My 4-6th graders have been working Persuasive Essays for the last month. (While that seems like a long time, it is really only 4-5 class periods.) I decided to have them hand in their work using a dropbox rather than my server dropbox so I can grade their work from home. 

While playing around with the settings and functions, I noticed a ‘comment’ feature.  “How cool!” I thought. Not only could they read each others’ essays, but they could leave feedback as well!  I created a guest password and linked it to their assignment page.  They logged in and then the fun began.  It was so exciting to see them taking the time to read each other’s essays.  While the comments were not exactly what I wanted (some were more about say “what’s up” or “you go girl” than actual feedback–totally my own fault because we didn’t spend a lot of time going over giving useful feedback) it was fun and engaging for them and they were excited to know that their work was being read by their classmates. 

There were a few teachable moments when a student posted a “so and so likes you” comment to a boy’s essay and when another student left a few rude comments signing someone else’s name.  It gave me a chance to remind them that once you put your words and thoughts up on the Internet, they are there forever and you can’t take them back.  It also gave me a chance to discuss netiquette and real life situations that occur when using social media.

I kept having to remind myself that nothing is perfect the first time you try it.  This was a great activity and a successful one with a few hiccups, and it is a great jumping off point for the collaborative work I am planning for the Spring.

Every day I see proof of the power of social media to motivate students to engage with content.  There is no other kind of tool that would allow for students to view each others’ work so quickly and leave feedback so easily.  Also, knowing that others are going to read your work, especially one’s peers, often motivates students to take more time and be more careful in how they write and what they write.

Now my question: am I going to get in trouble now? The District is so fearful of these kinds of tools and activities.


  1. Reply

    I am a firm believer in the power of social media to motivate kids!!

    In fact, I have created a website called Reading Rewards, which is a really fun (and free!) online reading incentive program whereby kids earn various rewards and gaming privileges by logging details about their reading (what, when, how much). They also connect to their friends so they can share about their books, and more, in a fun, safe, online community. This has really gotten our kids and growing community of users reading more!

    There is a module for teachers, who can create groups for their classes, invite their kids to join, thus creating a shared class reading log. Teachers can set individual as well as group reading targets, and everyone can track their own (and group’s!) reading progress. We are piloting this with a few teachers who have been giving me rave reviews!

    Obviously, this is a tool for teachers (and parents!) interested and open to the idea of Web 2.0 in the classroom.
    Anybody is more than welcome to visit and to join at ” target=”_blank”> We hope you do!
    Best regards,

  2. Reply

    I have been thinking about trying Dropio or Dropbox with my classes. My question is can students delete others' work or is it safe? I would like an option where students "hand it in" to Dropio and then can not edit it anymore? Thoughts or advice???

  3. Reply

    Yes, to both. Assuming you give student's guest access and not admin access, you can allow them to add but not delete files; you also can not edit uploaded files. There is also the option for a hidden uploader, which enables students to turn in an assignment, without being able to look at anyone else's.

    See my article, 5 Ways to Use in the Classroom, for more info:

  4. Reply

    Just to expand on what Greg said (full disclosure, I work with him), School Town can do exactly what you used for, but the teacher can be the gatekeeper for the comments. That way, comments that could embarrass or hurt someone's feelings won't even get through.

  5. Reply


    I love your post! I sent it a few months ago to a woman in our downtown offices and it was very well received. I am aware of the other options for, but love the idea of students being able to view each others' essays, and I don't mind the risk involved. After the class period, I changed the guest password so they can no longer log in and leave comments. I was also able to email the link w/the new password to their classroom teacher so she could view their essays as a writing grade.

    Thanks for your informative comment!

  6. Reply

    Frank and Greg,

    Sadly, when I tried to access SchoolTown at school, there was a Network Server Timeout problem and it was blocked. I will address the issue with our filtering services to see what may be preventing the site from loading.

    Thanks for sharing the resource.

  7. Steve I.


    How long has been around? I have never heard of it before. I think I could use this in an art class when students do some creative writing before illustrating it.

  8. Reply


    I'm not sure I know how long it's been around. There are numerous ways to use, so give it a try! Thanks for stopping by and good luck with your art class!

  9. COD teacher


    OK, well gee. today dropped everyone. Facebook bought them. So, if you had a free account or a paid account, you can't upload files anymore.

    This action by has been a big setback for my classroom. I paid for the service, and now they are closing it. My students needed a long time to get used to this technology, and in mid semester, will need to learn something new. If I can find something in a very short amount of time(!).

  10. Reply

    I agree. This is a huge blow to my classroom. I did find this list on Twitter: I think I might try out because it has the commenting feature. Right now I'm planning on use Dropbox for handing in work that they don't need to comment on.

    One more reason for my disdain of Mark Zuckerberg!

  11. Reply

    You might want to try using Cisco's WebEX Meet. It's totally free and it's simple and easy to setup, learn, and use. See: I've been out of the classroom for a long time, but I think it would be pretty easy to incorporate.

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