The Stevens Writing and Communications Center Blog


In Uncategorized on February 22, 2012 at 3:07 pm

by Laryssa Wirstiuk

According to GOOD Magazine, a new mobile app called GoSoapBox breaks participation barriers in the classroom and helps the instructor assess students’ understanding of the subject matter. Students “…can ask questions, vote up questions posed by their classmates, participate in discussions, or tell the teacher they’re confused—all without revealing their identities.”

Reading about this app made me wonder about its implications in the classroom and then finally in the writing center, where many students who are afraid to ask writing-specific questions in class come to work with a writing specialist on an individual basis.

On one hand, the app could potentially help students who are shy or who aren’t sure whether their questions or comments will be well received. On the other hand, students who have trouble speaking amidst their peers may come to depend too heavily on the app. In addition, because comments are anonymous, students may not feel like they should take ownership of their contribution to the class. Is there anything worse for discussion than a comment like, “Commas are stupid.”?

As a student, I was never eager to participate in class discussions, especially if I didn’t feel completely comfortable with a topic (probably the most crucial time to join class discussion). I imagine that having access to GoSoapBox may have prevented me from eventually forcing myself to learn how to contribute in classroom environment. I’m rather grateful to report that my education never became too comfortable.

What does an app like GoSoapBox mean for a Writing Center? I have occasionally met with shy students who admit that they are embarrassed to ask me a question. I try my best to make them feel comfortable, but perhaps an app like GoSoapBox would allow students to send questions before coming to the writing center – not only because the students might feel uncomfortable asking the questions but also to ensure that all questions are covered.

Maybe a student is afraid to challenge a writing specialist’s assessment of his or her essay. After a session, a student could offer feedback or highlight anything he or she still doesn’t understand. This way, a writing specialist could evaluate his or her modes of communicating to the student.

Students, would you use this app? And instructors, could you see yourself fielding anonymous questions and comments?


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