By Ken Haynes
Okay, so the free lunch thing is just a figure of speech because I’m really not talking about food here. What I do want to get into, however, is the free in a no-strings-attached kind of way (sorry, there I go again with the idioms) that BoomWriter provides.
I was motivated to write this piece after encountering an article in Tech & Learning magazine focusing on challenges with technology expenditures for 2012 (http://www.techlearning.com/article/52705). Budgets are being cut and technology directors are apparently being held more accountable for returns on the money that has and will be spent on technology. This all sounds quite messy and unpleasant, and it’s certainly bound to not have a positive impact on teachers’ teaching and students’ learning in the classroom. It feels like a big step back in the education technology world.
Enter BoomWriter, which if you are not yet aware is truly a free and easy-to-use web-based literacy site that kids will love and learn from. Plus, it’s Common Core-aligned, super easy for teachers to use, and can be done with no professional development (no PD = no PD costs). Seriously, it’s free!
So what can you do with BoomWriter? Well, first and foremost you can have your students work collaboratively and competitively (for those of you uncomfortable with the concept of competition in the classroom please see “We Lost” at http://boomwriter.tumblr.com/post/12933804006/we-lost) to create a BoomWriter book. The kids will love it. While in the midst of this, in addition to your students being engaged and highly motivated to write, you will also be able to teach many of the Literature standards in the Common Core including Key Ideas and Details, Craft and Structure, and Integration of Knowledge and Ideas. You can do this while discussing the book’s Story Start with your students as well as at the end of each completed chapter. Imagine taking the winning chapter and saying to the class, “Let’s look at Declan’s winning chapter and analyze the direction he took the story in. Then we can continue on by having each of you write what you think will be the best next part of the story!” Your students will be analyzing peer-generated content and they’ll be asked to generate new content off of what you’re going over with them, so the levels of student engagement are certain to be astronomical.
You can follow this same approach while teaching and having your students construct persuasive pieces (see http://boomwriter.tumblr.com/post/13107265809/common-core-persuasive-writing. This can also be done with informative/explanatory text types (explanation/lesson plan on how to do this to follow soon). Again, all of these services are available for teachers to use for free.
You’re most likely still wondering, “What’s the catch?” and trying to figure out how we can offer this. Well, kids have the option of purchasing the work they’ve completed with their peers on BoomWriter in the form of a soft-cover book. Plus, our membership-based writing club serves as another source of income. We just need to make enough money to keep ourselves up, running, and able to provide the free service of BoomWriter for teachers and kids in schools.
It really is a “free lunch”. Enjoy!