Friday, March 29, 2013
mLearning - Evernote as a Trigger for Writing
In the Binational Center I work for writing is taken seriously. There is a program for all levels. For the Teens and Intermediate courses, students work on paragraphs, but when they get to the Advanced level, the requirement is more demanding. Learners are exposed to different kinds of genres and are supposed to hand in a fully-developed composition. A dreading activity for many.
This semester, I have a group of very young teens who are Advanced students, so this was an extra challenge, as they are still very raw in terms of writing skills and styles, but I am an optimist by heart and always believe that depending on the way you develop the activity results are unexpected, but impressive.
I decided to try Evernote as a writing portfolio and it has proven to be an effective move towards engagement. The writing task was for students to choose a story in their lives and write about it. As a pre-writing activity, we told each other some funny, sad, embarrassing stories to each other. Then, instead of projecting the PPT slides to go through the idea of how to structure the stories, this time still paragraphs, I had previously downloaded in each iPad the PPT to Keynote so that students had more control over their activity. They worked in pairs, exploring the concepts of topic sentence, adding details and concluding ideas. We went over some stories in the Keynote app together and discussed how effective the introducing sentence was, how we could make it better, if the reader would be interested in keeping reading with that introduction, etc.
In the second stage of the activity, I asked them to open Evernote, add their names in the title of the note and they had a chance to write their stories in class. They used the Longman dictionary app in the iPad and were totally into their writing. As we work with process writing, I, then, could open everybody's work on a single notebook (the ipads are all synchronized with the same Evernote account) and printed the paragraphs to correct them using the proofreading symbols. In the following class, a question surprised me, "teacher, do you have our paragraphs?" Never have I had my teens students so interested in their pieces of writing. Again, I handed out the iPads and before I realized it, they were reading each other's texts! I gave them the printed version of the first draft with my comments and the symbols for them to figure out what was wrong or missing, so a focus on the structure, but with my comments focused on the content. They grabbed the iPads and worked on the second version of their paragraphs. I could give individual assistance to all and also encouraged peer correction for the faster ones. They helped the ones who had more difficulty to develop their ideas.
The results? On one single Evernote note, I had students' first and final drafts. I could easily visualize their progress with not much fuss. They were totally engaged in the activity and could easily play around to edit their texts. It didn't even seem to be the dreaded writing assignment that had been for so many years haunting English learners. And in the next writing activity, they can easily refer back to their notes, which I can share via email or link with them. I really feel that just the fact that you are using their means has made a difference in their reaction and attitude towards writing. Besides that, their reading audience was amplified. Classmates read their pieces, and even other Advanced groups who were also writing their stories in another Evernote notebook.
Here are same samples of students' writing (published with their permission):
I will never forget the day that a hook entered my cuticle. Last vacation, I was having a trip with my brother, my parents and my grandparents. We have gone to Araxá, a small city in Minas Gerais. It is a very cool place. When I arrived there, the first thing I did was wait for my mother to do the check in. There was nothing to do in the city, so I stayed at the hotel, doing some wonderful activities, like riding used bikes every day, swimming, sleeping, watching TV, running, fishing...
Have you used Evernote as a writing Portfolio? How?