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 drop.io dropbox rather than my server dropbox so I can grade their work from home.
While playing around with the drop.io 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.