Mixedink: Write democratically

By now, many people will have used wikis, blogs, Google Docs, Zoho or something similar to get their students collaborating on a task. They all enable multiple editors to work on a piece of writing, be it a poem, a practical report, a letter, a procedure or an essay.

Mixedink also allows people to collaborate but it differs in the execution and is aimed towards getting larger groups to work together.

Anyone can start a piece of work for any purpose. As with other services, invites are sent to potential collaborators. If for example you write a letter to the government of Japan complaining about whaling, collaborators can read and rate your work. They also have the option of writing their own version and while they do, paste in and modify the best bits from your letter. When they are happy with it they publish their version and then other collaborators can repeat the process until there are many versions, each rated by their peers. At the end of a period set by the organiser of the letter/article etc the version with the highest rating is the 'winner'. Below is a demo video:

Implications for teaching:
Collaboration in all forms is an essential skill and this service could be a great way to inspire and direct students to think about a given topic. The rating system encourages analysis of existing ideas and the drafting process encourages synthesis. One problem that many students have is in drawing on a number of secondary sources to create their own work. We have all had to mark a zillion cut-and-paste horrors. Plagiarism is something that can't be overcome without explicit teaching of how best to stitch together concepts and ideas. This tool has the potential to assist teachers and students to examine the process of writing a good piece that uses other's work ethically.

As with all work involving collaboration online, care would haveto be taken to set guidelines for students re: language, personal attacks etc. but this should be standard for all classrooms anyway. 

The rating system does have the potential to favour popular students and we don't necessarily want the physically attractive yet illiterate students to have their work rated highly. I would advocate having the students set up anonymous accounts that only the teacher knows the true name for. It is a shame that Mixedink hasn't prepared for educational users by allowing educators  to create class sets of numbered IDs like a couple of other web 2.0 services do. Maybe later.

Likewise there might be some hurt feelings for students whose work is rated lowly. This is something that students should be prepared to deal with and it is an opportunity for some real self-examination ie "did I work hard enough?", "how can I improve my writing?", "Why did Jenny's get rated so highly?"
Some ideas for use:
Interclass debates: Imagine if the main arguments for and against were assigned to whole classes or even year levels. An interesting way to see what arguments would hold the most weight with a large number of people
Writing an 'issue' letter: Write to government or a company to voice your discontent or otherwise about an issue.
Story writing: Set the class a character, problem, setting etc and let them create.
School newsletter: Crowdsource an article on any topic
Student council: Prepare submissions to the school executive about an issue of concern to students.

You get the idea!

What I'd like to see for educators:
1) The ability to create bulk logins for students.
2) As mentioned above, the rating system could become a popularity contest. I would like an alternative rating system that rates work according to an algorithm involving number of visitors, average time spent reading the article divided by length of article, number and amount of paragraphs copied etc.... but then, I am a maths teacher. 


Susan said...

Mixedink: Write democratically appears to a good collaborative tool. However, I have to agree with one blogger who wrote that, when used in the classroom, the rating system used might hurt some students feelings if their messages were not rated as highly. Still, what a great way to teach collaboration and teamwork!