January 9, 2015

Writing Support Lab

In post-secondary education, writing likely occupies a significant part of any learning process. Teachers in any field (from nursing, music, chemistry, and accounting to literature, humanities, and social sciences) all need to work with written assignments, on a regular basis. One might argue that difficulties in writing are among the trickiest challenges facing any student. While learners acquire skills in a given field, writing remains a core part of their skillset (despite concerns).

For its first online lab in English for 2015, VTE investigates the pedagogical side of writing support technology.

From February through April, lab guests and participants will explore the limitations and potentials of the tools learners, pedagogues, and specialists can use to improve and enhance written work done in Higher Education.

Some of the questions raised include:

  • Can technology help people in postsecondary education work with writing?
  • Which writing-related tools, if any, could we approprate to support learning?
  • What issues are raised by the use of spellcheckers, dictation software, conversation games, or machine grading?



This lab aims to help participants appropriate technology in their work with students’ written communication. By the end of the lab, we hope that participants will have gained skills and expertise making them more efficient and effective in supporting learners’ writing.

Vitrine technologie-éducation (VTE) runs its Labs as spaces for the discovery and exploration of both emerging technologies and new approaches to teaching. Through online meetings and followup activities in the next few months, a diverse group of scholars, teachers, practitioners, and solution providers from both the public and private sectors will scrutinize writing support technology in diverse learning contexts.


Multiple themes will be addressed through this Lab. Here are a few but feel free to add your own in the Lab’s Contact Form.

  • Antiplagiarism Tools
  • Automated Essay Assessment
  • Automated Translation
  • Digital Storytelling
  • Dyslexia
  • Dyspraxia
  • English as a Second Language (ESL)
  • Mindmapping
  • Speech Recognition
  • Speech Synthesis
  • Spellcheckers



As was the case with our recent work on open credentials, three online meetings will constitute the core activities for this lab on writing support technology. Each of these meetings will last 90 minutes.

As these meetings will be recorded and other activities will occur asynchronously, participants aren’t required to commit to the lab schedule. In addition, though this Lab’s steps do complement one another, participation in a lab session isn’t required to engage in another.

I — Grading Tools: Can Technology Ease Up Assessment?

The first lab session will be held on February 19, from 10–11:30 a.m. EST (15:00–16:30 UTC). At this step, we will explore tools which can facilitate or improve feedback on written assignments.

Sample question: Are there systems teachers might use to improve the evaluation of students’ writing?

II — Writing Challenges: Can Technology Lift Students’ Burden?

As a second step in the lab, tentatively scheduled for mid-March, participants will delve into the multiple issues which may affect learners’ writing skills, including dyspraxia and dyslexia.

Sample question: What effects might speech technology have on inclusiveness?

III — Training Writers: Can Technology Enhance Literacy?

We expect the lab to end in early April with an exploration of tools which can be used by students to improve their writing skills.

Sample question: How can we appropriate spellcheckers to pedagogical contexts?


The invitation to participate in this Lab is extended to anyone interested in literacy and writing skills, whether they be professors, teachers, lecturers, pedagogical advisors, trainers, or managers from across Quebec and beyond.

People who fill the Lab’s Contact Form will receive further information about the events, help shape some aspects of the Lab, and might even build a community of practice surrounding writing support technology.

If needed, VTE reserves the right to give priority to Post-Secondary teachers and pedagogical professionals from Quebec.


Activities in this Lab will be held in English. However, issues surrounding other languages may come up through the Lab’s work.

Support from Canada-Quebec Entente

VTE’s English sector is funded through the Canada-Quebec Entente which supports minority language education and second language instruction.

Contact Form

The following form is a useful way for you to let us know about your expectations, receive additional information about the Lab, and take part in the community of practice we wish to build around pedagogical use of writing support technology.