Crowdsourcing is Key
Certainly having all of your own classes connected on a common essay is a great way to facilitate peer-to-peer feedback, engagement and growth, but don’t underestimate the power of inviting guests to the Hive. And by inviting guests, I’m referring to the practice of bringing students and adults from outside your class into the Hive as mentors and writing coaches for your students.
Bringing in guests to the Hive does involve some work on the part of the teacher, and perhaps even a small amount of salesmanship, but, once you learn how to reach out to folks that are willing to help, the practice becomes much easier and actually quite enjoyable.
Other Students as Guests
One guest-recruitment method that I have used with success is soliciting the help of students who are one grade ahead of my current group of students. I teach 7th grade English. This year I decided to approach the 8th-grade teacher of the students that I had last year to see if I could solicit their help as mentors. I work at an International Baccalaureate School where community service is an important part of reaching the requirements for graduation and culmination.
I made a deal with teacher to provide community service hours to her students if they would spend time in the Hive with my students, looking over their essays and providing detailed feedback. She agreed, and when we approached the students with the idea the reaction was very enthusiastic.
We signed up 40 volunteers immediately. And when the time came for them to provide feedback to my 7th graders, they did so with gusto and a real sense of professionalism that impressed both me and the 8th grade teacher. It was as though they really wanted to show their younger peers that they had really learned something and could handle this important mentorship role.
This setup was so successful in fact, that we plan to do it again next year with even more essays, and my 8th grade teacher colleague, plans to enlist her current 8th graders to mentor her next crop of students. Moreover, other teachers within the department want to get in on the action. So as you can see, you can quickly and easily build a robust, peer-to-peer mentorship arrangement within your own school using the Hive.
Use your teachers
Another in-house mentorship method that I’ve began to use is to invite teachers from my school to the EssayPop Hive. I brought the subject up at our department meeting and I asked if anybody would be willing to volunteer to be a guest, and I was gratified when five hands went up. So we made a deal. Just as they provide feedback to my students, I would in turn agree to mentor their students. We managed to stagger it, so that the burden was not too great on any teacher, and we would be assigned no more than 10 students in any case.
Later, we grew this practice beyond the English department and brought in some history teachers, science teachers and a math teacher. Again, if you reach out, you’d be surprised how eager people are willing to join your “volunteer army” of essay mentors. And remember, with EssayPop, guests can jump into the Hive any time it is convenient.
I would sometimes jump in to another teacher’s class after a workout at the gym. I’d sit in the lounge area, jump on my phone and read a few essays, and the next time those students logged into EssayPop, my suggestions and corrections would be waiting for them.
Going Beyond Teachers
We expanded our on-campus, guest-recruiting efforts by approaching other staff members. We were able to get several counselors to join in, and even a few administrators. Even the woman who runs our after-school program joined a teachers Hive. So leveraging the members of your own staff is a great way to bring in guests who can bring different insights, and ultimately take the pressure off your hard-working classroom teacher.
Recruiting Outside Your School
Recruiting guests from outside of your school is more challenging of course, but can yield some very rewarding mentor relationships. I put out a digital flyer to my parents and asked if there would be any who would want to provide feedback on student papers as guests in the Hive. The results were encouraging, and out of my four classes I had more than 30 parents volunteer.
The parent volunteer mentors were very conscientious and very detailed in the feedback is provided to all of the students, and I believe it gave the parents a valuable insight into where their own children and classmates were intellectually and academically in terms of their writing abilities.
Another excellent source for recruiting writing mentors from outside the your school is local universities. This year we are piloting a program with education students at a local private university. In exchange for community service hours which are requirement for these students, we were able to get highly-substantive feedback from college-level students.
Next steps in this process will include seeing if these education departments would wish to conduct academic studies of how this whole EssayPop, Hive arrangement is benefiting our students and how participatory environments can encourage an enhanced joy for writing and better writing in general.
Your Community Wants to Help
Reaching out to targeted communities such as retirement homes, or retired teacher forums, can also yield some great Hive mentor results. This year we plan to approach retirees, and scour online forums that cater to retired teachers, NBC teachers and other such forums, to see if we can’t get additional guests to help our teachers assess student work.
I’ve got to say that when I first began to reach out to people to join my EssayPop Hive, I was reticent. I’m a teacher not a salesman, right. But now I relish the process. I’ve come to realize that the spirit of volunteerism in our schools and communities is quite strong.
People really do want to help. And what’s more, The technology that EssayPop offers through the Hive makes it all quite easy and convenient to achieve. It’s gratifying to know that combining a spirit of community service with good technology can translate into a better experience for teachers and students..