George Lucas Educational Foundation

Tech Success

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Now Playing» Band: Afghan Wigs Record: 1965 So, you say you have a reluctant writer? Don’t we all? Little ones, big ones, old ones, young ones, defiant ones––What do you do? Well, I’ve found that if you let those anti-writers compose within their “own” medium, they usually at least...write. They are getting “black on white” (I forget you said that). It might be a comfort thing or a physical thing or just a plain old interest thing, but they are writing. Blogs, Wikis, Nings, text messaging, I’m sure you’ve heard it all. But what about Power Point? And in the words of the Beastie Boys (And many other rap artists), “Check it out!” I teach third grade in New Jersey. Last year I had the most defiant/reluctant writer in my ten years of teaching. He did absolutely nothing. I gave him the usual freedoms I give all of my students: different types of paper, you can sit anywhere in the room (even on desks and under desks), choice of style and genre, pen or pencil, journals, pads, computers. Now, I thought that that last freedom, the “computer thing,” was going to get him. It didn’t. So, I went further. I let him compose on Power Point. Believe it or not, that did it. He started to get black on white, his career as a writer took flight on the wings of Power Point. As long as he was on the computer, using Power Point, he wrote and revised everyday. The scary thing was that when a computer wasn’t available, he reverted back to doing nothing. I kept him in the computer as much as possible. Will he do well on a state test? Probably not. Did he discover that he is indeed a writer? Absolutely. I thought it was a comfort thing, a physical thing, and an interest thing for him. I was wrong. It was a video game thing. I asked him a few times during the year why he did his best work in Power Point. He looked at me like I was crazy. His eyes said, “Why don’t you know this answer, Mr. P.?” Then he simply answered, “ Dude, I can make the words fly and the pages turn really cool and I can add real pictures from the Internet. I can’t draw.” Power Point is a writing video game. Amazing! What are your stories of success with tech? Talk to me, goose.

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Elana Leoni's picture
Elana Leoni
Edcamper, Former @Edutopia, Founder of Social Media Marketing Consultancy aimed at helping educational orgs.

Hi Gaetan,

Truly amazing to think that PowerPoint got him so engaged! Do you use other technology tools to engage students? I know many teachers that have been successful using Wordle or Voicethread.

To Betty's comment, I know teacher, Vicki Davis, gets her students engaged by having them test and create video games. Perhaps it might be a natural next step for this gaming whiz?

We've also written about a great nationwide writing program, NaNoWriMo, in which students write novels -- for fun. Might be another good option.

Gaetan Pappalardo's picture
Gaetan Pappalardo
Teacher, Author, Guitar––Word.

Hey ladies,

Thanks for the comments. Patience, persistence, and understanding of the trade is key, especially in writing. I hear teachers discussing how their students can't write in the teacher lounge much too often. "Joey is a good writer, but his essay just stinks." Joey is not an essayist. He writes fiction. This really is a problem all around. Just because you are a great quarterback, doesn't mean you can punt the ball. You don't see JK Rowling writing magazine articles, do you? Most writing assessments(state test) only test one type of writing in a thirty minute first draft. I can go on forever, but I won't. (for now)

Yes, I use podcasting, blogging, wikis, and song writing and recording to engage students. I plan to blog about each one individually in the future. stay tuned.

Peace, love, and fuzzy monkeys--Gaetan

Erika Saunders's picture
Erika Saunders
6th-8th Special Ed, LS & Mentally Gifted teacher

Wow! I never would have thought of using PowerPoint! What an awesome idea. I really love writing and getting kids excited about it. I've tried a lot of different ideas but never thought of using PowerPoint.

Thanks for the great tip! I can't wait until you start blogging!


Dwight Carter's picture
Dwight Carter
Principal, Gahanna Lincoln High School/Gahanna Jefferson Public Schools


Way to go! Thanks for sharing how you used Power Point to help a student write. Keep up the great work!


Linda Hoffman's picture


In my educational dream world, each student in my class would have his or her own laptop to use in class and at home, so they could always have access to this type of work!


Troy Hicks's picture
Troy Hicks
Director of the Chippewa River Writing Project, Central Michigan University

Hi Gaetan,

Like everyone else who has responded so far, I agree that you developed a unique approach to helping this writer. One other point that I would encourage you to think about is the idea that a writer using multimedia can and should take advantage of the media to compose texts that otherwise would not be possible.

For instance, in his chapter, "Digital Picture Books: From Flatland to Multimedia," from the book Teaching the New Writing: Technology, Change, and Assessment in the 21st-Century Classroom, Kevin Hodgson describes the ways in which his students created stories using a slideshow program and, when asked to print out their work, they noted how they felt the stories didn't feel nearly the same as the multimedia composition.

So, I am always thinking about what I ask students to do when they compose multimedia texts and whether or not we are using the media just for its own sake, or because the media will truly enhance the text in ways that print alone can not.

Good luck with your project and we look forward to hearing more soon!


Gail Desler's picture
Gail Desler
Technology integration specialist for the Elk Grove USD (south Sacramento)

Gaetan, I'm looking forward to sharing your story with elementary teachers in my district. I think 200+ ways to be a writer would make a great conversation starter. Much like 50 ways to tell a story.

Gaetan Pappalardo's picture
Gaetan Pappalardo
Teacher, Author, Guitar––Word.

For this little bean, the media did two things. It turned an otherwise boring subject to him(and difficult)into something interesting which inspired him to write, to work harder. It gave him a style and voice. It showed him that he is in fact a writer. I think teachers often forget that being a writer means many things. There are so many different types of writers out there. It's no different with kids. Some kids are fiction writers, essayists, poets, etc... Barry Lane's book, But How Do you Teach Writing?, fills a whole page with different types of writers. Maybe 200 or more.

I learned to write in my bedroom, not school. "Sad, but True."(Metallica) My style wasn't "right for school."
I try to change this outlook everyday. The bridge between home (pop culture) and school needs to be shorter.

Kathy F's picture
Kathy F
6th grade writing teacher

I just joined this blog, and I am glad I did. I teach 6th grade writing in NJ as well. We all know that writing is not a favorite among most students. I love all of these ideas. I knew technology was the way to engage my students, and I love these ideas. I try to use my SmartBoard as often as I can in class. My students are always enthralled and engaged during these lessons. BTW, they all love creating their own PowerPoint presentations. I have had parents argue with me that that is not considered writing. I counter my telling them that it is in fact writing; it just happens to be a different genre/medium than the traditional that they did when they were in school. Great ideas, Gaetan!

Keith Rosko's picture
Keith Rosko
Visual Arts teacher from Chenango Forks, NY

Hey Gaetan,
I love that Power Point got your student so motivated and was a success!
Smacks of the visual learner and the value of media literacy.
You could also think about Prezi (similar to but way more fluid than Power Point), Voice Threads, Glogster (just had a student show me that one), and my personal favorite - Comic Life.
Sounds like your enough of a flexible thinker that you might get some great use out of these.

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