Reflecting back upon the project, I realized that I probably learned more than any of my students. My original vision of students working around the clock, vehemently writing in anticipation of gaining an authentic audience, didn’t quite work out.
A handful of kids did write from home, but most didn’t have access. So despite my desire to move our peer collaboration to the cloud, it ended up happening either during a scheduled computer lab time, or during schedule literacy center rotations.
There were times when I forgot to reserve the lab. There was the period of two weeks when the heat didn’t work in the lab. Computers died, the network went down, kids accidentally logged in as someone else, new students moved in. Browsers were closed without saving, posts had 95 line returns before the text began, some kids spent more time commenting than writing.
But kids learned how to troubleshoot hardware and software problems, struggling writers became proud writers, parents and staff started asking if they could help, and kids started to have conversations about pieces of writing outside of writing time.
Will I try things differently next time? Absolutely. But I won’t worry about making it perfect. So much of what was accomplished as a class came from the journey of overcoming challenges and adapting to wrong turns and failed attempts. In the end, although using social media became entirely more work than I could have ever anticipated, I also felt the payoff was greater than I had hoped. Not only did student writing improve, but so did motivation, self-confidence, collaboration, digital citizenship, classroom citizenship, and value in the written word of lived experiences. Not bad for an inquiry project.