Evidence suggest that peer tutoring benefits the tutor because thinking about how to teach content solidifies the knowledge. In a similar way, students editing the work of others is one of the most efficient way I have seen of developing writing skills.
I am going to share the technology we used to accomplish this as it worked reasonable well for us, and others might find that thinking about it inspires them to think of a better way.
We used a free cloud storage tool called Dropbox but you could use google drive or any other cloud storage application. The layout and ease of dropbox made it a good tool for us.
NOTE: I was working with adult students and they all gave their permission to have their work read by their peers. We spent time building up the trust required for people to share their "in-process" thinking. For more about building trust see Learning circles. We were also working online as we were located in different cities.
The students were working in learning circles with four to five students in a circle. In learning circles, they were each engaged in action research projects but everyone in the circle was part of the design team. Each student had the responsibility of doing the writing for the project they initiated. The circle had the group responsibility to make each project as successful as possible. Our shared dropbox had the name of the class, then each learning circle had a folder and students each had their folder in the circle folder. Everyone could read the read the work of everyone else.
NOTE: I find that students often learn as much or more from comments on other people's papers then they do from comments on their own work. They are less defensive and can see the writing issues. By sharing their writing and reviewing, they increase their learning opportunities.
Learning Circle 1
Student 1 Folder
Student 2 Folder....
Students placed their work in their folders. We use common notation which helped
[Name of task][version#] [Initials of writer] [date of draft] for example:
When it was reviewed initial of the reviewer were added after the date. In our example, the filename will grow as members of the circle read the paper so that the document might soon be listed as:
When comments were accepted or rejected and a new draft was ready, the initials of reviewers are removed and the document received a new version number and draft date.
Lit rev V2 MT_Apr2.docx
We used the document review tools of MSWord so that whatever changes or comments were added, they were easy to see and easy for the author to accept, reject or modify. I would generally wait until a few students had added comments before I did my review. More thoughts on what type of review is most helpful can be found on CCAR.
Once I have gone through and made my suggestions for changes, I then open Jing, a free screencast program that installs in the upper right corner of the computer. I push the plus and get cross-hairs which I place over the student's document and then I talk about changes as I scroll through the paper. I might also comment on a student suggestion that seemed particularly helpful.
Talking through the document helps students as they hear my positive tone while suggesting changes to improve the writing. Students say they find my verbal comments more affirming than only viewing the document with all of the notations from track changes. The "Jing" screencast is limited to five minutes. However for longer papers (or for lots of verbal comments) I divide the review into sections and create more than one screencast. When I finished talking, the images of the paper and my verbal comments are saved and I post them to the screencast server with a single click. This takes a few minutes but then the link is returned in the clipboard ready to be pasted at the top of the document. This way all of the comments, both from track changes, and from talking about the changes, are in one place.
The students reread their papers with peer comments, and listen and read my review notes and then they are ready for draft two and the process is repeated.
Students post messages in the class forums to alert the circle when a new document is posted for review. However to keep track of the class, I open all of the folders and look for dated drafts that do not have my initials after them. Then I can see how many drafts need feedback. (During heavy writing periods, I will use command-shift-4 on a MAC to make a printout of the directory and then number the drafts in the order I will review them.)
Because the "master" version is on the web in "cloud" storage, students do not get confused with multiple copies of the same paper. We are all working on the "master". And there is some degree of safety as dogs don't eat papers stored in the cloud (smile). And dropbox makes copies. Feel free to share the tools you use to organize this process.
image from: http://thenewsdoctors.com/