Common Sense Review
Updated February 2013

PrimaryPad

Peer editing a breeze with adequate teacher modeling
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Common Sense Rating 4
  • A view of a PrimaryPad Pro pad.
  • Each user has his or her own name and color.
  • When users type, the text highlights in the user's designated color.
  • Numbered lines of text make tracking and referencing content easy.
  • The admin panel in a PrimaryPad Pro account.
Pros
Encourages critical thinking and collaboration among young learners.
Cons
May be challenging as a learning tool for kids who struggle with writing or accessing text.
Bottom Line
Valuable tool offers a fun and interactive way for kids to collaborate and practice writing.
Mary Beth Hertz
Common Sense Reviewer
Classroom teacher
Common Sense Rating 4
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 4
The site's main purpose is creating and sharing ideas with others, which makes learning social and fun. There’s also the added fun of watching the ideas of others appear on the page as they type them.
Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 5
Kids can generate new ideas, refine existing ones, and take control of their own learning. It can be made a totally social experience or used individually, and collaboration skills are baked-in.
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 Support tab and a fairly extensive knowledge base provide help for students and educators. However, the tool is not totally accessible to English-language learners or other students with issues accessing text.

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How Can Teachers Use It?

On the site, you or your students can create a pad -- an online text document that can be edited by multiple users at once. Collaborative pads are great for student teams and for group work. PrimaryPad is best suited for students with at least basic literacy and typing skills, probably starting in first grade, with no cap on age above that.

A great use of PrimaryPad is for peer editing. A student enters a piece of writing on a pad and invites peers to make comments and suggestions. Each collaborator’s comments and revisions are highlighted in a different color, which helps track the conversation. A teacher could also create a pad for an activity or lesson. For example, the teacher might enter a list of words and have student teams come up with synonyms and antonyms. Since each student's responses show as a different color, the teacher gets a quick snapshot of who understands the concept and who participated in the lesson.

Whether you use the free service or the Pro service, once the pad is set up, all you have to do is share the link and anyone can jump in to add to the document. Each new user is assigned a color, so it’s easy to tell who’s typing what. The pad also has numbered lines, which makes referencing areas of the text easy and helps kids avoid typing on top of each other. There are also a limited number of formatting tools such as bold, italics, and bullets and indenting. Overall, PrimaryPad has a simple interface and requires little to no setup to use.

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What's It Like?

PrimaryPad is a website that can engage students in writing, brainstorming, and collaborating. In a classroom setting, effective use of PrimaryPad requires that students have access to computers (editing is difficult on mobile devices). This could be a small set of computers for group work or a lab for whole-class activities. During a whole-class activity, it's helpful for teachers to project the pad to easily track changes being made. Since PrimaryPad is also completely online, an Internet connection is required. Anyone can set up a pad for free, even without a login; however, a pad set up this way has its limitations. For one, the URL is a mess of letters and numbers (though you can change it manually), and the pad itself has a limited lifespan of 30 days, a limit of 50 collaborators, and 10 saved revisions. If you sign up for a Pro account (3- day free trial available), you can save and manage an unlimited number of pads with no limit on collaborators or revisions, and you can create custom URLs that are password-protected.

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Is It Good For Learning?

When using PrimaryPad with younger kids, it's important to model how it works to avoid confusion. Seeing all the different people typing at the same time may confuse kids who haven't used a real-time collaborative document before. Start with a simple activity to give them practice with the tool. The need for a computer or multiple computers and connectivity may be a barrier for some classrooms, but if you're equipped, it's an excellent way to introduce online collaboration.

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