Chapter 6:  Writing to Learn
Against the backdrop of traditional definitions of writing as a mode of producing texts, in this chapter we explore writing practices used in support of learning in various disciplines.  Writing itself supports students’ learning by helping them focus their attention in a  sustained way to clarify thinking, enable a record of their thoughts and observations, honing understanding through drafting and revising their ideas, and communicating to others.

For example, by taking careful, detailed notes of one’s observations of a chemistry experiment, students are using their writing to learn to focus on details of chemical reactions, as well as creating a record of their experience for use in analyzing the results of an experiment.  Students learn to use writing to record observations as evidence to support or refute certain claims about certain scientific phenomena.  For example, they formulate the claim that the moon changes its shape as it moves across the sky, and then observe the moon or a virtual simulation of the moon, reflecting on how and why their observations support or refute their claim (Castek, Goss, & Tilson, 2011).  By noting that the moon appears to be changing its shape, it’s actually changing due to the light projected onto the moon in a way that’s similar to planets.  

And, rather than perceiving writing simply as producing texts, writing to learn can also be perceived as a way of experiencing oneself in the world through the act of writing about one’s experiences(Yagelski (2012).  The recent rapid transition to multimodal text production and reading has catalyzed renewed interest in ways writing and reading are integrated when students learn.  So, some of the content here is also noted in Chapter 5.   Separate Chapters on Reading Digitally to Learn and Writing Digitally to Learn are more a way to manage the complex of subtopics than a belief that they can be so neatly packaged.  Rather, we believe that the two processes are naturally integrated literacy practices that are often brought to bear in tandem when students learn in the disciplines.  The following are topics that we will discuss in-depth in Chapter 6.
  • Creating Engaging Writing Contexts
  • Using Note-taking and Outlining Apps
  • Overview of our Favorite Note-taking and Outlining Apps
  • Literacy Practices Supported by Using Note-Taking and Outlining Apps
  • Criteria for Assessing the Effectiveness of Students' Uses of Note-Taking and Outlining Apps
  • Literacy Practices Supported by Uses of Dictating/Translating Apps
  • Mind-Mapping Apps and Literacy Practices Supported by Mind-Mapping Apps
  • Using Blogging/Twitter Apps to Voice Opinions or Ideas
  • Using Writing Apps to Generate Extended Texts and Engage in Collaborative Writing
  • Collaborative Writing Using Wikis
  • Apps for Creative Fiction Writing
  • Apps for Giving Feedback on Writing
  • Apps for Editing Writing
  • Apps for Sharing and Publishing and Literacy Practices Supported by Sharing and Publishing Apps