Boomwriter is a web site hosting three areas that creative teachers can use across several curriculum subjects. The main feature of each distinct but inter-related area is a text entry / writing tool that students can use to create a piece of writing. Area 1 – “Story Starts” features several pages of starting paragraphs or story chapters broken into Basic, Intermediate and Advanced categories. While the Basic category would probably suit 6th class pupils, teachers can also upload their own story starters.
Here is an example of a Basic story starter:
Joan Felde Duris – The Field Trip
Viktor pressed his nose against the observation dome glass. “I’ve been waiting my whole life for this field trip to Earth. It’s going to be astronomic!” His older brother snorted. “Your whole life? All ten years?” “Astronomic.” Victor stared up at the crescent Earth and sighed. “Astronomic.” No matter how many times he said it, he couldn’t force himself to believe. Viktor tore his gaze from the sky and took in the comforting sights on the ground. Port Peary’s field of solar panels spread across the gray lunar terrain. Why were Isobell and Cosmo so excited about leaving the Moon? “I wish you could come,” he told his brother.
Area 2 and Area 3 are opened ended text box areas where students can either write essays or work on projects that have been assigned by their teacher. My own opinion is that the project area is very different to our own Revised Primary curriculum concept of a project per se. This area does not offer any facility for adding images or other media type files.
Area 3 is titled WordWriter and this area allows pupils to write a piece of text; the teacher can determine the maximum number of words allowed in a piece of writing. One feature of Area 3, WordWriter, that I particularly liked was the facility for creating a list of words / word bank that pupils need to use during a writing activity. As pupils write, whenever they use a word from the teacher created word bank, the word is highlighted in the written text.
Pupils’ work is saved to the Boomwriter site where it sits waiting for review by the class teacher. Pupils gain credits/points each time they successfully complete a task and these points can be used to change and enhance their avitars or “Boomers” as they are called on the site.
The image on the left was captured using two different browsers; the teacher logged in on the left and the pupil logged in on the right. When the pupil submits a piece of work the teacher’s view reflects a new piece of work that needs to be reviewed. Feedback can be provided by the teacher including requests for edits if required.
I found the initial setup on the site to be a bit time consuming; a minimum of 5 students have to be added to a class before any activity can commence. There is also a request to add additional teacher names and email addresses so that the site can “grow”; completing this request can be postponed during the initial setup, however it needs to be finalised at a later stage.
Pupils are allocated a distinct username and password and are assigned to a previously setup class or group.
I can see numerous uses for this web resource and I think it especially suited to Learning support teachers or Resource teachers. It could easily find a home in many literacy activities and also as a way for teachers to support pupils absent from school with an illness.