This post is about Mootup, the product we’ve been building that I’ve been trying to introduce to the educational world. It’s at Mootup.com for anybody to go see what it does. This post is about why I think it SHOULD work.
- Most (but not all) students dread writing assignments. Mootup is enough of a twist on the normal essay/research paper format that it doesn’t feel like work as much, and is less intimidating. More fun means less complaining, and happier, more engaged students.
- Most students only give a topic a superficial amount of thought and research when they write a paper. Mootup forces them to dig deeper, because they have an opponent challenging them across multiple rounds for the claims they make. This requires students to give genuine thought to the topic, and to find more sources and angles to take on the topic of discussion. Therefore, students are improving their critical thinking and research skills, while simultaneously actually acquiring and retaining more subject knowledge than they otherwise would have.
- The Common Core State Standards has a huge emphasis on argumentative writing starting in sixth grade, and rightfully so. In the Appendix to the Common Core, they explain why argumentative writing has gotten an increased amount of attention in the standards over other forms of writing. Unfortunately, this emphasis in the standards has led to no change in the actual teaching of writing. I believe one of the main reasons is that despite the standards wanting a higher emphasis, teachers lack any tools to focus on argumentative writing. At best, they can have students write persuasive essays, which teachers can then critique to help students improve their writing. But this is clearly very different from what the Common Core intends. Mootup seems to directly fill that gap by offering exactly what Common Core wants – direct, argumentative writing-based assignments that work not just in English class, but Social Studies and even Science too.
- Many schools talk about Writing Across the Curriculum as a method of spreading out the burden of teaching writing across more departments than just Language Arts. This is based on the idea that writing should be included in most if not all subjects anyways as a form of assignment and assessment of subject knowledge. This is easier said than done when most teachers in departments outside of Language Arts and Social Studies are just not trained or prepared for the logistics of a writing assignment, let alone how to grade according to writing standards. Mootup provides Common Core-based grading criteria by default to assist such teachers right within the tool, and is easier to administer and grade than regular writing assignments.
- Mootup is very environmentally friendly compared to writing assignments that typically require every student to submit their writing on physical paper. Within Mootup, students not only submit their writing right on the site, but teachers grade it right on the site too. Students can then see the grade and feedback when the teacher is done. No printing needed.
- Mootup offers easier grading for teachers. Typically, especially in the case of big research assignments, teachers have to grade in a “lump sum” format. This means that while students may work on a writing assignment over weeks or months, they are all turned in at once with the expectation of a quick grading turnaround. Even though some parts of the paper may have been done, because the papers are turned in all at once, teachers still had to read and grade everybody’s all at once. In Mootup though, because the assignment is gradual and round-by-round, with the teacher always able to read into what students have submitted, a teacher can spread that grading load out, only leaving the conclusions till the end. This leads to less burnout by teachers and quicker grade turnarounds to students, letting them more quickly learn from the feedback. Mootup assignments are also more interesting to read through than normal assignments because of the interaction that is seen in every pair of students.
- Mootup offers exciting opportunities for one class to “compete” against another class, either within the same school or across the globe. Within one assignment, one class can all take Side A, arguing against an entire class that is on Side B of that topic. Mootup can easily handle students grouped into teams as well, rather than each individual student writing alone.