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TEACHING AND LEARNING WRITING SKILLS IN A TECHNOLOGICAL AGE: A SELECTIVE MAPPING OF WRITING APPS ONTO A STRUCTURED MODEL OF THE WRITING PROCESS

J. Lievens

University of Leuven (BELGIUM)
Writing is a crucial skill in almost any field of study, both as a means for developing higher-order thinking skills and as the prevailing instrument in (inter)disciplinary communication. At the same time, writing is a deeply challenging activity that involves an intricate interplay of a variety of abstract cognitive processes and skills such as logical, reflective, metacognitive and evaluative skills, language proficiency, lay-outing skills and psycho-emotional attitudes. Being both a crucial and complex (academic) activity, writing is often targeted by tool developers who are now offering a profusion of software applications such as prodding tools, spelling and grammar checkers, plagiarism detectors, structuring and visualization tools, platforms for collaborative writing and so on. The large amount and wide range of tools make it difficult for students and teachers alike to navigate the technological options on offer. Which tools are useful, to which didactic end and in which stage of the writing process?

A survey study was conducted that aimed, firstly, to chart the available tools, secondly, to assess them on didactic affordance (using Puentedura's SAMR-model and the "seven affordances" model by Cope & Kalantzis) and finally, to map these tools onto a structured model of the writing process. The model that was chosen is the "spinner model", developed by writing researcher Sarah Haas. This flexible framework differentiates between five modes in the writing process ("exploring", "incubating", "unloading", "structuring and scribing" and "polishing and publishing") and each mode is then broken down to several moves. For example, constituent moves of the exploring mode are "brainstorming", "freewriting", "searching for information", "mapping", "reading and annotating" and "taking notes". In this study, then, a critical selection of useful apps was mapped onto each move. Additionally, this research project also surveyed, assessed and mapped tools for collaborative writing and for teaching writing. To validate the result, the map was submitted for review, elaboration and optimization to the "Expertmeeting" of NACV, the "network for academic communicative skills" in the Netherlands and Flanders (Belgium).

The main achievement of this study is the selective mapping of technological tools supporting (academic) writing onto a well-structured model of the writing process. This map will benefit both students and teachers of (academic) writing.