Penzu Classroom

Today I signed up for Penzu Classroom.  Note, this is not a free tool.  I had to pay a membership for the year that covers myself and my students.  I’m going to give it a whirl and if I don’t like it there is  a 30 day guarantee.  I really enjoy having my students blog in ELA because I think it gives them a format to express different thoughts and opinions.  Sometimes I prompt their entries, sometimes I show a video and ask a question, and sometimes I just let them free write.  I can’t remember where I came across this tool this fall, but it got me thinking that this could be an interesting way to have them write their journals in a new and possibly more engaging, 2013 way.  The way it works is you set up classrooms, which each get a code.  You give the code to your students and have them sign up for the free Penzu account to which they enter the classroom code.  This links your accounts.  Students are then able to journal and submit their journals directly to their teacher.  I can then grade and comment and it gets returned to them. It is very cool the way it looks just like a pen and paper journal.  I haven’t told my students we are going to switch, so I will keep you posted on how the transition goes and what the reaction is.  I have a couple concerns, the first being that we have two computer labs in our school and they get booked very quickly.  Therefore I may not always have access to the lab when I need/want.  My second concern is that they need an email address to get an account.  I’m not sure that all my students will have an account or more importantly whether I should be asking them to use it.  I immediately thought of the way Alec showed us you can add email addresses to our own by adding  ex. +eci831.  Could someone help me out with this?  Do I have that right?  I was thinking I could set myself up a classroom email and then provide each student with an addition to that email.  Thoughts?  What I really like about this e-journal is that it goes directly to me and is not open to the public.

I think this will benefit my students typing skills as well.  However, I may have to give a few lessons in proper word processing.  Currently I don’t grade their journals on spelling, grammar or punctuation, but will make notes if need be.  I am thinking I might want to add a criteria to my assessment that would encourage them to use capitals, punctuation, and no texting shorthand.

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