Saturday, April 20, 2013

#OdysseyExperts & Showcasing Student Work

In my last post, I discussed that academic writing needs to be put on display and showcased to motivate students to write well. Writing is meant to be read, not to be locked up in a folder in a file cabinet or later tossed in the trash after the grade received.  Students think that when they turn in the assignment and meet the teacher's due date, the writing is good & done.  My other posts address my frustrations with grading the "got it done" academic writing:

But what if teachers steered students in another direction and away from the impending due date? By telling students that their work will be published, instead of graded, they will (hopefully, fingers crossed) write a better final product than the "good enough, got it done" essay, and then once the essay has been written, peer edited, and then published, the teacher can go through the work and assess if the objectives of the assignment were met. While I'm not a fan of putting grades on student writing, I get it: teachers need to follow the rules or expectations of school districts and have grades in their grade book.  With the red-pen system students only see the negative and the grade, but by using a showcase approach, teachers can arrive at the same destination but in a more positive manner.  In a way, it is tricking the students to write better the first time than waiting for the grade on the paper.

Student Showcase: #OdysseyExperts

The Design

One of the Topic Pages with Links to Student Essays
Teaming up with Sam Patterson and using Google Sites, I created a place for my students to showcase their Odyssey essays and receive feedback from Sam's classes and anyone else who visits the site.  The process was fairly easy:

  1. Create the site.
  2. Organize the essays by topic.
  3. Embed each essays on subpages to the topic page.
  4. Create a Google Form for comments and embed the form on each essay page.
  5. Embed the spreadsheet on the comment page.
  6. Create a page for comments from Sam's classes and embed a shared folder.
  7. Share, share, share with my PLN.

The Feedback Display

Sam's classes had two options for submitting their feedback:

  • complete the form on a chosen essay page or 
  • save their comments document in a shared folder.  

Public Comments Spreadsheet
Only owners and collaborators on a Google Site may comment on the pages, so as a work around, I embedded the same form on each student subpage and created a public comment page where all the comments will appear.  I was initially going to do a comment form and spreadsheet for each student, but that meant 65 separate forms for each essay on the site, and the more I thought about it, the more sense it made to have a public comments page where the students would have to read through the comments to
find their own. The point of this project was to make student writing and feedback visible, so I want all students to see all essays and all comments.

Shared Folder of Collection of Comments
While the shared folder doesn't allow for complete visibility of feedback because my students will have to open each document in the shared folder to see all comments, students would still be able to see 1 or 2 other comments for other students because each of Sam's students wrote comments for more than 1 student on the document. In addition, some of Sam's students made videos and screencasts of commentary for my students. #EduAwesome!

After 14 years of teaching, I'm just tired of student writing being hidden and dying a death in a dusty folder in a locked file cabinet, and students thinking that the only relevant audience for their work is the teacher. I want the writing to breathe and live. By putting academic writing on display and allowing for interaction, students will see their work and the work of others and gain a better understanding of their potential and abilities for writing.

Please visit the #OdysseyExperts site, read, comment, and share. The students need to see that their writing is alive. 


  1. First I would like to say thank you for the information you have provided to me through the blog post. I hope that your blog can be the best blog and can benefit everyone. Thank you. Greetings from me, Mulyono

  2. You are welcome! Thanks for reading!

  3. I really like this idea. I wish the timing had worked out for my kiddos to be involved. I HAVE TO get my kids work out of my grading folder and in front of a wider audience. Thank you for your inspiration and encouragement!

  4. Thanks Natalee! What if you had them participate as part of a review or a digital citizenship activity? You are always welcome and I look forward to working together on other projects! :-)