Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Ironing Out Wrinkles In Digital Peer Editing

After a little over a month as a 1:1 high school, one of the most popular uses of the laptops in my department (English) has been the ability to peer edit in real time using a variety of forms of feedback. Teachers have made use of several tools, including: Google Docs, Wikispaces, Moodle Wiki, and passing laptops with Word documents open. Surprisingly, the last option of physically passing laptops has been most seamless. While Google Docs and the wiki options seems most geared for the activity, they're not yet real-time and without face to face coordination of editing, material and formatting gets erased and lost. The activity still works, however, if students have two documents open, only one of which is collaborative, and before any edits are made to the latter doc., it's refreshed, and only one student edits at a time with a little 5-10 second buffer before and after. Maybe a bit to manage in a classroom full of freshman.

In search of a more effective tool, I sat down with Bruce and another 1:1 English teacher, Ben, for our first Yugma session. Wow, I'm not sure if we figured anything out, but this tool is impressive. We took turns being what Yugma calls "The Presenter," which means this person's desktop is shared with the other collaborators. Everybody has control of the desktop, but Yugma only allows mouse controls one person at a time. So, instead of a shared document environment, students could be working on the same document in real-time on Word.

But for the "best of all," I need to back up a little and mention my dubious feelings about the peer editing activity in general. Whenever, I set up this activity in class (how can you facilitate an English class without some permutation of the peer edit) I always empathize with what I think we all experience, which is the gamble of peer editing. Maybe you get the best writer in class who's willing to give your essay the thought and feedback it deserves. But your chances are even better to get a "good job." at the bottom of the paper. Looking at it this way, the activity becomes more about teaching feedback than about a writer getting feedback that will improve their final draft. So Yugma's "best of all," only available if you pay, is that the entire editing session can be recorded, filed, and played back. That would make a great class lesson on giving feedback, even allowing a discussion of feedback that addresses different learning styes, i.e. voice comments, attaching visuals, working in a mind map, linking to a web resource, Visual Thesaurus, etc. Not to mention how much easier it would make the assessment of the process.


Doug Noon said...

I'm with you on the uneven-ness of peer editing. I'm thinking that maybe simply having students simply read each others' papers back to the writer, aloud, and then to simply discuss them. Maybe it would help to avoid some of the basic issues.

Clay Burell said...

What about this? Yugma conferencing while capturing it with Screencast-o-matic.com? Never thought of that possibility until I read your post.

You nailed what I too suspect is every English teacher's nagging doubt about the value of peer editing - though I think the 1001 Flat World Tales we did last year showed some promise worth fine-tuning. Many of my students appreciated your students' feedaback (and said so in anonymous Moodle reflections).

Chris, what's your Twitter name? I'm cburell - add me. Maybe we can stay in contact easier that way :)

C. Watson said...

Screencast-o-matic would be the workaround for the cost of Yugma, I guess. I'm going to try it. We're working on a digital essay, kind of like a photo journal. Since they'll be working in iPhoto, on the web, in word-processing, I'm going to use Yugma for the peer editing process. That should happen late this week, early next week. I'll be sure to post.