Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Using Technology to Engage Reluctant Writers

In 2015, I conducted a project with my students at Gudon National Primary School, Kota Kinabalu Sabah where I used technology such as blog and WhatsApp to engage reluctant writers. The project won the Cambridge University Press' Teacher Research Programme and I was given the opportunity to present the project at the 2016 IATEFL Conference in Birmingham, United Kingdom.

I have received e-mails and messages from a few colleagues, requesting for the materials from the project. I decided to compile everything here in this single post for easy access.

My IATEFL talk

Cambridge University Press has shared my IATEFL talk on its website, World of Better Learning. Here's an extract from the article:

This popular talk, filmed at IATEFL in Birmingham, centres around a project in a Malaysian school where digital resources were exploited to make writing activities more personalised and interactive.

Cindy noticed that her students spent a lot of time using technology, in particular their mobiles, and wanted to explore how she could use this to make writing a more positive experience for them.

(Go here to view the original post on World of Better Learning).

Here's the video of my presentation:

Link to Youtube video:

Teacher Research Programme (TRP)

I have also written three blog posts on my experience in conducting the project with my students - also published on World of Better Learning. Here are some snippets, and the link to the full article.

My students loved smart phones, computers and the internet. Technology made them excited. The examination writing paper requires the students to be good story-writers. I planned to start a project that revolves around using technology to engage my students in story-creating activities...Through this project, I hoped to be able to change my students’ attitudes towards writing and learning...

This project aimed to determine to what extent the use of technology tools can improve my students’ story-writing skills. To do this, I planned to use tools that my students were already familiar with. My students loved smart phones and they used WhatsApp as well as photo and video-editing software a lot. My intervention strategies included using these tools to create prompts for story-writing. I also wanted to see whether technology tools can be used effectively as a platform for students to share their works and receive interactive feedback from their peers.

Through the research, I learned that the most meaningful and effective learning can happen when students’ engagement is at its optimum level. Anything and everything that a teacher wants to achieve in her classroom can be achieved if students are engaged. I can bring all the latest pedagogical approaches, teaching strategies and sophisticated tools into the classroom, but if I fail to find out what engages my students and use it effectively to help them learn, I am going nowhere. As one of my students puts it, “Teacher, you’ve helped me learn what I need to learn by making me believe that I really want to learn it.”

The Project Report

The report for this project has been published by Cambridge University Press. It is available for download from this link:

The report has also been published in the form of a journal article, in the International Journal of e-Learning Practices, Volume 3, 2016, published by Universiti Malaysia Sabah. Here's the abstract:

Engaging Children in Story-writing Activities through Kidblog and WhatsApp
Narrative writing is any kind of writing that recounts a story. While the love of stories among children is innate, getting them to put the stories down in writing can be perceived as a daunting task, especially when the task is associated with a high-stake test. The use of story prompts through the integration of technology and writing pedagogy can make this task less daunting for children. This paper aims to present findings based on a project involving 31 Year 6 students in one suburban primary school. The strategy was to engage digital-native children in story-creating process through the use of blog and mobile apps like WhatsApp and editing software for images, videos and sounds. Students used mobile devices to create a story prompt (an image, a video or a sound clip) for writing a story. The students used the story prompt to stimulate ideas about the setting, the characters, the mood and the plot of a story. The stories and the story prompts were shared on the class blog and the class WhatsApp group. The students’ personal reflections in their reflective journals demonstrate the positive effects story prompts have on reluctant writers’ attitudes towards narrative writing. The students’ scores in pre-test, progress test and post-test also suggest that story prompts have a role to play in improving the students’ performance in narrative writing tests.

Here's the link to the journal article:

I'm also sharing here the  Powerpoint slides from my talk at the 2016 IATEFL Conference, Birmingham, UK.

My students working on their blog post at the school's computer lab

My students working on their blog post at the school's computer lab

My school where the project was conducted - Gudon National Primary School

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