I am a fan of the general educational benefits of writing with a personal interest in writing or authoring to learn. I see authoring as a “go to” technique that can be helpful to learners with any content area and at any age. In addition, authoring offers the opportunity to write for others increasing the authentic feel of the experience and often incorporating the cognitive benefits involved in “teaching to learn”.
These interests result in a constant search for tools and environments that facilitate authentic authoring. I end up writing about my finds (writing and writing must be some kind of meta thing).
Write About is an online service implementing many of the ideas I value. Their mission statement (what I would call it) goes like this – “A community where students engage in high-interest writing for an authentic audience and teachers help students grow through the entire writing process”.
Write About offers a flexible environment offering support and guidance or the opportunity to be entirely self-directed. Among the features are the following:
- Proposed topics within genres to serve as prompts
- Commenting and feedback tools. For students, these include suggestions for what to avoid to comment or offer feedback effectively and comment and feedback stems.
- Multiple methods for sharing products
- Recognition of security and privacy concerns with control over multiple levels of sharing. Teacher and author sign off is required for truly public sharing. Participation of learners under the age of 13 is assumed to involve parental permission.
How would a service like this be different than say Google Docs within the Google Apps for Education environment? I would suggest that you could likely accomplish most of the same things, but the Write About environment is designed to be a teaching/learning environment (with prompts, feedback stems, built-in sharing opportunities). Google docs would have superior multimedia capabilities.
What about cost? Writing About offers multiple plans with features and the amount of use varying by plan. I would suggest that the free plan is mostly useful for experimentation and it is probably more practical to purchase by the month or year for serious application.