Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Writing for a Real Audience

The dilemma for most students is – when they are asked to write a piece as an assessment – either formative or summative – they are usually not writing for an authentic audience. Their teacher is often the only person who gets to read what has often been laboured over for some time. Feedback is brief and the writing is then put away. This process is not a very edifying experience for any writer. The online world has opened up the possibilities of writing for a much wider audience – and in doing so allows for much more feedback and on going discussion about a student’s piece of writing, their ideas and the writing process in general.

The audience can be peers – other students in their own school or other schools around the globe, their teacher and other teachers, their parents and other parents, other members of the school community or experts and mentors that have been selected for students. It’s a rich environment that can lead to lasting connections and collaborations as well as being a great motivator for writing.

Writing can take many forms in the online environment – it can be personal ideas and jottings – in the form of a blog, narrative writing on one of the many custom websites that allow story publication, discussion and exposition writing where the generation of feedback is so important or the collaborative efforts of an information gathering site such as a wiki. Excitingly reluctant writers might also like to work expressing themselves through online comic creators and graphic novel generators.

Here are some of the best places to encourage your students to write online:

Blogging sites:
Use blogs to for students to personally follow a passion, a learning experience or a reflection on their learning.
Edublogs: A safe and reliable student platform for blogging. Teachers can create and manage their own students’ blogs. Teachers can also set up a class blog where students can take it in turns to write or the class can collaboratively write. This makes a great communication tool in which all the class and their parents can participate.
KidBlog: Kidblog's simple tools allow students to publish posts and participate in discussions within a secure classroom blogging community. Teachers maintain complete control over student blogs. Teachers set up and monitor sites.
Blogger: This platform is accessed via a gmail account and offers many options for blogging (access for over 13 yo’s only) This online collaborative space can be set up as a blog for students. Run by the Oracle Foundation, it is a safe and secure environment moderated by teachers.

Online picture and story books:
Storybird: Storybirds are short, art-inspired stories that are fun to make, share, and read. Teachers can set up class accounts. The art work included on the site is really inspirational and beautiful and students can collaborate or work individually. Books can be printed. It is also useful for foreign language writing.
Zooburst: Run on Adobe Flash, Zooburst authors can arrange characters and props within a 3D world that can be customized using uploaded artwork or items found in a built-in database of over 10,000 free images and materials.
Once constructed, books can be inspected from any angle from within a 3D space, and rotating around a book is as easy as dragging and dropping a mouse. In addition, authors can choose to make items "clickable," allowing readers to learn more about individual characters within a story. Each character can have its own “chat bubble” that pops up when that character is clicked. In addition, authors can also record their own voices using the ZooBurst audio recorder to have their characters really “speak” when clicked!
Little Bird Tales: Students can tell a story, upload their own artwork and create an audio file to accompany their writing. Teachers can set up class accounts.
Issuu: Issuu allows students to publish e-book content. Simply create a pdf of a story with illustrations. (This can be created first on ppt). The pdf is then uploaded to the site. The finished product allows for a page turning experience for the viewer on the screen.
Myths and Legends Story Creator: is a great site for kids who love to create stories. Not only can you create stories with several backgrounds and clip art pieces to choose from, but you can also read and listen to stories that other students have written. Click "Play" to play the story and watch as the stories animate and you can follow along with the narrator.
CAST UDL Book Builder: is a site where you can read, explore, create, and share digital books that build reading skills for your students. UDL Book Builder also provides three coaches that you can build into your books. (See the 3 little characters at the bottom of the book page?) When you click on a character, the character will speak (and show a text bubble) as it guides the students through different reading skills, such as predicting, clarifying, reading for meaning, etc. Book Builder provides links to free text, free images, free reading strategies, etc that will help you create your book.

Comics and Graphic Novels:
Chogger: Use the comic builder to draw your own comics, caption photos, take webcam pictures and add speech balloons. Read, rate, and comment on comics made by people from all around the world.
Comiqs: This site is for over 13yo’s, but there’s no reason why a teacher cannot create their own generic school/class login and monitor the participation of their students. Make comics with your own photos or some of the online clip art available.
Toondoo: is a comic creation site for kids, there is an educational package which does have a subscription fee, however students can create their own individual account for free. Toondoo is a simple drop and drag interface where students can express views and opinions, or tell stories without the need for great drawing skill.
Comic Master: is a portion of the Read Me program. This is a really cool online comic creator, the interface is fun to use and very intuitive. It is obviously geared toward students with a great look and even an embedded music player. There is great detail on the site, including the headline “Reading isn’t only in books, it’s everywhere!”. Using the Graphic Novel Creator, students can create their own multi-page graphic novels with interesting backgrounds, characters, props, and customized text. The graphic novels can be saved and printed out.

So, students can now participate in the online world, write for a real audience and get feedback from many sources - doesn't that sound better than what they have been used to?

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Sunny. So good to have a summary of these tools in one spot. Assuming there are links to these on the Student ICT portal page?
    You need some more followers - I'm feeling a bit lonely!