Some time ago, Diana Benner and I facilitated a workshop session at the Heart of Texas Writing Conference. At that time, we promised to write an article about the experience but never got around to it. As part of my Abydos Summer Writing Academy, I have decided to make this my “publishable” (extensive) piece. I’m going to share the draft as it develops below.

This is Part One.

  • Part Two will Action 1, 
  • Part Three-Action 2 – Digitizing the Status of the Class
  • Part Four-Action 3 – Digitizing Writing and Peer Conferences
  • Part 5-Action 4 – Digitizing Group Share
  • Part 6-Conclusion.

After THAT’s done, I’ll need to get Diana’s feedback on it and then pursue a place to print venue to publish it in. Of course, it’s all in draft.

4 Actions to Digitizing Your Writing Workshop
by Miguel Guhlin

If you can write what people will read by choice,” shares Vicki Spandel, author of Six Traits Writing, “the world is your’s” (Source: Publishing, now, presents readers with an opportunity to have ongoing, learning conversations with the author. These conversations frame the writing in rich, contextual details not as easily attainable as now. Social media tools–such as,, and–provide ready access to what the author really is thinking.  “Social media uses Internet and web-based technologies,” shares Steve Douglas, “to transform broadcast media monologues (one to many) into social media dialogues (many to many).


If you define publishing in the old sense of the word, that is, “to make known” your work, you can claim a large online audience. For example, some education blogs have over 25,000 subscribers. My modest blog enjoys 2500 subscribers. Human beings have a deep desire to be heard and recognized. 

In 2008, my daughter, Rosalie, published her writing online.  Only 14 years old at the time, she had access to a multitude of publishing choices. She did not publish in print until 2010 via, one of many web sites that allow you to publish your own book. Expecting students to write down on paper–when their small fingers can text the entire piece via their mobile device to a relevant audience–then posting that paper on a bulletin board for hit-or-miss praise fails to engage them.

Gretchen Bernabei, speaking to a teacher audience participating at a 2010 Summer Writing Academy, shares the following quote:

If students leave the writing workshop feeling famous, then I have done my job right. Sharing your writing, being enlarged by others’ writing is what makes you feel famous.
Source: Gretchen Bernabei, 2010 Summer Writing Academy, San Antonio ISD, San Antonio, Texas

New technologies enable our children’s writing to engage a wider audience than just their classmates, students passing in the hallways, parents and teachers who happen to pass by a lonely bulletin board. This article is about 4 actions you can take, as a writing teacher, to digitize your writing workshop. 

As a writing workshop facilitator, you have a multitude of online spaces where students can publish their writing for the world to see. Those include school district or teacher-managed blogs, wikis, Moodle-based virtual classrooms, external web sites such as and many others. Check Sidebar 1: Student Publishing Online for a partial listing.

Given that students can bypass the classroom teacher to achieve the joy of making their work known to the world, what can we do as teachers to take advantage of these tools to make our jobs easier?


This article explores 4 Actions to Digitizing Your Writing Workshop. The ideas for accomplishing this are based on adapting traditional writing workshop components, as outlined in writing workshop literature.  The fundamental question this article seeks to answer is, How can technologies we now have make the HOW of writing workshop easier for the teacher?” One response to that question included colleague Diana Benner and I reflecting how technologies freely available could be aligned to writing workshop goals. We shared our reflections at a National Writing Project event, Heart of Texas Writing Conference in April, 2010.

Prior to the Conference, we spent time re-reading Nanci Atwell’s IN THE MIDDLE, I re-read parts of Luci Calkins’ The Art of Teaching Writing, explored Troy Hick’s book on Digital Writing Workshop, the edited Teaching the New Writing, and others. I also spoke to Curriculum directors in school districts, asking them how writing is taught in their school district’s classrooms NOW. All of these books and ideas make up a rich tapestry that is how to teach writing…there is no one approach that is perfect or right except the one that liberates the writer to explore his ideas and express them as perfectly as he can. 

To accomplish our goal of making the writing workshop easier through the use of technology, Diana Benner and I set ourselves 2 goals. Those goals included the following:

  1. Rethink the Writer’s Workshop from the Teachers’, not the students’, perspective
  2. Share digital tools that facilitate the writer’s workshop. Within the boundaries of this goal, 5 ways to enhance writing workshop facilitation were shared.

ACHIEVING GOAL #1 – Rethinking the Writer’s Workshop

“Today,” shared one teacher, “we will be studying adjectives. After we complete exercises on adjectives, we will write sentences using adjectives.” Caught in test preparation, many writing workshops are nothing more than lock-step marches through the writing process, giving fanatical adherence to mechanical processes of grammar and punctuation. Young writers, teachers forget the passionate thrill of crafting writing. They may never achieve “The Zone,” which one education blogger described in euphoric terms:

If you’re a writer, you know what I mean. You slip into the Zone, and hours can go by, and they pass unnoticed. You are so enraptured by the experience of writing that nothing else matters…I LOVE being in the Zone and when I’m there, writing isn’t difficult, hard, miserable or anything. It’s like tapping into a power source. I hate interruptions when I’m in the Zone. I’m considering flicking a switch that turns on a red, flashing light. Another neat thing about being in the Zone is that I’m not hungry when I’m there…or thirsty or anything. All there is…is the Zone. If blogging isn’t good for anything else, or anyone else, it’s good for getting me in the Zone. It’s darn addictive.
(Source: Why Blog?
How can social media tools–like blogs mentioned above–be used to facilitate writing workshops? To help rethink the Writer’s Workshop, consider this this diagram:

In the inner circle labelled “Writers,” we find student writers who can publish their work, not only in print, but in a variety of media. Text, audio, and images combine when students use blogs, wikis, podcasts and digital storytelling. Students can find it easier to collaborate on a piece of writing when using collaborative word processors. Furthermore, “computer software now allows young children to write and illustrate their own stories before their fine motor skills are developed enough to allow them to do so by hand” (Source: National School Boards Association, Neither teachers or students can afford to ignore freely available technologies.

Within this context of writers with its focus on the recursive, writing process, a wide variety of technology tools are available. Note that writing can find expression in a variety of media formats, as well as be developed singly or in collaboration with others. Refer to Sidebar #2 – Digital Tools for Students.

SideBar 1 – Students Publishing Online

  1. Amphitheater List – – features over 20 web sites where student work can be published online.
  2. Education World article on Encourage Student Writing – – Offers additional suggestions.

SideBar 2 – Digital Tools for Students

Stage of the Writing Process Technology Tools Available
  1. Storyboarding Documents
  2. Storyboarding Websites
  3. Concept Mapping
  4. Playing with Words
  1. Digital Storytelling Software
  2. Digital Storytelling Websites
  3. Digital Posters
  4. Comic Strips
  5. Podcasting
    1. AudioBoo
  1. Word Processing
    • Microsoft Word
    • OpenOffice
  2. Collaborative Word Processing
  1. Word Processing
    • Microsoft Word
    • OpenOffice
  2. Collaborative Word Processing
    • Google Docs
  1. Digital Storytelling Software
  2. Digital Storytelling Websites

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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure