Writing with iPads 2: Putting Words on “Paper”

Apps 4 Writing


INTRODUCTION:
In Writing with iPads 1: Brainstorming & Organizing,  I covered how to get kids to start thinking about writing – topics and ideas to start those wheels turning, and then how to organize some of those ideas, whether with a traditional mindmap, or with little post-it notes that could be rearranged.  This section will describe some apps which can be used to actually get words onto paper (such as it is…), and allow editing.  Aside from Dragon Dictation, they all provide basically the same functions: writing and editing with the ability to save into Google Drive.  You need to play around with each one and determine which one suits you best.

Dragon DictationDRAGON DICTATION:  This app allows the writer to speak into the iPad and have his/her ideas converted to text.  I can see this as being especially beneficial for students who struggle with keyboarding or handwriting.  You tap the ‘+’ sign in the upper bar, the red button to start recording, tap the screen when you’re finished talking, and everything you’ve said appears on the screen in text format.  You cannot save to GDrive, but you can copy (don’t worry about highlighting – it just copies everything) and then open another app, such as one of the ones below, and paste.  You can then edit and save to GDrive.

PaperDesk LTPAPERDESK LT:  The app is probably the most intuitive of the ones described here.  It looks like a notebook with a menu (that can be switched from one side to the other).

 

  • the audio adds an audio file – it does not change the audio to text.
  • you can import pictures from your iPad or a picture you take.
  • You can make different paper, including graph paper and a musical staff
  • You can type words, or write them with your stylus (or finger)
  • Tracks the number of words.

NoteMaster LiteNOTEMASTER LITE:  NoteMaster is a pretty straightforward notetaking app.  It’s designed to have writing done with a keypad (as opposed to handwriting).  One can insert pictures and drawings, although the drawings are turned into pictures, and not actually on the note itself.

 

  • No audio
  • Can import pictures from your iPad, the camera, or a drawing (opens up a new page where you make your drawing, save it, and it’s inserted into the previous page of notes).
  • different colored papers available, but no graph paper or musical staffs.
  • Has easily selected themes with different fonts and a slider bar for font size.
  • Menu on the left shows all your folders of notes.
  • If you toggle on the hyperlinks mode, any phone numbers, emails, or URLs will become ‘hot’ or clickable.

NotabilityNOTABILITY:  Probably the most inclusive of the writing apps highlighted here.  This app will also be featured in my papers on Reading with iPads as a great way to get students to actively read.  Depending on your taste, this will either provide you with tools you will love, or with too much ‘extra’ stuff you would rather do without.

  • Audio notes can be inserted, but not changed to text.
  • Importing media includes photos from your iPad, the camera, figures (shapes and lines of varying thicknesses and fill), web clips (sends you to either Google or Wikipedia; when you click ‘done’ it takes a screen shot and inserts it into your notes as a picture), and stickies (four available varieties of post-its you can drag onto your notes and draw on, &/or add captions to).
  • Bookmarking feature
  • Search function
  • Various paper colors (15) and line thicknesses (4) and graph paper sizes (4).
  • Includes an optional left-handed mode


GDrive
GOOGLE DRIVE:  While we usually think of Google Drive (GDrive) as strictly for storage, you can also create documents and spreadsheets within the app.  There are no fancy frills such as handwriting or different colors of paper.  You can do basics.  The main advantage to using GDrive for word processing is that others can collaborate at the same time from any other computer (desktop, tablet, laptop, etc.).

Office2 HDOFFICE2 HD:  This handy app is actually quite powerful. It will take any of your existing Microsoft Office files (Excel, PowerPoint, Word) and allow you to edit them on your iPad.  You can then save them to GDrive.  While I’m not sure I would START a document on this app, and I would not recommend it to students, it sure is nice to be able to work with all my old files!

What other apps do you recommend for teaching writing to students with iPads?  Do you have specific lesson plans or processes you follow?

Fixing Bad (Writing) Habits

artwork: youngwritersconference.org

I’m really excited because this week I’m scheduled to guest teach a writing class for fourth graders.  My goal is to unteach some of the bad habits these students have learned over the years with Power Writing.

Don’t get me wrong; I think Power Writing has it’s place as an introductory method of illustrating the parts of a paragraph.  But when, as a 7th grade Language Arts teacher, almost every student would hand in an essay that ended with, “In conclusion, I think that…” I just about took my flair pen and embedded it in my retina.  Topic sentences don’t always have to be at the beginning of a paragraph, and what happened to concluding sentences providing one last piece of information – one last, new image for the reader to consider?  How do students transition from the blocky essays of my 7th graders to the fluid, interesting examples one hears on NPR?  Somewhere, students have to unlearn those bad habits taught in elementary classrooms with programs such as Power Writing, and it might as well start with me.

BACKGROUND:  Mrs. P., their teacher, wants her students to write a paragraph on something for which they are thankful so that she can put up her Thanksgiving bulletin board in the hallway in time for Parent/Teacher conferences.  Got it.  Good to have a reason for the lesson.

TECHNIQUE:  Subversion.  They’ll never know what hit ’em.

PLAN:  This week during regular journaling time, students are writing a list of things they like.  Not what they are thankful for, but what they like.  This will serve as their idea list for Thursday.  On Thursday, I will come in and perform a Writing Think Aloud for them as I write about something I’m thankful for.  I will not start with, “I am thankful for my mom and dad for three reasons.  First…”  Instead, I plan on telling them a story, giving them sensory details and maybe even some dialogue, using strong verbs and avoiding ‘be.’  They will hear how I vacillate with my word choices and sentence structures.  They will witness how entire sentences are deleted and replaced without hurt feelings.  And then when I finally hit them with the topic sentence of what I’m thankful for at the end of the paragraph, all that narrative tension will find release.

Whew.

Try it.  Join me in fighting the bad habits taught to students everywhere by the evil Power Writing Curriculum!