Technology in Higher Education: How does the technology support students’ academic writing?

Learning in higher education involves adapting to new ways of knowing related to understanding, interpreting, and organizing knowledge. Academic literacy practices reading and writing within disciplines. In other words, students constitute central processes through which they learn new subjects and develop their understanding of new areas of study (Lea & Street, 1998).

In this industrial revolution 4.0. in which everything is going to be digital, students in higher education are expected to critically curate various resources using digital tools to construct knowledge, produce creative artifacts and make meaningful learning experiences for themselves and others (ISTE, 2022). This point is stated in ISTE Standards for Students, particularly as a knowledge constructor (point 3). As a knowledge constructor, students are expected to:

a. plan and employ effective research strategies to locate information and other resources for their intellectual or creative pursuits.

b. evaluate the accuracy, perspective, credibility, and relevance of information, media, data, or other resources.

c. curate information from digital resources using various tools and methods to create collections of artifacts that demonstrate meaningful connections or conclusions.

d. build knowledge by actively exploring real-world issues and problems, developing ideas and theories, and pursuing answers and solutions.

Academic Writing in Higher Education Context

Generally, the writing process has four stages, as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. The Writing Process

Student academic writing is at the heart of teaching and learning in higher education. Students are primarily assessed by what they write and need to learn general literary conventions and disciplinary writing requirements to succeed in higher education (Coffin et al., 2003).

Cited from the University of Sydney (2022), academic writing has four main types (Types of academic writing): descriptive, analytical, persuasive, and critical. Each of these types of writing has specific language features and purposes. You will need to use more than one type in many academic texts. For example, in an empirical thesis:

  • you will use critical writing in the literature review to show where there is a gap or opportunity in the existing research
  • the methods section will be primarily descriptive to summarise the methods used to collect and analyze information
  • the results section will be primarily descriptive and analytical as you report on the data you collected
  • The discussion section is more analytical, as you relate your findings to your research questions, and also persuasive, as you propose your interpretations of the findings.

Moreover, another online reference can be seen in Common Writing Assignments on Purdue Online Writing Lab. Common writing assignments include argumentative, research, exploratory, annotated bibliographies, book reports, definitions, essays, and book reviews.

Role of Technology in Academic Writing

Inevitably, we get many benefits from technological advancement. In higher education, both lecturers and students find it easier to find various online resources for their academic purposes, particularly academic writing. To students, technology may not radically alter what they do when engaged in writing, but it does have a facilitating effect. It permits the rapid transfer of information, resources, and ideas among students and exchanges between students on different campuses or in other countries and cultures (Coffin et al., 2003). This benefit complies with ISTE Standards for Students, Point 3c.

Moreover, students can use technology to facilitate students’ control of academic writing. Applications can be primary (word-processing) or complex (such as running an entire course online using conferencing software). As shown diagrammatically in Figure 2, students can use some of the most relevant applications of the technology to develop student writing (Coffin et al., 2003).

Figure 2. Student writing and technology: a map of resources

Referring to the writing process stages in Figure 1, the followings are some applications used to support the writing academic writing process:

1. Prewriting

During the prewriting stage, writers explore a topic and plan the structure and content of the eventual piece of writing. Prewriting includes concept making, researching, and outlining. Some applications include MindMeister, MindMup, Mindmapping, Canva, https://bubbl.us/, padlet, http://watchdocumentary.org/, popplet, coggle.

2. Drafting

The PEEL strategy structures effective paragraphs by using the information from an outline. The acronym PEEL stands for Point, Evidence, Explanation, Link. 

A PEEL paragraph structure begins by establishing the point of your paragraph, citing evidence to support or illustrate the issue, then explaining the evidence and links between the topic and thesis. Some applications include https://www.essaybot.com, https://articlegenerator.org/, http://stripgenerator.com/, and https://www.pixton.com/

3. Editing

Students proofread the draft by checking language mechanics, citation, and format in this stage. Check the originality of your piece using http://www.hemingwayapp.com/, Grammarly, https://www.polishmywriting.com/, https://languagetool.org, Reverso, Turnitin, Plagscan.

4. Publishing

In this stage, the students can publish their piece online through e-publishing, e-book maker, anyflip, flipsnack, Canva, https://designrr.io/ebook-creator/, http://lulu.com/, http://issuu.com/.

Technology can be a boon to the writing classroom when handled with care. This way, students must remember to use wisdom in integrating technologies in the learning process. Generally, the benefits of technology in gaining new literacies, learning independent problem-solving skills, and showing students the wide range of composition applications in their lives outweigh the risks.

Practical Tips and Strategies

Kingsley and Tancock (2014) have revealed four fundamental competencies students must possess and attain to complete Internet-based tasks:

  1. generate high-quality inquiry topics
  2. effectively and efficiently search for information
  3. critically evaluate Internet resources
  4. connect ideas across Internet texts

These competencies align with the ISTE Standards for Students, Point 3a, 3b, 3c, 3d.

Furthermore, students are suggested to have multiple dimensions of critical evaluation (Coiro, 2017). Students learn to make reasoned judgments about the overall quality of information on a website benefit from clear definitions and discussion of these dimensions.

  1. Relevance: the information’s level of importance to a particular reading purpose or explicitly stated the need for that information
  2. Accuracy: the extent to which information contains factual and updated details that can be verified by consulting alternative and/or primary sources
  3. Bias/Perspective: the position or slant toward which an author shapes information
  4. Reliability: the information’s level of trustworthiness based on information about the author and the publishing body

These multiple dimensions support the ISTE Standards for Students, Point 3b, evaluating the accuracy, perspective, credibility, and relevance of information, media, data, or other resources.

References:

Coiro, J. (2017, August 29). Teaching adolescents how to evaluate the quality of online information. https://www.edutopia.org/blog/evaluating-quality-of-online-info-julie-coiro

Coffin, C., Curry, M. J., Goodman, S., Hewings, A., Lillis, T., & Swann, J. (2003). Teaching Academic Writing: A toolkit for higher education. Routledge/Taylor and Francis.

ISTE. (2022). ISTE Standards: Students. https://www.iste.org/standards/iste-standards-for-students

Kingsley, T., & Tancock, S. (2014). Internet inquiry: Fundamental competencies for online comprehension. Reading Teacher, 67(5), 389–399. https://doi.org/10.1002/trtr.1223

Lea, M. R., & Street, B. V. (1998). Student Writing in Higher Education: An academic literacies approach. Studies in Higher Education, 23(2), 157–172. https://doi.org/10.1080/03075079812331380364

The Purdue University. (2022). Technology in the Writing Classroom. https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/teacher_and_tutor_resources/teaching_resources/remote_teaching_resources/technology_in_the_writing_classroom.html

The University of Sydney. (2022). Types of academic writing. https://www.sydney.edu.au/students/writing/types-of-academic-writing.html

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