Part I: Corkboard.me
It's not always easy to get a class involved, especially if your students are shy. Corkboard.me, however, seemed to really be effective in facilitating class interaction. Corkboard.me is a virtual representation of the classroom bulletin board. Students can stick post-its up anonymously and synchronously about just about anything. In my classroom, we use it as a brainstorming tool. My students post their ideas, while we have our Corkboard showing on the projection screen. The sheer number of post-its on our Corkboard show just how well it worked. For the last assignment, about 30 post-its were put up in 5 minutes.
Last semester, I used Wallwisher to have students do some brainstorming for their Writing as Activism projects. They posted problems they foresee the world facing in the next fifty years. As you can see in this older post, students had fun using it and really did a great job of brainstorming and had fun doing it. Many of their thought bubbles were later represented in their projects.
The problem is that Wallwisher couldn't handle the class volume. Some of my students simply couldn't get online to post. There were always "glitches in the matrix." As an alternative, I've settled with Corkboard.me, which is working great!
Part II: The Most Boring Essay Ever
In addition to the "How We See the Future" brainstorming, we worked on a new task this semester: the most boring essay topics ever. These ranged from "what basic addition means to me" to "how to use a toilet" and everything in between. I saw the students become animated instantly. Later, I had students chose a topic from the many that were posted on our Corkboard. They proceeded to try to write the most interesting introduction possible.
The next task was to pull an "audience" out of the box and to rewrite their introduction in a way that would be interesting for their selected audience, which could be anything from a lawyer to 200 clowns.
Finally, they added an "role," which they again chose from a box. They had to take on the role, while still addressing the audience, and trying to keep it interesting. Students might be magicians, rockstars, know-nothings, etc.
The results were mostly humorous, but it definitely opened up conversation about how students consciously shift their writing when they imagine an audience or a role. They realized how much vocabulary and tone played a part in the evolution of their paragraph. It was a little harder to get them to see how their ideas and examples were changing, but they did see that too.