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Free writing (and five free tools) – #28daysofwriting day 8

Miss A writes a song by Denise Krebs - cc Licensed on Flickr
Image credit: Miss A Writes a Song by Denise Krebs – CC Licensed on Flickr

I’ve got a load of half formed ideas for posts, but I’m not sure enough of my thoughts on any of them. Plus it’s late, and I’m still full of cold. So…

One of the activities we used to do with the students in SMART was free writing. You had to pick up a pen and write. It didn’t matter what you wrote, you just had to write. If you didn’t know what to write, you could write about the fact that you didn’t know what to write. But you had to write.

At the end you could share if you wanted, or keep it private if you’d rather. We used to have short stories, accounts of a walk to school, people writing about what they’d seen on TV, all sorts. But everyone wrote. The people who told you they couldn’t write, wrote. The people who would spend all day writing wrote, but had to stop after 15 minutes. I wasn’t too fussed about spelling, colour of pen, how long the sentences were. All  those things could be addressed later. It was just about listening to what was inside your head and getting it down on paper.

Much like this has been for the last 8 minutes. Let’s see what else comes out…

I’m currently sat in a small hotel room above the Royal Black Lion pub in Lampeter. I’m working with some teachers from secondary schools from across Ceredigion tomorrow morning, and with a 9am start it makes sense to travel up the night before. I’d phoned ahead to warn them that I might not be here by 9pm (the time they’d given me as the last check in time by email when I queried it yesterday), and so the guy kept the bar open for me until I got here (only about 9.15 in the end). The place is dead. The whole town seems deserted. Very strange for a university town, even one where the uni is this small.

Tomorrow’s session is going to be introducing some of the features of Hwb to a group of teachers. We’ll be looking at some of the opportunities for collaboration offered by Office 365, and for a workflow between student and teacher using the assignments feature in Hwb+. The great thing about it is the way that comments can be passed from learner to teacher and back again as a piece of work develops and improves. Far more useful, in my view, than a simply grade book.

I always try and make sure there’s time for delegates to identify some areas they feel they’re already pretty good at, and some areas they’re currently trying to develop. Then I can match some tools to what they’re already working on, rather than simply adding another item to their workload. I may come back to some of the things we discuss in tomorrow’s post.

This has been a bit rambling so far, fair play if you’ve stuck with it. Let’s try and finish with something more useful. Five websites that might be of use to you tomorrow.

Trello. Just discovered this thanks to Doug Belshaw. It’s my new system for getting organised. I’ll let you know if it lasts.

Classtools.net. Some great resources developed by Russel Tarr. Loads of tools and templates that can be adapted for whatever you’re teaching next week

Simple.wikipedia.org. A simple English version of Wikipedia. It’s crying out for more articles. Why not get your class to write some for whatever topic they are studying at the moment?

Padlet. This has been mentioned by lots of teachers recently. A really versatile tool both for sharing things with students and a space for them to collaborate

Hemingway. This one via Oliver Quinlan. It provides feedback on how easy to read your writing is. I’ve amended some of this, although there’s still rather a lot of red. I’m inclined to try and actually write some of this week’s posts in it to see what feedback I get.

Dave Stacey

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