I like writing, I mean I do write a blog after all. A bit of a hobby of mine is to fine different writing platforms such as Microsoft Word, OpenOffice, GoogleDocs, Zoho Writer, ShamblesPad and so on and so on. Last year someone told me about pen.io but I didn’t really pay much attention to it. Not sure why I brushed it off, but it stuck in my mind and now here I am reviewing it tonight.
So what is pen.io? It is a very lightweight writing platform that lets you write with very little distractions and without making an account. You can easily share it. These are great ways to write down ideas, do some quick collaboration and more, but is it enough to use in your class? Should you take the time to find ways to implement this with your students or just move on? Read on past the break to get my take on pen.io and then leave a comment below to let me know what you think about this unique service.
This section will not take long. You see there is no account, there is no login (unless you pay for a pro account). You just get started and here is how. When you get the homepage, give your page a name (or use their default) and add a password so the page is protected from others editing it and click Publish Your Page. That’s it, that’s all there is to get started. Few other sites are as quick or as simple in this regard.
When you get to your page you are welcomed with some text and instructions. Just change the Page Title to your own and start editing the body to whatever you want.
There is not a lot you can as far as editing goes. There is no menu or toolbar to change the font in anyway. If you want something to be bold, you need to use the html code. Just drop it right in your document and when it is viewed it will be there. If you don’t know html don’t sweat it. This site is for people sharpening their coding skills, its primarily for writers.
You can add some preset designs to your title bar though they are pretty, there are few. Check them out below (yes I think that is all of them).
If you want a new page just use this code
Then after you save your work, when it is viewed, everything you typed after that will be on page 2 (or 3 or 4, etc). So as you can see it is very bare bones. They seem to be taking away all sorts of distractions and telling you write what you want to say and don’t stop! That’s cool.
To continue editing your page after you have left it, just go back to the url (you will find it in your address bar) and it will ask for your password. Give it and you are back to work.
You can have multiple people editing the same page, but their changes don’t show up in real time though. You have to refresh the page to see what the other person changed. You can however embed it into a website (or Edmodo but not WordPress.com) to share it more easily. You can also add tags so people can find your page a little more easily.
How it can be used
This is a unique tool (yep that’s third time I’ve used that adjective). In my opinion this has a lot of possible uses. It is a great way to brainstorm and collaborate with others (colleagues, students, you get the picture). All you have to do is email them the link and the password and they can edit it as well. So if, you’re working on presentation ideas, or unit ideas, this is a great place to start. You may eventually want to move over to a more powerful platform but if you’re just spit balling in a meeting and you want to quickly get some ideas down, this is your best bet.
Students can use it the same way. Comparing notes in class, working on a study guide. If you’re a programmer then this is an easy way to share code quickly and effectively. I call this platform unique (that’s the fourth-I need a thesaurus) because it is not designed to be competitive with Word, GoogleDocs or those mighty programs or services. This is just a simple way for people to write and get their ideas down someplace with little to no distractions. In a lot of ways it reminds me of Ommwriter. Simple and uninterrupted ideas flowing from you.
The people behind this definitely want you to be writing and focusing on your ideas, not font size or color. I like this thinking and I like pen.io. I won’t use it for major projects or reports, but it is a great starting tool. I think what I like most about pen.io is the potential. It can be used for a number of different activities (daily writing, sharing notes or ideas, sharing your work to get feedback and more), but what I find really exciting about pen.io are the ideas I can’t think of. It is so simple and straight forward and easy to use, it makes it a program that third graders can use and so can graduate students. That is rare for services to be so versatile these day.
Try it for ourself and let me know what you think.