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Great Source iwrite

By Charles G. Doe - Posted Mar 1, 2007
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REPORT CARD
Overall Rating:5 Stars
Installation:A
Content/Features:A
Ease of Use:A
Product Support:A

Located online at: www.greatsource.com/iwrite.

Company: Great Source Education Group (a division of Houghton Mifflin Co.), P.O. Box 7050, Wilmington, MA 01887. Phone: (800) 289-4490 (Option 4).

Access Fee: iwrite is a free Web site. No access fee is required.

Audience: This site is designed for students in grades 5-12, teachers, and parents. Teachers of younger students will find useful material here that can be adapted, even though most younger students can't use this site effectively.

Minimum System Requirements: This site is available to any computer with Internet access. Much of the material will work nicely on older computers with slower access.

Description: iwrite is a collection of writing resources for educators, students, and parents. The material combines some components of the Write Source curriculum with online writing support and other materials designed to help improve student writing. Great Source iwrite is intended to supplement existing curriculum programs.

Reviewer Comments: Installation/Access: I accessed iwrite with a 933 MHz PC with a Pentium III processor, Windows ME, and a standard modem. In addition, I worked with the program using an older Windows machine on a school network.

Use was easy, although some elements (especially animations and videos) were slow to load via modem access. Installation/Access Rating: A

Content/Features: Great Source iwrite offers a large repository of writing aids, an electronic version of an experienced teacher's (or several experienced teachers') writing files and bookshelves, "how to" tips, and more. The material includes lesson ideas, student helps, and content for parents, as well as the practical knowledge that teachers gather during the course of many years in the classroom.

The enormous advantages of this site are, of course, that the material can be accessed online from any location and that using or searching this content is so much easier than going through a file cabinet and/or many books. Also helpful is the expertise used to create the site, which has led to the inclusion of materials that experience and testing have found to work the best.

From the Home page, users can begin a practice writing exercise, read featured articles, access resources on the latest in writing instruction in The BUZZ, study grammar in the Grammar Handbook (a collection of animated grammar lessons), or click the Educators, Students, or Parents tabs for more choices. The Home page also offers a 6-Traits tutorial, where users can learn about this popular and effective writing guide.

Students can immediately begin a writing project by clicking on one of the Forms of Writing links (narrative, persuasive, expository, research, and response to literature). The links are available on all of the site's pages and lead to the same basic processes, aids, links, and more-specific information.

The Educators tab takes teachers to a page that offers a For New Teachers section, information about state writing standards, mini lessons, assessment rubrics, and writing prompts. An Ask the Expert feature connects teachers with Great Source's "resident writing expert" for answers to questions on writing pedagogy, assessment, and lesson plans.

The Expository writing link from the Educators page leads to a tutorial about expository writing and to step-by-step instructions about three types of expository writing. Teachers can also find a mini lesson for students or an expository writing rubric based on the 6-Traits of effective writing (ideas, organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency, and conventions).

Students can click on the Students tab from the home page to find help for writing assignments, advice for getting writing feedback, pointers to a number of places that publish student work online, and test-taking tips. A glossary helps with the meaning of literary words and writing tips. Students can also submit a story here for a chance to win a $50 gift card.

The Parent tab leads to much of the same information as in the Student section. This is probably the site's weakest section. At the time of this review, the only parent-specific materials here were articles about helping students with writing and preparing for the SAT essay. Also included was a link to an online store where parents could purchase resources for helping students with schoolwork.

The site's Grammar Handbook is an especially nice feature that provides more than 30 short videos about various grammar topics designed to help students learn to edit their writing. The topics include punctuation, mechanics, using the right word, parts of speech, and understanding sentences. The videos were quite slow to load on a modem-connected computer but worked fine on a computer with a faster connection.

Great Source iwrite has only two limitations, and both are entirely reasonable, especially in a free resource. The first is that the excellent resources offered here don't cover all forms of writing, including poetry and other more-creative genres.

I mention the second "limitation" only because I so vividly remember my early years as a high school English teacher, spending many weekends and evenings correcting student writing. Today, online writing tools with diagnostic engines can provide writing feedback and save a lot of correction time for teachers. Adding this type of diagnostic feature could make iwrite a formidable writing tool indeed, although, most likely, a much more expensive one. Content Features Rating: A

Ease of Use: Great Source iwrite is easy to use. The site includes clear and intuitive navigational aids. Ease of Use Rating: A

Product Support: Most users will not need product support. However, excellent product support is available Monday through Friday using a toll-free telephone number or email. Product Support Rating: A

Recommendation: Every teacher with adequate Internet access should take advantage of Great Source iwrite and should recommend it to parents for home use.

With its wonderful tools and resources for writing, iwrite is a good way to combine writing work with a trip to the computer lab. The site is also a great resource to help students get started on writing projects. Highly Recommended.

Reviewer: Charles Doe, Media Specialist, Hastings Area Schools, Hastings, MI.


 
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