The Boston Public Schools and Chicago Public Schools, are adopting an innovative content creation, collaboration and delivery platform from BoomWriter Media, Inc. – with a little help from Chicago-based CareerBuilder, who’s stepping up to sponsor their home town’s district.
Together, the two adoptions will give more than 250,000 Chicago and Boston students in grades 3-12 the opportunity to use the award-winning digital education platform in their schools.
Founder and CEO Chris Twyman says that BoomWriter re-imagines the group approach to creative writing by asking, “what if we could bring together kids in a really engaging manner to write stories in a collaborative but competitive way?”
The BoomWriter platform brings together published children’s authors and celebrities to write the initial chapter of a children’s book. Students write the next 500 to 800-word chapter of the book, which is then subject to an anonymized voting process. The “winner” of the voting process becomes the author of Chapter 2 and this process continues until the story is finished. The process is free for teachers and students to participate in, and at the completion of the book, hard copies are available for purchase. This gives students ‘bragging rights’ as a published editor or author, lets teachers integrate the book creation into their curriculum, and provides parents with a memorable proof point of their child’s creativity and academic achievement.
This process broadens BoomWriter’s place as a literacy platform for reading as well as writing – students engage with one-another and their teacher, continually referring and responding to the winning chapter in order to vote on and contribute to future chapters. Despite initial concern about whether declaring a winner would decrease student engagement, the competition aspect of the BoomWriter platform has had the opposite effect – students tend to increase site time and frequency of sign-in as the book moves along. In fact, almost 100,000 chapters have been written on the platform. Remarkably, no student has won more than twice.
Since the launch of the production version almost 18 months ago, students have finished over 1000 books at 4000 schools in 82 countries, with books being published in multiple languages.
On BoomWriter’s success, Twyman cites the importance of the efficacy of the product, saying that initial efficacy testing has focus groups rating the finished books at “one to two grades higher than their expected grade level.”
The Technology Heroes initiative seeks to bring the BoomWriter platform to inner city districts in need of resources. After the writing process is complete, students emerge from the BoomWriter Technology Heroes Program as published writers and editors of professionally printed works, and will receive their books for free. Teachers in participating districts are trained on the BoomWriter platform by experiencing the process from the kids’ perspective. Twyman says that the teachers really get into the competitive collaboration, even spending 20 minutes decorating avatars called “boomers” to represent themselves.
In addition to the platform, BoomWriter donates a mobile technology lab into the district to help accelerate technology use. BoomWriter hopes their work with Technology Heroes districts will help to test and refine BoomWriter’s own processes and gauge the efficacy and stickiness of the technology.
BoomWriter has also recently announced a partnership with Boston-based WGBH for a virtual online summer camp for students. With a story lead by Jeff Kinney, author of the Wimpy Kid book series, students will participate in daily writing and voting sessions to complete a collaborative book with camp-mates within a week. The Storytellers Camp is a great option for that ‘too old for day camp, too young for work’ demographic, and helps stop learn-loss… that vacation academic back-slide that students are vulnerable to. Other BoomWriter based projects are in the works for increased mobile access, expansion of the product to younger age groups, and even different media for collaborative creativity.
Lisa Perez, Network Library Coordinator for the Chicago Public Schools Department of Educational Tools & Technology, notes: “The BoomWriter program motivates students. We expect a great deal of excitement as they see their words in print.” Brian Donahue, vice president of sales strategy of CareerBuilder, program underwriters for the Chicago Public School District, adds: “BoomWriter helps young people develop their writing skills for a rapidly changing, technology driven world. This program is a great way to invest in our community and future workforce.”
Melissa Dodd, Chief Information Officer of the Boston Public Schools, comments: “This is an exciting partnership that not only enables educational innovation in the 21st century, but aligns with the district’s goal to prepare our students for college and career success.”
The BoomWriter content creation, delivery and collaboration platform is intuitive and easy to adopt in-class. Twyman summarizes: “Online collaboration and education are increasingly intuitive for students. The BoomWriter platform is designed specifically to leverage this ‘Digital DNA.’ Also, we’re especially pleased by CareerBuilder’s outstanding commitment to educational innovation and excellence in its hometown, Chicago.”
BoomWriter adheres to Common Core State Standards and can support district compliance benchmarks as the initiative rolls out. Three school districts and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston now participate in the BoomWriter Technology Heroes Program. Additional information is available at: http://www.boomwriter.com/Home/TechnologyHeroes
Sheri Cheng is a former science teacher and tech director at an urban charter school in Boston with a penchant for 7th grade humor. Sheri is the Editor-in-Chief and Director of Operations at EdTech Times, keeping on top of day-to-day news in educational technology and entrepreneurship.