Multimodal Supported Writing – Assistive Technology Toolkit

Type of compensatory support: Multimodal Supported Writing

A general overview of this type of compensatory support:

There are many very standard categories of assistive technology supports, but I propose moving beyond the standard word prediction, speech to text or text to speech categories to support a broader definition of writing and text. As writing evolves beyond ink and pencils, the nature of text is exploding to include multimodal elements of audio, video, images, games and non linear structures. Multimodal writing is networked, collaborative, driven by feedback and not done in isolation. If we are truly supporting learners, we need to examine how to support learners in  the changing pedagogy digital tools have afforded. Multimodal supported writing brings together the idea of supporting this non traditional broader definition of text.

Multimodal writing is a constantly changing medium. It crosses genre and tool. This requires a knowledge of the potential tools available to learners or an openness to have students explore to find the appropriate tool to support their project.  Web based tools come with the considerations that other digital tools require. Students and teachers need to be aware of age restricted user agreements, digital account creation, the potential pitfalls and advantages of a wide audience, and when parental permission is required. Copyright and digital citizenship considerations come into play even more than they would with traditional word based text as citation of images, video and other media elements need to be addressed.  Adherence to district policy  and digital use agreements is essential, but district leadership needs to make sure there is an  openness and willingness to support new digital creation tools and mediums.

The kinds of students who may benefit from this type of compensatory support:

All students can benefit with these types of writing supports. Multimodal writing can combine elements of audio, video, image, and more traditional text. These options mean students can select the medium they are most comfortable with and that they can most easily adapt to if they have a disability or strength. They can work with other writers, share easily, and gain feedback as they create and compose. For example, a student with writing difficulties may choose to Vlog, or video blog a reflection on a story instead of writing a reflection on a word processor. The student can easily share or post this work and receive comments. If a student has a more complex learning need they could take or select an image to represent their thoughts.

How the compensatory support may support student learning:

“Because technology has increased the intensity and complexity of literate environments, the twenty-first century demands that a literate person possess a wide range of abilities and competencies, many literacies…Twenty-first century readers and writers need to…Create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multimedia texts” (NCTE, 2009)

As we reexamine literacy, we reexamine the supports needed for our learners. Multimedia texts require multimedia supports. To support our students in using multimedia the tools needs to be flexible, device agnostic, and ideally online. This way students can access them anytime, anywhere, and from any device to support their learning needs and to match the technology available to them. Students can use these tools to meet the some of the competencies outlined in the Ministerial Order on Student Learning (2013):

“(d) manage information: access, interpret, evaluate and use information effectively, efficiently, and ethically

(e) innovate: create, generate and apply new ideas or concepts

(g) apply multiple literacies: reading, writing, mathematics, technology, languages, media, and personal finance

(h) demonstrate good communication skills and the ability to work cooperatively with others”

Conditions in the learning environment that would support the effective use of this type of compensatory support:

The learning environment would have to support student choice, flexible learning options, present opportunities for sharing and feedback, and be digitally enabled. The environment could be one where students bring their own device, one with school computers, or a blended technology environment. Flexible tools and flexible choices mean an active and busy place. Students may be doing many different things to create and meet the given learning outcome. Students and teachers may require support and encouragement to embrace change and risk as they allow students to explore media and text.

The planning considerations for embedding the use of this type of compensatory support in learning activities and/or teaching routines:

Students and teachers would need to be comfortable with choice and risk. Teachers need to be flexible to have students composing and sharing their writing in different ways and to different audiences. Students would need to have access to devices that allow them to choose different tools. Teachers and students do not need to be experts in every tool or need to have instruction in a variety of tools, but rather be familiar with a range of options and willing to experiment, try, and ask questions as they choose and create. It is a different idea than the traditional concept of all students using the same type of tool, usually a pencil, with a few modified or adapted because they have particular learning needs. With a wide variety of tools, methods, and choices needs and strengths can be better addressed in the classroom.

The types of learning activities (tasks) this type of compensatory support would facilitate:

Multimodal writing can be used for everything from narrative storytelling to research to an explanation of learning or understanding. The resources needed for multimodal creation support learners as they create and share.  They are very focused on student centered creation and sharing of learning.  These are not supports for teacher directed instruction, but rather open and creative expression in a variety of mediums.

Research and References:

Alberta Education. (2013). Ministerial order on student learning. Retrieved from

National Council of Teachers of English. (2009). NCTE framework for 21st century curriculum and assessment. Retrieved from

A position statement from the National Council of Teacher of English in the United States about what skills readers and writers need to be successful in the 21st century and the implications for curriculum and assessment for teachers.

Vasudevan, L.. (2010). Literacies in a Participatory, Multimodal World: The Arts and Aesthetics of Web 2.0. Language Arts, 88(1), 43-50.

An article looking at how digital media can bring back art, creativity, and enhance imagination in learners at all levels. Vasudevan (2010) examines the addition of digital design elements to writing as bringing more creativity and play into the writing process, making it more inviting and more accessible. The issues of open ended creative, expressive projects and where they fit into more traditional rigid classroom and assessment systems are discussed. Shifting perspectives of writing and creating as play and self representation instead of just for composition and communication are explored.

Yancey, K. B. (2009). Writing in the 21st century. Retrieved from

A report from the National Council of Teacher of English in the United States.  It is a call to action to help students “compose often, compose well, and through these composings become the citizen writers of our country, the citizens writers of our world, and the writers of our future” (Yancey, 2009, p. 1). The article discusses the importance of examining pedagogy of teaching the new models of writing. There is also an awareness of the changing audience of writing as options for sharing and communicating with an audience are enabled in a web based world.

One thought on “Multimodal Supported Writing – Assistive Technology Toolkit

  1. All those ideas are good. But many of the children I work with do even have a computer at home let alone internet. Most of our schools have few working computers and limited resources to support these ideas.

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