Writing + Technology
In conversation with Sabrina Espasandin
Hello everyone, I hope you’re doing well!
If I have learned anything in the past two months is that we need to better understand how technology can enhance our teaching/learning experience. So this week I’m connecting with an old friend who’s here to give her insight on writing, education and technology.
Sabrina Espasandin is an EFL teacher, Instructional Designer, and EdTech consultant. She has been training teachers in technology adoption and developing curriculum for over 10 years. She is an Apple teacher, MIE, Google for Education Certified Trainer (2014) and Google Innovator and coach. You can connect with her on Twitter @sabrieo to find out more about Education and Technology.
Can you share with us any tools (books, blogs, websites, workshops) that can help children in their writing journey?
There is a vast array of digital tools out there to help writers of any age. From cloud-based word processors or note-taking apps that allow you to access your writing from any device, anywhere you might be, to more complex technology, like speech to text or even AI.
A favourite among my students was WordHippo, an online dictionary and thesaurus designed especially for children.
Read&Write is also a powerful tool embedded in word processors that can help children with synonyms, dictionaries, and more.
Apps like Grammarly provide spell checks, taking contextual grammar into account. These are just a few examples of how to scaffold children’s efforts with technology.
What advice can you give to children who are getting started as little writers? And what would you say to their parents?
Writing is truly an art that can only be perfected through practice.
This is something that you, as a writer and teacher, know very well. Always keep a notepad for when inspiration hits. I think we also need to demystify writing in that we need to start thinking that there is no such thing as “invalid” or “unimportant” when it comes to writing. Short thoughts on something that happened at school, a blog post where you write about how you feel about a certain current issue, a short story set in a fantasy world you have created. Everyone has a story to tell and if you don't, you are depriving the world of it. We needn’t tackle writing a 400-page novel when we set out to write.
And, of course, read often. Read as much as you can.
What place did writing have when you were growing up?
Growing up, I wouldn’t say I was much of a writer. I would do the occasional writing assignment from school and repeatedly start a diary, only to abandon the whole thing a couple of weeks in. Until something happened.
One day, my mom and I were cleaning our basement and I found her old typewriter. I was just in awe of this marvelous piece of engineering. The keys, the smell of the ink on the rubber platen, the ‘clink’ of the carriage return. I was in love.
I had no idea how to use it and I didn’t know how to type without looking at every individual key before pressing on them but after dozens of jammed sheets of paper, a lot of bunched up strikers, and inked fingertips, I turned into this 1950’s secretary typing at lightning speed. I remember spending a whole summer just typing my fingers and imagination away. Looking back, I find it quite remarkable how this single object was so impactful in my writing.
Do you still enjoy writing?
I do, I just wish I’d spend more time doing it. Just like with any other activity, you need to invest time in it. There is a ton of research that shows that hard work trumps talent every time. I do have a blog but lack the constancy to keep it up. I also keep a personal journal as a sort cathartic tool where I jot down everything from big life events (such as moving country) to the smaller things. I find that reflecting on life events tends to put things in perspective and also allows us to see how much we’ve grown and the obstacles we have had to overcome. I also like writing about things I’m grateful for. This is a practice I took up years ago and I feel it just changes one’s entire outlook on life.
Did you have a favorite book as a child?
I’ve always been an avid reader and I think it stems from the way I was raised. Growing up, I'd always see my mom read the newspaper while having breakfast. She would get up early on Sunday morning and go to the newspaper stand to buy her paper and a kids' magazine for me. She'd put it under my pillow while I was still asleep. The first thing I did when I woke up was stick my hand under the pillow to look for the magazine. I’d go downstairs and we'd have breakfast together. She'd read her paper while I read my magazine. I don't remember this, of course, but she tells me I'd look up and turn the pages at the same time she did. We'd usually end up in some sort of argument because I would not finish my breakfast because I was so caught up with reading.
I have lots of favourites books as an adult but not a particular one as a child. I did have a book called Un cuento para cada día del año (A story for every day of the year). It featured short stories, some self-contained, some that ran through a couple of days. I love the idea of getting a new story every day and also the suspense some of them built as you had to wait for the following day to finish the story, sort of what A Thousand and One Nights did.
In the end, I think it boiled down to having constant access to reading material and having an example to follow. I love the idea of travelling through words on a page, of connecting to characters, laughing and crying with them, of becoming so engrossed with a story that you lose track of time (or miss your stop on the bus!).
A big thank you to Sabrina for her insight! You can follow her on Twitter @sabrieo to find out more about Education and Technology.
Sabrina is passionate about helping create a culture of innovation in schools by embracing the opportunities inherent in change and learning from both successes and failures, and so has led workshops in meaningful edtech integration across her native Buenos Aires, NYC, and Spain. She is also a Design Thinking facilitator and has run sessions for both students and teachers to introduce them to this solution-based approach, help them embrace their creative confidence, and foster a growth mindset.