Write with me FOOL!
I saw this on Free Tech 4 Teachers and thought, yeah this looks cool, so here I am trying out Zopler. Zopler lets you create a story but wait a minute there’s a twist! Zopler let’s you create a story collaboratively. Wooooo doggie! Now we’re cooking with Crisco. I love me some wild collaboration. So is this worth your time? Is it easy and effective, what settings can you tweak? Well, read on past the break to see if Zopler may be something you want to use.
I don’t even know why I add this to my reviews anymore. Just like any other site you can sign up with an email address or you can sign in with your Facebook account. Super simple and easy. If you sign up with email you will have to get the password from your email and then you are off and running. Under your profile (in the top right hand corner) you have a few options.
As you can see you can start a new story (check that out below), view your profile (which just shows you all the stories you are working on) and there is settings. There are few settings with Zopler and here they are:
Most are pretty straight forward (profile picture, display name, change email or password), but one that caught my attention was the ability to use a pseudonym. You know in case you are crazy popular and don’t want to be mobbed online. I changed mine to Yo Mama. I mean my fame from IT Babble has caused me to live a sheltered life in a bomb shelter in the midwest. 🙂
Starting a new story
When you start a new story you are welcomed with this little screen. You need to add a title (70 character limit) and start your story (1000 character limit), and you’re off creating the next literary classic.
You may notice at the bottom of this page you can change Who can contribute.
Here is how all this works.
- Everyone – Well, not quite everyone. This is for everyone who is logged onto Zopler. It is not public per say.
- Followers Only – If you’re logged onto Zopler you can follow anyone. This will allow all your followers to help create your masterpiece
- Group – You can chose from a group of people (who are currently following you) who you want to work on the story and only those people will be able to work on it.
- Only Me – I don’t think I need to explain this one.
If you want to use this with your class, first they have to join Zopler then they should all follow you. Once this is done you can create projects for them to work on. You cannot manage your students accounts, but then again there is not a whole for them to do on Zopler besides write so it should be pretty safe for them.
So far so good, right? It’s dead simple to get started and make groups ain’t all that tough either so how is using it? Well there are things I like and don’t like. Here is what I like. I like the fact that you only get 1000 characters at a time. It helps distill and organize your thoughts and ideas. It’s like Twitter in that way. You can write as many of these blocks as you like but only one at a time. Check out the image below.
Another thing I like is that other people can be working on the same story at the same time. Hey it is a collaborative service after all and would be silly if it couldn’t. When someone else updates the story a small notification bar appears at the bottom of the screen.
It doesn’t automatically show up so it doesn’t disrupt your creative process. All the writer has to do is click on View Updates and that chunk it will pop in the story. Also another writer cannot edit another writers chunk in the story. This is kind of nice but if someone is messing up your story it really can take the fun out of the creative process. Something to consider for sure.
You can also add images to really spice up your story. The process though is easy but a little weird. You cannot add an image while you are typing. You have to go ahead and write your chunk and then add the image. Check out the images below to see what I mean. If you chose to add an image you can upload from your computer or you can use Bing which is built into Zopler.
I find the process of adding the picture after writing a little odd, but then again one could argue that when you’re in the groove of writing the last thing you want to think about are the images. I do really like how easy it is to insert images using Bing though. It keeps it quick and easy and it seems to make the picture fit inside the area of text. I wish I could format the picture a little though (change the justification and perhaps add a border but alas no).
The finished product
One thing that bothers me is the way the final story looks. Well it doesn’t look like a story at all. It looks much more like a lengthy twitter feed than a story. Check out the incomplete opus (the title is still up for debate) below.
It just doesn’t look like a story and I think the appearance of written work is important. If it doesn’t look like a story I am not sure students or teachers will treat it with as much respect as it may deserve. I wish Zopler had a way to “publish” the story so it would have a more finished looked and that it could be closed.
Summing it up
Well, Zopler is an interesting concept and it makes collaborating on a piece of written work easy, but I think for serious writing GoogleDocs or Zoho would probably be the better option. It’s been a while since I taught English formerly and so I passed this idea onto my middle school English department. While it doesn’t seem to fit into their units write now (haha I love puns) they said they would give it a try. Myself, I’m a little dubious of how effective this could be in a classroom, but we’ll see in a month or so.