This post is a product review of Turnitin Revision Assistant. All opinions are our own.
At The Curriculum Corner we get continuous questions about how to incorporate technology into instruction and learning. While we do have a website and post new content all the time, that doesn’t necessarily make us experts on technology. 😉 The good news is that we get asked to look at and try out technology products designed to help teachers and improve student engagement and learning, so we are exposed to some of the very best that’s out there. And in the case of Turnitin Revision Assistant, we feel we have found something truly extraordinary. (Think “turn it in”)
First let us give you a quick synopsis of what the product is and how it works, then we will highlight what we feel are some of its strengths and the potential for improving student writing. A few caveats before we begin. First, students all need access to a computer or tablet in order to use the product and secondly, Turnitin Revision Assistant is currently not for individual teacher use. It must be purchased by a school or district in order to use it. Lastly, we would recommend this product for upper intermediate students and older. The prompts may be a bit involved for 3rd or 4th graders, but as always, you might want to take a look for your students who may be ready for a bit more challenging writing. (It would be our hope that someday the company might consider creating something similar for our lower intermediate or even primary level writers!)
- Once you have set up your class in Turnitin Revision Assistant, you create a writing assignment and a due date. You then choose the writing prompt you want to assign. There are currently 38 different prompts within Turnitin’s program and the prompts cover narrative, informative and argumentative types of writing. (70 prompts are slated for the fall.) You can also include a personal message with the prompt in case you want the students to remember specific skills you have recently taught or ponder a piece of literature you feel might be influential to them as they are writing.
- You may assign a Turnitin writing prompt any way you choose, but we think a good idea is to begin the writing assignment in class so that you can move around the room to see how students are beginning the writing process and provide direct feedback as needed. Students can then finish the assignment as homework while you watch the rest of the writing process unfold. (More on this below!)
- Writing assignments require a pre-writing piece that provides a structure for the type of writing students are being asked to do. This also includes information to help students understand various types of writing and what is involved. It helps them answer questions like “What is a claim?” or “What is involved in a conclusion?” There is space to plan and organize their writing just like we might require in a writer’s workshop setting.
- As students write their pieces, they can look to the top of the page for a “wi-fi” signal indicating how the writing measures up to the rubric specific to the prompt. To view the most current signal, after each draft students request what is called a “signal check”. It gives students instant formative feedback on key aspects of the writing like language, focus, organization, and evidence.
- Students submit as many drafts of their writing as they wish, request signal checks after each one, and the program will continue to give them feedback towards improving their writing. (For those interested in how this works, the feedback is computer generated. The algorithm that is used to provide the feedback is based on 300 to 500 submitted student writing samples, along with teacher and writer input.)
- Also, as students move through the various drafts of their writing they can click on icons to the right of the text to get very specific actionable feedback on highlighted sentences within their text. The feedback specifically addresses rubric categories that are included within the assignment for students to reference throughout their drafts. (The rubrics are also available as PDFs for students who might need that visual in front of them while writing.)
- Students can submit as many drafts as they wish before the due date to gain feedback towards the improvement of their writing.
For a short video that is wonderful in explaining the above click here: Revision Assistant Explanation
What we like about this product:
- Turnitin can be used as an instructional tool…not just an assignment/grade. The changing feedback helps students to continuously look at their writing to find ways to improve it.
- The program doesn’t tell students exactly what to change, but more so gives them things to think about or expand upon. (Specific text in the writing is highlighted so students can see what the feedback is addressing.)
- You can access your entire class’ rubric scores on an easy Excel spreadsheet to determine if struggles are specific to individual students in the class or something that needs addressed by whole class mini-lessons. These days we are encouraged to look at data and form the basis for our future instruction based on what we find. This aspect of Turnitin makes that part a bit easier. This type of data would be great for a PLC if your entire team assigned a prompt.
- The program not only identifies areas for improvement, but comments on strengths as well.
What we LOVE about this product:
- Teachers and students can message each other throughout the entire process. The feedback does not have to just come from the program algorithm. It can (and should) also come from you. We believe this piece is key to the effectiveness of this program for students at all levels. Texting, e-mailing and social media all involve messaging to some degree and is something our society has become accustomed to and even reliant upon in many cases. This function is perfect as another way for teachers to give the authentic and immediate feedback we feel is necessary for learning.
- While messaging is wonderful, we still believe that one-on-one student conferences are the best way to individualize instruction and differentiate for all of our various learners. The beauty in this product is that teachers can see all the drafts that a student has written and the “wi-fi” signal assigned to each draft. Conferences can be based on the progress and changes that you have seen occur in their writing. Imagine being able to take anecdotal notes on the drafts you read online so that you are completely prepared as you sit down to talk with each student!
- This program is truly meant to make students think about the improvement of their writing. The “signal checks” consistently give students more to think about. The program encourages, supports and can even challenge students to continue to revise their writing. In thinking about those students who tend to be competitive in nature, the signal checks and scores after each draft might do a wonderful job of pushing them to the next level. (And lets be honest…most of the time getting students to revise their writing is the hardest part of the writing the process!)
Though this is a product that your school or district would need to purchase, we highly encourage you to take a look at all that Turnitin Revision Assistant offers. If you are impressed (and we certainly were), then talk about it with your administrators to see if this is a tool they would be willing to invest in. Then, please contact us and let us know how it is going! We’d love to hear some real testimonies from our own followers!