We explained to the students how this worked; went over the rules of appropriate posting and explained our expectations. The teacher created an introductory prompt, showed it to the students and away we went, slowly.
The first obstacle, typing speed. There are a lot of peckers in that class. It was quickly apparent we had not done a good job teaching typing skills to the students. These were 6th grade students who were "meeting" the typing speed standards through an extreme utilization of their index fingers. The good news, future carpel tunnel will be limited to one joint.
The second obstacle, creativity. I was somewhat saddened that by sixth grade we had already bred most of the creativity out of these students. I saw this at the high school level where students would often say, "just tell me what you want me to know." I would respond, "I want you to tell me what you know and I don't care how you do it." That froze the best students, but provided the struggling students an avenue for success. The good students knew how to memorize and regurgitate content, but not how to demonstrated their own understanding of content. It was the "strugglers" who found create means of explaining ideas.
The students were spending a lot of time on dialogue and when we asked them to set up the scene, the students could not. This seems to go back to creativity and to simply be able to tell a story. We had to intervene here and there to set up a new scene for the students, otherwise we would have been in a circular dialogue pattern.
The third obstacle, appropriate online behavior. I'll admit, I was naive. I did not think sixth graders would post anything inappropriate, but up came "hey bitchie." I do not even know what a "bitchie" is and I it definitely was not used in the appropriate content. Had I been in high school I would have stopped and pointed out the lack of capitalization in "hey" and then broken down "bitchie," and how it did not fit into the story at this point, but this was sixth grade. None-the-less, that post shut down the rest of the 40-minute novel and led to a discussion. We were using TodaysMeet for the ease of use. Unfortunately you cannot control user names (the post came from a student who typed in a different student's name). You also cannot delete other students' posts. In the future I would use a Google Doc, plus, then through revision history I can go back and see who contributed what. The good news, we used this opportunity to discuss appropriate online behavior using this as a perfect example of how to use social media.
In the end we had written just over two pages, but gained a tremendous amount of insight. Would I try this again? You bet. The next time I would have students tell me what they want to type and I would be the typist. In the meantime, the keyboard covers are ordered and a new typing curriculum is underway and the deficiencies in creativity will be address with students and teachers.
To see the transcript of what was created, click here. It was based upon the story, Jackie and Me by Dan Gutman.