Yesterday, my TOEFL students used the wikispace for their third online writing. All went well except for one glitch. When students are in 'edit the page' mode and click to look at 'discussion,' they lose their writing if they haven't clicked on the 'save' button. There was no message to warn a student that she hadn't saved her entry. Thus, she lost 20 minutes of writing her response to an integrated writing task.
As I recall, when I started this blog, 'blogger' also did not warn you that the draft of your post had not been saved. Now there is an automatic save function so that even if you forget, your writing has usually been saved in draft form. Until Wikispaces changes their system to do automatic 'saves,' I don't see any way around the accidental loss of writing in my wiki, except to inform students repeatedly to back up their entry by clicking 'save' periodically. They always have the option of handwriting although they won't be able to do that on the real iBT.
The online edits went well for those students who wanted to update their writings. You can see the original, unedited essays by clicking on the 'history' button above a student's writing. Some students who I didn't expect to make editing changes or rethink/redo their previous writings did. I wish that Cambridge also had online writings because I think I could get my students to do more rewrites if they didn't have to handwrite a previously written letter or report. The idea that the students' writing is public seems to be simultaneously intimidating (thrilling!) and motivating.
For students who finished their writing activities early, I had created an online crossword puzzle with vocabulary from the previous week. That also proved to be intriguing to them. In fact, they got so involved that they worked in groups to complete it during part of their break time. All in all a successful afternoon using online resources!