Monday, June 27, 2011

The Art of Remix: Collaborative Writing in the Classroom

I'm blogging from ISTE this morning in one of the BYOL (Bring Your Own Laptop) sessions and I'm excited to learn about a tool called "MixedInk." You can check it out for yourself here. It's being presented by teachers from Fort Worth Country Day School in Fort Worth, Texas.

My initial impression was, "Oh, a fancy wiki tool," but I'm quickly learning that it's a lot more than a wiki. MixedInk allows teachers to create virtual "classrooms" of students. Within a classroom students can collaboratively author texts in realtime (no stealing the lock, etc as multiple students can edit the SAME text simultaneously - unlike those pesky wikis).

MixedInk provides authorship tracking, color coding each person's contributions so students can see who is responsible for different portions of the text. MixedInk lets students rate different versions of a text. The version with the highest rating is known as the "top version," but it only remains the top version until another version gets a better rating. When students are writing competing versions, they can "remix" or pull portions of others work into their draft. When they use someone else's work, the other person is automatically added as a co-author.

As learners, we played with this question "What does it mean to be a teacher today?" To see what we created, check it out here: You'll need an account to check it out, but registration is free. 

Participants in the BYOL Session
Update: At least, you can see what we tried to play with. Looks like too many hits to the MixedInk server....we're down right now. 

Suggested format for use:
* Write your version
* Read other's versions
* Rate and comment on other's versions
* Remix your version
* Rate and comment on remixed versions until one rises to the top 

MixedInk is best used when there's some kind of problem solving involved, rather than asking students to interpret a text via a close reading. 

For example, provide students with a series of primary source documents about a "controversial" issue. Ask them to: 1) Decide who authored the primary source documents, 2) Place the documents on a timeline for when they were authored, and then 3) Justify their answers. 

Once students have answered questions 1-3 on their own, they can then read the answers compiled by their classmates. Students leave comments and rate individual versions. The next step is to create a remixed version, pulling from classmates' work to produce new products.  These remixed products are then rated and reviewed until one version rises to the top. As a final self-assessment activity, the teacher and class can discuss what the top version does well and how it can be improved. 

AWESOME! I can't wait to try this with our pre-AP Global Studies classes as they learn how to write essays and analyze documents. 

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