Using Technology in Language Arts

Hi! I'm Allan Anderson, a technology professional turned educator. This website is dedicated to cross-curricular use of technology in the English/Language Arts classroom.

You'll find my ideas about contemporary narrative and writing, including classroom ideas for how to incorporate computer-based reading and writing into your lessons. I've also created some software learning tools.

Please let me know what you think!

If you are looking to hire me as an educator, please take a look at some of my technical projects, my example curricula and my resume.

Let's use Educational Technology in the Language Arts classroom!

book and computer fighting with swords

Why can't we all just get along?

Why include technology in your classroom and lessons? Isn't it all about reading with comprehension and writing with clarity? Why introduce the potential distractions and pitfalls of videos, the Web, access, and struggling with software when students have enough to do with paper and pen?

The facts are that students and adults now read and write far more in a web browser and a word processor. (Or with tools like Google Drive and Microsoft Office 365, both at the same time.) We can help them thrive by including reading and writing lessons that use technology as naturally as our students do.

Classroom technology should "extend learning beyond what could be done without technology." Don't just do the same thing you'd do with paper and pencil—consider the other doors that open.

Classroom technology should "introduce technology in context." We don't need tech toys for their own sake, but appropriate technology where and when it fits with the content we are teaching.

Teachers of every discipline can help our students—first, by accessing their existing tech literacy and enthusiasm, and second, by learning enough ourselves to help guide student choice and behavior with appropriate technology use and online expression.

Technology's Value for Every Learner

Why Twine is great

Anna Anthropy answers "Why is Twine so wonderful?"

Computer literacy for students does not end with comfortably using a word processor and a web browser. Computers are not black boxes, their mysterious inner workings beyond the grasp of anyone but experts. I believe everyone can benefit from learning some programming. Further, the under-utilitzed intersection of programming and language arts provides ways to scaffold learners who feel confident in one discipline.

Students who come to us not as "tech elites"—including some girls and minorities—need to know they can become comfortable steering computers. We need to extend skills of programming to these groups—skills like problem solving, logical organization of ideas, and familiarity adapting existing tools rather than contorting to learn how the tool wants to be used.

At the same time, everyone needs the communication, creativity, and organization skills developed by higher-level reading and writing.

As teachers of English and Language Arts, we can intertwine these lessons and let these skills reinforce each other.

Did you say "programming and language arts"?


Natural Language Programming: Inform 7

In attempting to establish the usefulness of computer games in high and middle school instruction, we can consider both student engagement and student agency. Teaching literature and writing requires us to help students make connections between the literature of different people and cultures, and to translate those connections into the real world. However, we present students with a passive task—reading—and ask them to become active readers while still just quietly consuming what we've given them. But...“Enter the game. Games provide a set of rules; but the players use them to create their own consequences. It's something like the music of John Cage: he wrote themes about which the musicians were expected to improvise. Games are like that; the designer provides the theme, the players the music” (Costikyan, 1994). This kind of approach leads to a looseness of instructional activity which may worry teachers, but which can provide an engaging and rewarding constructivist sandbox.

After years of development and popularity in the IF enthusiast circles, the Inform programming language was drastically changed in 2006. Instead of a friendly but very computer-centered programming language, “Inform 7 uses a natural language (NL) syntax that lets authors use English sentences to create their story worlds, which [Inform creator] Graham Nelson calls 'a radically humanizing interface for the writing of interactive fiction'” (Reed, 2011). Inform 7 allows many more writers and plotters in the gate by no longer requiring traditional programming skills to create a game. While logic and reason and the development of a rules-based system is still required, the almost self-documenting source code helps designers focus on design and storytelling instead of on implementation and “programmer” issues. Using Inform 7's natural language syntax may open up possibilities of both written expression and computer use to students who may not consider themselves skilled in one or the other of these areas, allowing an interdisciplinary bridge to be built.