University (formerly at Iowa State University)



ABSTRACT: This study is focused on developing professional development (PD) for upper-elementary school teachers and investigating how it can be integrated into teachers' instruction to improve their ability to make writing a more digital, participatory process. 

Theoretical perspectives pertaining to technology use in education specify that this use should emphasize students creating rather than consuming information from media sources and that this creation process should be social. However, recent research on preadolescents has shown that while these students are using technology more in schools, they are often using it to consume rather than create information. 

Further, literacy teachers, in particular, have identified barriers to integrating technology effectively 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 is to develop a PD model that helps teachers engage students in writing as both a digital and social process. The essential elements studied in this model include 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 will study the implementation of this PD model in summer institutes and in teacher classrooms through both qualitative and quantitative data.