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Review by Polly Conway, Common Sense Education | Updated May 2013

Plinky

Fabulous writing prompts will inspire, but not much else

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Grades
7-12 This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
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Pros: Each daily prompt differs wildly from the last, engaging kids and encouraging return visits.

Cons: The community is small and undeveloped, the site is overrun with spam, and essential features like privacy are limited.

Bottom Line: With a teacher's guiding hand and lots of supervision, Plinky's prompts could be a fun addition to the classroom.

Language arts teachers might use Plinky for the "Do Now" activity. Post a prompt from the site on the board or projector and give students 5-10 minutes of writing time at the beginning of each class period. It's hard for one teacher to patrol all the weird stuff on Plinky, so we wouldn't recommend individual kid use on iPads or computers in the classroom, but it does offer some quality prompts that you can snag for daily use offline.

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Editor's Note: As of September, 2014 the Plinky website has closed. More information is available on the developer's website.

Plinky is a website that shares daily creative writing prompts users can respond to. Answers are posted directly onto the site and can be shared through social media channels like Facebook and Twitter or embedded into a Wordpress blog or Tumblr. Plinky is unique in that it allows writers to not only respond with words but also add images and rich text to their answers.

Users log in with an email and password, and are then directed to their profile. No additional information is required, but you can fill in a bio and add a photo if you like. Prompts change every day and include questions like "Is the glass half-full or half-empty?" or requests like "Tell us about a time when everything you hoped would happen actually did." If kids like another person's answer, they can "star" it.

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Plinky is great in theory, but it has a long way to go. Many of the Frequently Asked Questions have these kinds of answers: "We're working on it" or "Not yet." Other problems: There are lots of random spambots with profiles like "SexyIndianModelinDubai" that use the answer space to solicit sexual services. Really. Other profiles exist to post spam in the answer space: "The all-natural testosterone booster can help you look muscular and achieve your dreams" is not an appropriate response to "Tell us the most surprising helping hand you've ever received." A moderation system needs to be put in place, as the site seems to be overrun with this stuff.

The good news? Design is chic and clean, and the writing prompts themselves are fantastic and diverse, alternately promoting self-reflection and imagination. It's a neat site for budding writers to challenge themselves daily, but there's another problem that discourages kid use: Privacy settings are really undeveloped here. Also, all the spammers floating around the site make it harder for well-written responses to shine. Plinky needs to build a real community, banish sexy spambots, and take the time to work on important privacy features before it becomes a safe and recommended place to send writerly kids.

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Overall Rating
3

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?
4

The daily prompts are really fun and require just the right amount of self-reflection; it's likely that kids will return daily to face their next writing challenge. Site design is very streamlined.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?
2

Quality imaginative prompts empower kids, and they'll soon amass a nice portfolio of responses. Users can socialize by following each other and "starring" favorite answers, but that's about it.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?
3

The interface is intuitive and easy to use, and there's a reasonable amount of help. Users can see saved responses on their profiles and can also share through social media or export to a blog.


Common Sense Reviewer
Polly Conway Classroom teacher