Digital Writing Tools

I have assembled a collection of tools which break the mold of traditional writing and use the power of the digital medium to create multimodal, interactive texts.  Please add more examples in the comments, I want to keep collecting tools which can help to recreate what writing looks like in the digital medium.  These tools move beyond just digitizing words and pictures, pushing digital writing to more creative levels.

Add Movement and Scale:


Prezi – if you are stuck in the serial, linear model that writing in a word processor or presentation tool can create, try using the presentation tool Prezi to write a story.  Prezi allows for text, image, video, and sound to be grouped and scaled.  You can create a pathway through elements, as you would in a presentation to create a story.  Some examples of Prezi Storytelling and planning with Prezi.


The Blank Canvas:


The New Hive – Use words, pictures, video, audio, and hyperlinks on a blank canvas to create a story.  The open blank nature of the tools doesn’t limit writing into any traditional form, it allows for open creativity with the infusion of multimedia. It reminds me a lot of Glogster, but without the cost, and with a simpler interface.  It also allows for instant and easy sharing, which is a key component of writing.  Audience and presentation come alive with a web based tool. The example below (from jara2010warrioeswithoutweapons)shows how flexible an open canvas can be, pulling in video, graphics, links, feeds, and more.


Create a Multiple Pathway Game Based Text:


Playfic – a site to create and play interactive fiction, text based games.  You are can both play and, most importantly create the text based games.  (from @rmbyrne)  To create a game I found I had to play through a few to get a sense of the formatting and complexity.  It reminded me a lot of old King’s Quest games where you had to type commands to pick things up, examine things, and move.  I really like the tool because when you play you have to use words and commands to navigate, collect, and progress.  As I was playing the Survival game below I was creating a map of where I had been, what I had collected and what goals I have.  You really have to play through a game and map the options to then try and create one. I love it, and it would be a great tool for students to use together to they can talk through the multiple pathways


Focus on a Skill:


The Write-N-ator is a site with video clips to inspire and introduce a topic then mini prompts. Each prompt focuses on a specific writing skill such as characterization, synonyms, or alliteration. What I like about this tool is that the students are writing and sharing on the site.  They have a prompt to inspire an idea, then instantly they can write and share.  Having a tool that uses animated video to inspire and then provides an instant writing and sharing platform makes the writing seemless.  There isn’t any switching between tools, and if students are stuck they can see other examples in the responses section.  The hero is even a girl, a superhero with appropriate clothing!


Analyze to Give Direction to Drafting:


I asked the students to use wordle as an analysis tool.  The idea was for them to paste their paragraph into wordle to see what words where coming across as important or repeated.  This student was really noticed the word might coming across in the wordle form.  Might is not a very strong word for a persuasive piece of writing.  It gave her some guidance of where to start the revision process.  This step in the writing process is one I haven’t put into writing before using technology to facilitate writing.  Writing on the web is different than writing with pen and paper.  You have more tools and options at your disposal, teach your students to use them to be better writers, not just better publishers.


Finish the Episode:


Zimmertwins – often this is classified as a movie creation tool, but I see it was a writing tool.  You are not just making a story you are making a narrative.  I like it because often students are stuck staring at a page or a blinking cursor and this gives a bit of structure to creating a narrative.  You have choices of characters, actions, emotions, setting and talking.  You can edit the text and easily drag, drop, rearrange and preview.  You can create a story from scratch or use one of the beginnings or endings given for inspiration.  One of my students used it to create a movie about cyberbullying. You can instantly share, publish, give and get feedback on your movies.  Writing tools can be hidden in multimedia creation tools, but great digital story writing tools such as Zimmertwins are gems.


The Interactive Inspiration:


Wordtamer – an interactive tool to think through planning and story elements.  Word tamer provides and interactive environment to consider plot, character, setting, word choice and more when planning to write.  I really like how you can make choices and jot down ideas directly into the tool to get ideas going.  It gives options and ideas to get your going on the way to creating a narrative.


Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co. – – imagine if you could create inspiration for a story by shopping in a superhero supply store.  On the Brooklyn Superhero Supply website you can create ideas by sifting through a catalogue of essential crime fighting merchandise.  Build your shopping cart (A vortex is only 11 million!) then build your story!


Write Together:


There are many collaborative writing tools out there, but they are powerful for students to write at the same time as others and see what others are doing at the same time.  Writing collaboratively wasn’t possible in an efficient or effective manner before technology made the process possible.  It is a skill that students need to learn so it becomes more than just a mad scribble and delete session.  I did a project with my students where they weren’t writing in real time, but were working on stories on a wiki with students they had never met.  They would log in to find things changed and added to.  They weren’t sure if they were allowed to fix mistakes that their co-authors had made.  It was a fantastic learning experience on how to write and create together.

Word Processor like tools:

Primary Pad –

Google Docs – (sign up required to create)

For a more free form tool that allow for drawing tools and a less linear model try an online whiteboard tool.  I’ve found these good for planning or as a sandbox for trying things out.

Interactive Whiteboard like tools:

My Simple Surface –

Scribblar – (sign up required to create and use)

Create Textbooks:


Apple iBooks Author is an interesting tool.  I got a chance to play with it and explore the functionality during the Apple Learning Tour.  I think it is a good tool for creating informational text books.  The platform limits it, but it is a great creation tool and I would love to see kids creating with it. (photo from apple since I don’t have a Mac to create my own screenshot)


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