Don Johnston Incorporated Writing Organizer Software
New writing organizer software which assists in visual mapping, and writing scaffolding technology.
Type of product: Writing Organizer Software: visual mapping and writing scaffolding technology
Specific: Building Tool – Curriculum
Pricing: stand-alone license $149 / unlimited site license $768
Best for: Principal, Special Education Director, ESOL Educators, General and Special Education Teachers, AT Specialists
In 2006-07, Santina Brown, AT Specialist at Fairfax County Public Schools and educators at Orange Hunt Elementary School designed a Technology Writing Program using Draft:Builder, a graphic organizer and Write:OutLoud, a talking word processor, to improve students’ writing mechanic skills, (spelling, capitalization and punctuation) and composition skills, (central idea, elaboration, organization, unity). They identified 5th graders who were writing below grade level and ESOL learners.
Ms. Brown shared, "We knew that if we did not provide extra writing support and time to help students practice their skills, they would not be successful on the VA state writing exam.” Early in the program, they tried several writing tools and saw students quickly ‘catch on’ to Draft:Builder. They liked the instructional scaffolds that helped students focus on one writing concept and express themselves more clearly.
Students attended the program three days a week for 1.5 hours each period. The groups would meet to complete the previous day’s writing and frequently break into smaller groups to work on grammar and language writing skills.
"This consistent writing approach proved successful," continued Mrs. Brown. "It was wonderful to read our students’ essays, see how they used the talking spell checker and listen to them read aloud using words they would never write with paper and pencil.”
A key to student success was getting students excited about a new way to learn using technology. “Over the course of six months we saw them excited to be in the class! They skipped recess to come and write! Toward the end of the class, they were so focused you could hear a pin drop. That was a special moment to see their hard work pay off!”
The results were rewarding for administrators, general educators and parents. Writing samples were presented and one teacher expressed that she had never seen this kind of writing from students before.
At the end of the 06-07 school year, a high percentage of students in the first technology writing class passed the VA state writing test. This led the team to broaden the program in 2007-08 to support more students and collect more data. Again, they saw repeatable results. Of the eight students whose writing was a part of this data collection project, six passed the writing portion—one with an advanced score. Of the two students who did not pass, one did not use the technology on the state exam while the other was close to a passing score.
Replicable Results Using Technology
Ms. Brown summarized, “As educators, we know that the combination of a collaborative team, the right technology, solid instruction and time-on-task will improve results for the most struggling learners. We saw renewed confidence in their abilities to achieve success. They were proud of the new writing skills they developed and the voice inside them that came out using the technology. Our students have come a long way in their writing skills and have developed the motivation necessary to continue life-long learning.”