Wallwisher – feedback without hassle

Every other unit or so, Norma Myers, Spanish teacher at West Middle, opens up a tack-board of sorts on the web. In response to a prompt, students respond with 160 characters or a link to a picture or video. There’s no set up time, and no student registration is required. Just a quick formative assessment using a fun, novel website: Wallwisher.com

You might be hard-pressed to find a website simpler than Wallwisher. Creators set up a “wall” where others can add “sticky notes” that include text and a link or picture. You can create as many walls as you like, and your participants can add as many sticky notes as you ask them to. Wonder how easy it is to set up? Check out the one-minute video below.

For learning?

So, how might someone use this to help kids learn? Well, there are lots of ways. Norma has created a list, and she’s adding to it every now and again. She’s up to fourteen so far. Here’s the list:

  • sentence starters, with students finishing the sentence.
  • birthday wishes in Spanish
  • congrats for school play, math contests etc.
  • links to other sites (games, practice activities, etc)
  • students talk about plans for the weekend, summer etc.
  • grammar explanations, then students give an example
  • I post student errors, students have to correct
  • post pictures when studying adjectives, students write comments
  • when learning how to give advice, I post a problem, they write advice
  • opinion poll (could be anonymous)
  • feedback on activity, quiz etc.
  • during the food chapter, students can give a review of a restaurant
  • storytelling – each students adds new info to the story.
  • matching activity – students match vocab word to a picture or definition

The tasks above mix connecting activities with assessment activities. Norma is able to use Wallwisher to get a bead on her students’ interests, their lives outside of school, and their proficiency in the language, all using a simple interface. She also builds a sense of community among the students in her classes, since multiple periods participate on the same wall.

What about cheating?

With most online tools, the possibility of cheating always exists. This can be worked against in a couple ways.

  1. Ask questions that can’t be answered in the same way by different people. Not only will these types of questions discourage cheating, they also tend to attack higher levels of thinking, in whatever knowledge taxonomy you prefer. If your goal is immediate publishing (i.e. you want students to “see” their posts as well as the posts of their peers right away), you’ll have to employ a type of questioning that will elicit different answers from each person.
  2. Enable “moderation” of notes.Norma’s students are learning the basics of the language, so answers to her prompts will be very similar. To prevent copying, Norma enables “moderation” on her walls. Anyone can add a note, but no one can see the notes of others until Norma approves them. Because Norma’s goal is always correct creation of language, she only approves those notes which meet her standards, and she only approves notes after the deadline for the assignment has passed. Her public walls, with their approved posts, become examples to her students of correct language usage.The picture below displays what a Wallwisher wall looks like to Norma before notes are approved.
    This next picture shows what the same wall looks like to the outside world once a handful of notes are approved.

What about safety?

Participating on a wall offers a nice opportunity to chat with students about the theme of online identity. For younger students, aliases (agreed upon and recognizable by the teacher) might be one solution. For older students, perhaps first name and last initial would suffice. For some, full names may be fine. This is a decision you should make together with your students and their parents.

Walls have unique URLs that most people won’t “happen upon” through a Google search, but enabling moderation for your wall is always the safest way to ensure that only content approved by you is displayed publicly on your wall. In addition, you always have the ability to edit any of the notes on your walls.

What about time?

Wallwisher maximizes curriculum time – walls are easy to set up and adding to one is a snap. Participation in any online task, however, should consider elements of access to Internet-connected devices. Norma has struck a nice balance in this area. She gives her students multiple days, often over a weekend, to complete a Wallwisher activity.

So, what about you? Have you tried out Wallwisher? If so, tell us how you used it in the comments below! If not, give it a go!

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