Corey Dressel

5 Ways to Use Technology to Teach Writing

In Uncategorized on May 8, 2013 at 12:46 pm

The following list is adapted from a post submitted by Katie Lepi, entitled “10 Ways to Use Technology To Teach Writing.” This post in its entirety can be found on the website Edudemic.

Edudemic is a web-based resource whose entire purpose is to connect teachers, administrators, students, and just about everyone else with the best technology on the planet. They do this by featuring a regular flow of tools, tips, resources, visuals, and guest posts from dozens of authors around the world. Started in 2010, Edudemic is now one of the leading education technology sites on the web; it is a vibrant forum of discussion, discovery, and knowledge.


Many teachers report that students who get to be creative and use high-tech tools to augment their writing actually work harder, are more willing to revise, and want to create something that will be truly great, not just please the teacher.


Blogs force students to create writing that is geared toward a wider audience, which can give quite different results than asking students to craft an essay or a journal that will be read by the teacher alone. On these sites, students can work together to craft a classroom blog or work independently to develop a blog on a given topic. Much of the writing students will do in their future work may be digitally-based, so learning to write in the digital sphere is a key skill to develop. What’s more, most kids love getting the chance to share their writing through a blog, so it can be great motivation for reluctant writers.


There are already useful tech tools that teachers can use to teach students writing non-fiction. One such site is StudySync, which provides access to hundreds of digital books, offers weekly writing practice, has online writing and peer review, and even incorporates multimedia writing lessons. It offers a pretty rich assortment of tools that can be useful in helping teachers adapt to new standards, and in getting students at any level to learn to love (and excel at) writing.


Sadly, many students hate writing because they find it boring and not particularly useful. Many students just aren’t learning practical ways to apply what they learn and create. After all, when was the last time you had to write a five-paragraph essay for, well, anything? Experts suggest that teachers can facilitate greater student engagement through emphasizing the real-world purpose of student writing. The Web can be a valuable tool for doing that, as much of the communication students do these days is via online forum. Students can compare and contrast products, write short essays detailing their position on a particular issue, or even build research-based websites that can inform and educate readers.


When students are proud of the work they’ve done, they love seeing it in published. Additionally, knowing something will be published for others to see can motivate students to produce better work from the get-go. There are a wide range of publication options online that teachers can use to promote student work. Students can be featured on a school website or blog, but other sites offer different options. Google Drive and Zoho Writer make it possible to turn a writing assignment into a webpage and Yudu and Issuu help make them into a newsletter or e-book. Those are just a few of the many options out there that can help to get students excited about writing.

From Argument to Action: Project Nonprofit

In Uncategorized on May 8, 2013 at 12:19 pm


One way in which I integrate technical documents into lessons on reading and writing, is through a project that asks my students to create a nonprofit organization in response to the material presented in the memoir They Poured Fire on Us From the Sky (co-authored by Alepho Deng, Benson Deng, & Benjamin Ajak) and The Latehomecomer (written by Kao Kalia Yang). Both memoirs depict historical and current global events.

Each student is allowed to choose their organization’s focus based upon their subjective reaction to the material; however, it must focus on providing some sort of aid, service, relief, supplies, etc. to the people and regions presented in the memoirs. I encourage them to settle on an idea that they could literally picture themselves doing.

Part 1: the plan

In the first part of the project, students dive head first into research as they put together an extensive plan that outlines the various steps involved in creating and maintaining a successful nonprofit organization. Steps I suggest need to be included in each students’ plan include:

  • The establishment of the organization.
  • The details involved in actualizing an organization of this nature, to include the finite details of cost, administration, and necessary cooperation with other people or entities.
  • Ways to acquire membership/volunteers and the assignment of duties.
  • Ways to promote their organization and increase exposure to the public to gain interest and attention.
  • Possible fundraising activities and/or benefits to raise money and/or collect supplies, etc.
  • Ways to advertise events, fundraisers, and products.
  • Methods of controlling and managing the collection of products.
  • The procurement of funds for initial establishment, needed supplies (administrative supplies and supplies intended for the aid effort), and shipping, etc.
  • Potential venues that will enable them to raise public awareness (newspaper articles, local news broadcast, presentations at a local university or local book store—like the Blue Herron, etc.).

It is not a particular length that I require for this part of the project. I am looking at the extent of factual detail and realistic anticipation of necessary steps they’ve included, based off of their researched understanding of the process. This assignment requires students to enter a world most know next to nothing about. Students become very comfortable and proficient at researching ideas and topics, which sets them up to more effectively select appropriate sources for the next half of the project.

Part 2: the technical document

The second part of the project asks students to select and write one or two elements within their plan. The following list showcases just a few of the ideas students can consider when deciding what to do for this section of their project:

  • An article written to their local paper to inform the public, persuade them that something needs to be done, and effectively convince them to participate in their organizations goals.
  • The advertisement of a fundraiser they have planned to help raise awareness and money for their organization’s cause.
  • A grant proposal.
  • A letter to President Obama (or any politician) requesting that the United States focus on a certain aspect of aid or action.
  • A letter to a company trying to persuade them to:
    1. donate a product to the organization
    2. sell a product to the organization at cost or at a low cost
    3. partner with the student and the student’s organization
  • A speech—with PowerPoint—that the student would deliver to the UN, a high school, their college, etc.
  • A speech the student would deliver at a rally they have organized in support of their organization’s cause/effort.
  • The organization’s website.

Students study the art of logical persuasion while considering format and design. Though I have set the parameters of this project, it is their personal passions that drive them to create the most incredibly well thought out, researched, and well written projects. I firmly believe that taking the concepts of research and analysis out of the ethereal and into the real world for students, cements these practices and skills in their minds.

“This I Believe…” An assignment that combines textual writing with audio recording

In Uncategorized on May 2, 2013 at 3:01 pm

ASSIGNMENT: This I Believe…

My students’ final paper assignment asks them to consider what it is that they believe after our semester-long journey together.


They were exposed to documentaries, including I Am, Facing Sudan, and Hunted Like Animals. They had to read memoirs that depicted a wide variety of experiences, from love and heart-break, to the contemplation of Heaven and Hell, to suffocating and unbearable suffering.

Their life melted into local experiences and distant cultures. They found themselves living in small-town Wisconsin, flying over the Laotian mountains, and being dragged through the dry coarse sand of the unforgiving Ajakageer dessert. They froze at night with Craig; ached to the core of their being for love and protection with Benson, Alepho, and Benjamin; and, drowned with Yang’s family in the Mekong River.

I pushed them to write and then to write better. They read, created, researched, and learned. I presented lessons on logic and argument while they considered how they are persuaded and how they should attempt to persuade others. And, I challenged them to reconsider their theories and their ideals—the biases that came with them when they first entered the classroom on the first day of the semester.

When the semester is wrapping up and they prepare to leave this chapter in their life behind, they do not walk away the same as they walked in: the experiences and personal challenges presented in this course will forever have had an impact on them.

SO, then I ASK: Who are you? What is it that you believe?

With this assignment, I ask my students to finish the prompt: “This I believe…” with a personal and very inward response based on their experience with the contents presented in this course. This assignment is amended from the international organization, aptly named: This I Believe.


As their final paper/project, they are asked to write, record, and upload an audio version of a statement of their personal belief based off of this English 111 class. After submitting the text version of their statement, they then upload the audio version to a discussion board on D2L. I will then upload each audio recording to this blog as well as to the discussion board: Corey Dressel – This I Believe…

I warn them that they may find this assignment to be extremely challenging as it requires them to search deep within themselves. However, in this personal intimacy, they will find the content that will mark their pages in a way that no one else could do on their behalf.


Click on the link below to view the full version of the assignment sheet.

This I Believe… assignment sheet