Website review by Ymasumac Maranon, Common Sense Education | Updated June 2018

Underlined

Major publisher's writing platform has some potential

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Editorial review by Common Sense Education
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Grades
7–12 This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
Subjects & Skills
Arts, English Language Arts, Communication & Collaboration, Creativity

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Pros: The writing tool is super easy to use.

Cons: Penguin Random House runs the show, so there's clear marketing bias.

Bottom Line: If the community ever takes shape, this could be a good publishing platform, but there are better, less commercial options.

Teachers can consider Underlined as a potential outlet for students' writing. After working on a writing project for weeks with just a teacher and a couple of peers reacting to it, students could benefit from iterating on their work more publicly to fine-tune. While the site has no official classroom support, teachers could create a profile for their classroom and have students publish under that class account. If students like, they can identify their work individually with their initials or a pseudonym. Of course, students could also create their own accounts, but this could introduce some privacy issues. District policy permitting, students could create accounts under an alias. Whatever option you choose, it'd be a good idea to collaborate with other teachers so that students can critique the work of their peers from other classes and schools. This is important, because at the time of this review, the Underlined community is inactive.

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Underlined is a website by Penguin Random House that focuses on young adult fiction, both creating it and celebrating the culture around it. On the site, writers can share their work and receive feedback, but there's also a variety of community-orient content that supports a love of reading (and Penguin Random House's books). 

  • The Create section allows students to publish, read, and comment on real work.
  • The Quizzes section hosts a range of personality quizzes focused on reading.
  • The Perks section features contents and previews of newly released books.
  • The Video section contains trailer videos for books and author Q&As.

Student work needs to be relevant and meaningful. Underlined creates an opportunity for student writing to be published and viewed publicly. It also exposes students to a variety of writing styles and gives them an opportunity to receive and give critical feedback. Unlike blogs or websites, which require a good amount of setup, Underlined allows students to create a profile and publish their writing instantly. However, unlike other blogs or websites, Underlined's community is pretty thin. Students could submit work and never receive feedback, unless the teacher makes a concerted effort to connect with other schools and/or teachers who are also using it and direct their students to each other's work. Feedback is also limited to likes and comments; there's no way to annotate the work or comment on specific paragraphs or sentences. 

Teachers should also be aware that Underlined is very much a Penguin Random House marketing tool. While the tools that the site offers are useful, the surrounding community dedicated to books and authors is meant to sell Penguin products.

Overall Rating

Engagement Would it motivate students and hold their interest? Is it visually appealing? Would it inspire teachers to try something new or change their instruction?

It has a variety of potentially engaging activities -- uploading writing, taking personality quizzes, watching book trailers -- but the community isn't vibrant.

Pedagogy Does the tool help teachers promote a more student-centered experience? Will students gain conceptual understanding or think critically? Does it deepen teachers’ pedagogical thinking?

This site helps students publish and collaborate on the web, but the community isn't really there yet. If students get feedback, they'll understand the value of revision.

Support Can students and teachers get assistance when they need it? Is it created with people of different abilities and backgrounds in mind? Is learning reinforced and extended beyond the digital experience?

Help videos or directions are slim; however, the site is pretty intuitive. For ELLs or students with disabilities who don't have accessibility tools, it could also be harder to utilize.


Common Sense reviewer
Ymasumac Maranon Educational Consultant

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