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Filtering by Tag: technology

Using MyloWrites to Teach the Five-Paragraph Essay

Whitney Glockner Black

Students are expected to become more independent in their writing over the course of middle school. For some, this is a welcome challenge -  for others, a daunting task.

We recently spoke with a middle school English teacher who uses MyloWrites as part of her writing curriculum to assist with teaching and perfecting the five-paragraph essay. By sharing her plan here, we hope to give those of our readers in the education space some ideas on how to use MyloWrites to help students master this stalwart of middle school and high school writing.

We should note that this is anything but scientific (at least, at this point). In the future, we hope to work closely with teachers to establish evidence-based research of our own on the effectiveness of MyloWrites. But for now, we believe that the following teacher anecdotes and ideas on applying digital tools to help students gain more fluency in writing will be both useful and inspirational to fellow educators. (P.S., if you want to work with us to test the efficacy of MyloWrites, please reach out!)

Sixth Grade: Introducing the Five-Paragraph Essay and Providing Structure

In sixth grade, students are expected to make the shift from more empathic, response based writing (think lots of “I” statements) to more focused, thesis-driven writing with textual relevance. This is a tough shift; the idea of supporting arguments with evidence is still abstract to sixth graders. To help students internalize the structure and requirements of a five-paragraph essay, one teacher used MyloWrites in a supported format (i.e., teacher guided) to help give students a framework for their essays. Because the thesis statement is always visible in MyloWrites, the students never lost their North Star and had a clear idea of how to link evidence back to the main point.

Seventh Grade: Gaining Fluency

Come seventh grade, students now have some experience with the five-paragraph essay, but most do not have fluency. One seventh grade teacher offered MyloWrites as a supplemental offering for students to use to gain more independence in their writing.  She offered MyloWrites as one tool or method that students could use to support an independent writing project. The idea was to use MyloWrites to help “take off the training wheels” and complete the essay with far less direct involvement from the teacher. Students seemed to appreciate that they could choose from a variety of options, and MyloWrites provided structure and support for students to help them improve their writing.

Eighth Grade: Tools for the Future

By eighth grade, students must demonstrate mastery of the writing required by high school curriculum. Some students can likely organize an essay outline in their head and follow the writing structure without aid. For others, a tool like MyloWrites can help build confidence and skill in writing. And still, some students continue to struggle with writing; for them, the last semester of middle school is a great opportunity to introduce tools that can bring success in high school. These students can use the tool to ensure that their high school essays are coherent, to the point, and tightly constructed. According to one teacher who used our application in her eighth grade classroom, some students simply didn’t need the additional aid. Yet for those who did - particularly those who had a hard time translating their thoughts to paper- MyloWrites helped set them up for success on class essays and future writing assignments.

As you may have guessed, most of the students at this private middle school go on to study at a private or selective high school. The above examples are just some of many on how teachers can use MyloWrites to help teach the five-paragraph essay. What are your biggest challenges in teaching writing? Tweet or email your questions to @mylowrites or [email protected] and we’ll ask our learning experts for their ideas on what could help!

Our Podcast with Dyslexia Quest

Virginia Pavlick

We are honored to share our newly released podcast with Dyslexia Quest! Our founder and CEO, Mya Dunlop, and lead Learning Specialist, Stacy Rosenblum, had the wonderful opportunity to sit down with dyslexia consultant Elisheva Schwartz to discuss learning differences, the writing process, and exactly how our writing application came to be.

The brainchild behind the entire company is truly Myles Dunlop, nicknamed “Mylo”. Myles struggled with dyslexia in school, particularly when faced with writing assignments. Mya recalls the frustration of feeling helpless in watching her son fight to get his creative thoughts on to paper, and remembers him saying “I have all of these ideas, I just can’t find the key that unlocks the part of my brain that gets those ideas out!". 

Enter Stacy Rosenblum- a learning specialist who actually has a degree in engineering. Stacy explains that she grew fascinated with applying the analytical problem-solving skills acquired through her engineering courses to students with learning disabilities and special needs. After seeing her peers work with only conventionally-developing children, Stacy was drawn to the challenge of figuring out the mental roadblocks in students who aren’t typical learners. Stacy was interested in helping these students unlock their strengths and make it through schools, since, as she says, “the odds are stacked against them”.

After working with Stacy and learning the tools for successfully writing essays as a dyslexic student, Myles was inspired to build an application to help others with the same problem. Through collaboration with Stacy and other advisors within the education space, Mya launched MyloWrites and began touching the lives of adolescents and teenagers who struggle with learning disabilities. 

Watch the full podcast here to learn more, and click here to read more about Elisheva and all that she does for the dyslexic community!



Spotlight: Schools Without Internet in Rural America

Virginia Pavlick

As an Ed-tech company, we at MyloWrites are admittedly guilty of digital absorption. With all of the technological advancements that have been made in the past two decades, it is easy to become caught up in the world of liking, sharing, posting, and swiping. It is hard to imagine adolescents and teens who aren’t online, let alone those who simply can’t be. Yet in rural districts across the nation, students have become accustomed to the infamous spinning wheel of a struggling network connection.  Built on a foundation of working technology, we at MyloWrites feel as though this issue more than deserves our attention.

“The Slowest Internet in Mississippi”, chapter one of the three-part project Reversing a Raw Deal published by EdWeek, describes the struggles and frustrations that have become commonplace to rural schools without Internet (click here to read parts two and three). In Mississippi’s Calhoun County, author Benjamin Herold writes of the teachers’ inability to load their school’s online attendance system. Online research for class projects is out of the question, as is computerized state testing – an attempt made last spring is described simply as “a disaster”.  Perhaps most frustrating is the futility of desktop computers, SmartBoards and other expensive hardware; without an Internet connection, such devices just take up space.

The article focuses on one 17 year-old student who expresses her concern over the upcoming competition for college admittance. As a Mississippi State University hopeful, she worries that her high school’s lack of technological resources has cost her valuable learning opportunities. With so many new study and tutoring tools available online (MyloWrites included), this anxiety is valid. Even the college application process itself presents hurdles; how can students keep track of the numerous requirements and write multiple essays when they don’t even have access to university websites?

Herold states that 1 in 5 rural districts lack a high-speed Internet connection. And, for those that do manage to secure workable Internet, the bills are dramatically higher. Writes Herold,

“In places like the vast, sparsely populated plains of western New Mexico, that means telecommunications companies routinely bill $3,000 per month or more for Internet service most U.S. schools could get for one-sixth the cost.”

How can this be? The article cites geography and poor policy as top reasons, but also notes the malicious business practices of telecoms as a contributor. Companies like AT&T and Verizon Wireless have been known to take advantage of the system and charge obscene rates, while other smaller companies act as local monopolies.

Mississippi and New Mexico are not alone. In another recently published article, Education News writes of the Internet connectivity gaps prevalent in nearly all Alaskan schools. The national benchmark for Internet speed is set at 1000 Kbps; according to Education News, 93% of schools in Alaska fail to meet this requirement. Towns with high levels of poverty and Native American villages face the toughest challenges. According to the article, the main contributing factors are terrain, topography, and lack of infrastructure. Though rural states like Alaska and Mississippi do present geographical hurdles, for the rest of the country, problems with Internet speed seem nearly a decade old. Technological advances have opened a world of educational opportunity to connected students; how have we allowed others to fall so far behind?

Both articles acknowledge the increase in E-rate spending recently approved by the Federal Communications Commission as a glimmer of hope. The E-rate program charges fees on consumers’ phone bills in order to help fund the cost of Internet for schools and libraries. Though not without its criticism, the increase of E-rate money is generally thought of as the solution for which rural states have been waiting. Says Education Week of the recent legislation,

“The E-rate overhaul has opened the door for a major breakthrough here. In April, Calhoun County [Mississippi] received an offer for Internet connections 300 times faster than what its schools currently have, at about one-half the cost.”

But progress is moving slowly, and the battle is not yet won. MyloWrites hopes to improve awareness of the severity of the issue and encourage our readers to educate themselves and others about the E-rate program. We often forget how lucky we are to live in a place with such vast technological possibility that make educational resources like MyloWrites possible. Learn more about the FCC and the E-rate program here.