Writely: A New Tool

In a stack of papers called Connections.

  • Jan
  • 14
  • 2006

The Site

Writely – The Web Word Processor

This looks like such a cool thing, making documents that you choose open to a variety of people. There must be a way to use this in education.

A Flock Of Accounts

Hmmm… Do I need to have each student create an account with this? Should I, then, provide an email address for each student? How can I do that? I don’t like students having multiple accounts for things in class. They all already have a Blogger account and a School Loop account; I want everyone to have an email account. That’s at least 3 different accounts that are almost required to be an active participant in class. I keep thinking of students creating a Wikipedia account; a few ideas about using some kind of social bookmarking tool jangle around in my head; a lesson on RSS using Bloglines pops up every now and again. That’s too many accounts, so I don’t like that Writely is yet another account a student needs. And if I use a classroom account, that defeats the purpose of tracking who has made what change/suggestion. If anyone has any ideas of how to remedy this, comments are open. That being said…

Ideas For Use

  • As a way to begin a discussion of improving writing, provide a really terribly written paragraph as a document for everyone to collaborate on (the way Writely refers to something everyone can work on and edit). Each student will rewrite the paragraph and Writely then will archive all the changes. As a class, walking through the different revisions of the paragraph could illustrate different writing techniques.
  • Students could post drafts of their writing on Writely and send it out to at least 5 students in class (arrange ahead of time who their group of 5 peer editors consists of so that everyone is involved in this?) as a virtual writing group to improve essays. Now, peer editing can take place online, with students free to completely rewrite paragraphs, sentences, or merely words.
  • Some of my students are having a hard time using OpenOffice in my classroom and Microsoft Word at home. They tell me that their document, which they slaved away on during class and worked to improve and expand upon, opens up as gibberish when they get home. I’m sure it’s just my lack of knowledge and there’s a “Save As…” option that would fix all this, but Writely can also save a document in OpenOffice or Word formats in the free version (it’ll save as PDF in the pay version).
  • In addition to their digital locker in School Loop, Writely could be another way for students to always have their documents with them electronically.
  • Writely could be a way for the teacher to comment on the essay. I’ve tried to comment on some essays electronically in the past and it’s been a bit of a problem. Editing documents electronically is cumbersome. Still, Writely might be a way for some editing/evaluation of essays.
  • For keeping classroom notes, Writely can be a spot for all students to type their ideas. I suppose that a Wiki would be better for this, but I’d want to set that Wiki up on a new server, not in the general…wikisphere(?). Instead of that setup, Writely might be a good place for that to happen
  • This could finally be the way for teachers to share their Word documents with each other. I’ve been thinking that I have some stuff on my hard drive that might be useful to other teachers. Maybe that handout I used a few years ago could be edited and put to good use in a classroom somewhere. Maybe I don’t have time or the vision to make that happen, but someone else does. Writely could be a place for me to store all of those documents and tag them appropriately, making those documents available for people to suggest revisions. This is partially selfish because the more people there are working to improve my handouts for their own use, the better my handouts are. But I’m also betting that I’ve created at least a few things over the years that could be useful in other classrooms.

A powerful way to share documents with as many or as few people as you want, with edit or view-only permission given to any member of that list, Writely stands ready for us to use it.


1. Nancy says:

[1/16/2006 - 7:23 pm]

This looks really cool! I can’t wait to try it out! Thanks so much for the link!

2. Alicia says:

[1/7/2007 - 10:16 pm]

Great tool for writing in the upper grades and for writers in general!

3. Heidi Grasing says:

[7/31/2007 - 8:35 am]

I like the idea of using writerly but now it seems like there so many new ways for kids to publish their work on line and have it edited that it makes it hard to decide which is the best and most user friendly. -Heidi

4. Isannah says:

[7/31/2007 - 4:45 pm]

Writely sounds great! I love your idea of the virtual writing group. I think it would be a terrific approach for upper grade writers.

5. Dorothy says:

[8/1/2007 - 2:40 am]

This seems to bring the meaning of community to a whole new level. I like the idea of starting with a writing sample and everyone being able to input their own touches. Also for teachers to submit a worksheet and have other improve upon it is excellent Dorothy

6. Belen says:

[8/1/2007 - 8:03 pm]

This is a great tool for the classroom. What I like the most is that each students don’t need an account for every web site. They can find about everything in here.

7. Todd says:

[8/3/2007 - 10:13 am]

Heidi, the best and most user friendly online publishing system is the one the teacher is most comfortable with and that can easily be passed on to the kids. Blogger’s got my vote there. Isannah, ideas might be great, but application is something completely different. Most students don’t have any interest in helping their peers become better writers enough to warrant a system like this. Having a paper in hand is still the best way to peer edit. Doing it virtually lets students off the hook and the responses become almost worth/meaningless. I’m a fan of writing groups, but it takes a certain group of kids for them to want it virtual over literal. Dorothy, in a similar way to what I wrote above, putting those writing samples online instead of on paper cues lots of students to simply do as little as possible. I’ve seen much more success with that kind of activity when they have to write things out by hand or at least have a piece of paper in front of them. They can submit their rewritten work online, but if it’s all on the computer that’s probably going to be a mistake. Sitting at a computer becomes a call to not do work and many students just stare at the screen.

As far as submitting a worksheet to have others improve it, Curriki might be a better place since it’s easier to open that worksheet up to anyone. Google Docs would require all editors to have a Google account and for the owner of the document to invite those people to edit – in turn, those editors would have to accept the invitation. Sounds easy, but the trouble that accepting an invitation causes is mind blowing. With something like Curriki, you just throw your worksheet on their site and anyone can get to it.

Writely has been replaced by Google Docs. As you suggest, Belen, that solves some of my “A Flock Of Accounts” problem: students create a Google account and they have access to Blogger, Docs, Gmail, and Reader (though Bloglines is clearly the better RSS reader for classroom application and that entry is coming soon). But I don’t know what you mean by “they can find about everything in here.”

Not to belittle all of your contributions to this discussion, but did reading this entry and leaving a comment become some kind of requirement for a class somewhere? Four comments suddenly appearing on an entry that’s a year and a half old (and technically incorrect because of the time that’s passed) is a bit odd. If it is a class assignment, thanks for the interest. I hope you have time to follow up on this discussion.

8. nora mayer says:

[5/10/2008 - 8:54 pm]

I agree with you Todd about what you said about the online publishing system being a good place to send edited work but instead of staring at a blank page do the first draft as a hard copy.

9. Mariann Weiser says:

[5/11/2008 - 3:44 am]

Writely is a great tool for students to use as a collaborative group project because I agree with Todd that students are not interested in peer editing, especially online.

10. Collaborative Writing Tools Workshop « EdTechie: Resources for Teachers says:

[11/10/2008 - 9:20 am]

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