September 25, 2014

Teens and Tumblr: a writing digital portfolio

The objective of this post is to share a writing project I've been developing with EFL teenage students this semester. At the end of each unit, the course book we've been using suggests a writing task for a portfolio.

I've always been bothered by the way teenagers generally handle their written assignments at the school where I work. It usually goes as following:

  • Students write a text on a piece of paper which is given to the teacher for correction.
  • Teachers correct the mistakes by underlining, crossing out and sometimes providing a better word for a sentence. The pieces of paper are handed back to students with a mark.
  • Upon receiving their text back, students check their marks and quickly check what the teacher has corrected.
I frequently asked myself: What do students do with this piece of paper? Do students understand why they made the mistakes the teacher marked? How much do they learn from the feedback?

Considering the scenario shared above, I decided to propose a change to my students. First, I elicited from them what usually happens when they have to write texts for homework. And then I presented the idea of a Writing Digital Portfolio to be developed by each student throughout the semester.

The idea was to implement the following changes for the writings at the end of each unit. First, students would write a draft on a piece of paper and bring to class. During one of the class activities when students are busy writing, I would check all the drafts, underline mistakes and leave hints about what is wrong with what I underlined. I would focus on underlining mistakes which I believe my students would be able to identify themselves if pointed in the right direction. Second, students would edit the text marked by the teacher, try to identify and correct the mistakes and publish the final version on a public portfolio. As a tool, I suggested TUMBLR as students could easily publish texts and images either from their cell phones or their laptops. Finally, I would evaluate the final version.

My aim was to try a simple version of process writing, invite students to reflect about their writings, to collect each student's writing on a single page and have something tangible of what is produced by students during the semester.

We've been working together for 2 months and a half now and students are about to publish their third writing. The texts are fairly short (about 100 words), but they have been of great help to me as evidence of what my students have learned and what they haven't learned yet.

Screenshot of a Protopage with the Portfolio being developed by students.
In order to see the portfolios, you can click on the image above, and then click on the names of the students. Or you can click on the links of some portfolios I bring below: