Draft: A fantastic collaborative text editing tool

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An important tool in teaching writing is the ability to give and receive feedback from fellow students and the instructor. There are a number of tools, both offline and on the cloud, that allow someone to do that including Microsoft Word, Apple Pages, Open Office, Google Drive, Zoho Writer, TitanPad, and so on. Many of these tools are far more complicated or difficult for this task. This is where Draft comes in. Draft is an online collaborative writing tool that is clean and easy to use and integrates with Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, and Evernote. It is also free and has a simple registration that can be overcome quite easily. Instead of typing out all of the features and steps on how to use it, I did a simple screencast to demonstrate:

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Please feel free to add your comments or send me a Tweet at @nathanghall. Thank you!

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Using collaborative writing tools to promote peer-review in ELT

In my session on Saturday at the BC TEAL conference, I talked about using online tools such as TitanPad in my classroom to do peer-review and peer-assessment. Here is a quote from Ricky Lam in the article A Peer-Review Training Workshop: Coaching Students to Give and Evaluate Peer Feedback:

Often teachers may feel that there is insufficient time for students to comment on one another’s drafts in class, despite the numerous advantages peer review could render to students. Given that class time for teachers to deliver writing instruction is limited, teachers may consider extending peer review training or practice outside the classroom or even off campus through Web 2.0 applications to help students give and receive peer feedback on line.

I have found that the use of collaborative document editing in the ELT classroom has improved the level of feedback that students have given their peers, partially due to the time they can put into it on their own. I give students time outside of class to work on their comments and the author of the document can then address those things without time constraints in the classroom.

It is worth reading this article for the ideas on using peer-review in the ELT classroom. There are lots of good ideas about preparing students for participating in peer-commenting and assessment.

The power of peer-assessment and using your students as experts

This week in my business English class, we have been discussing the topic of meetings and negotiations. I wanted to include a lesson on the differences in meetings for various cultures and I also wanted to include the countries that the students come from as a basis for this topic. I thought of using one country as an example and then use that as a template for talking about the other countries. My other criteria was that I wanted the material to use natural language and not something prescribed for a language class.

I eventually came across this video on business meetings in Japan.

I have one student in my class from Japan and I thought it might be nice to use him as our ‘expert’ in this lesson. I wanted to hear from him if he thought that this video was valid and if he had anything to add. What I ended up planning was this:

1. Before watching the video, I had the students discuss the topics of the video with a partner using some guiding questions:

What do you think you need to do in a Japanese business meeting regarding:

* bowing or shaking hands?
* where to sit?
* taking and giving business cards?
* giving and receiving gifts?

How are these different from your own culture?

2. Then I had students read over the comprehension questions before watching the video.

a. What should you do: bow or shake? Why?
b. Where should you sit in a meeting? Why?
c. What should you do with a business card you’ve been given? Why?
d. What should you do about giving gifts? Why?

3. After watching the video, the students answered the questions by posting their answers on their personal work space (I use TitanPad to set up an individual writing space for each student that is password protected that only the student and I have access to).

4. I then had the students work on their own to write a introduction to doing business in their country using the same outline as the video. They had to provide 4 topic areas and were to demonstrate the use of the two grammar areas we had been working on over the past three weeks. This was to be about the same length as the video which is 215 words long. Once they were done that, they were to post the text to a group discussion page (once again, a TitanPad page, this time set up for three students). The other group members were to post their text as well.

5. Once all three were done posting, they were to read and comment on the other group members’ texts using a comment ‘guideline’ (rubric) that included grammar and spelling, content, and additional comments. I have access to all of the writing pads so I can keep tabs on what is happening in real-time and can use the chat function to add some guidance while they are commenting.

6. After each student was finished commenting on the other students’ work, I added my own comments to fill in the blanks. Students then edited their work according to the comments.

7. Once all of the students were done, I had the them audio record their text using RecordMP3 and had them post the link to their audio file below their text on the discussion. I then posted all of the links on one page and had the students listen to all of the audio files as homework.

8. The next day, I had a class discussion on what they had learned from their fellow student ‘experts’.

The students were a little nervous at first about doing this, but did a wonderful job. They really enjoyed listening to the other students and the class discussion went really well. I kept track of the comments and changes to the texts and noticed a remarkable improvement in the overall text.

This type of lesson uses the student’s previous knowledge and encourages peer-assessment and collaboration. Students mentioned that they felt empowered by being the expert in their areas and this helped build their confidence.

If you would like more information about any part of this lesson or have a comment, let me know either by commenting here or contacting me on Twitter.