Friday, January 25, 2013

The Value of Anonymity

I'm sitting in a workshop run by Alan November, and he is bringing up a fascinating point. He shared the story of his daughter's participation in Fanfiction, a site where kids have posted their personally-authored stories based on characters of popular books. The driving force is the desire of the audience of fans to have continued interactions with their favorite characters, but what is fascinating is that the kids all post under pseudonyms. When asked why they do this, one particularly eloquent girl pointed out that when her work gets reviewed (especially negatively), she knows that that criticism is directed at the work, and not at her personally. As a result, she takes the criticism seriously (she is truly motivated to improve her writing for her audience), and works hard at it.

His excellent point: if we let kids submit work anonymously, and graded it accordingly, the kids would feel that the feedback was more accurate. But more importantly....they would be greater risk-takers with their work. They would know that feedback is honest and unbiased.

How could this be exported to the classroom? Why not have kids create pseudonyms for their digital writing, and the grade does not get 'averaged in' until the end of the semester? What are people's thoughts about this?

Additionally, he shared the story of a girl who was writing extremely popular fanfiction stories of 20,000 or more words, but was failing her English class. The girl was making a choice between 'write for the teacher' or 'write for the world'. But that's material for a different post.

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