Figment – Friend & Publish

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A few weeks ago I discovered Figment through a New York Times article and some colleagues at the National Writing Project.  After clicking around I think it looks like a resource some of you might want to check out and potentially use with your students.

Quite often many of us are looking for a way to help students develop a strong written voice.  Having the ability to publish for an authentic audience beyond the teacher can be a key component to making this happen.  With the Facebook, FanFiction, and cell phone novella generation in mind, Figment is online writing community geared towards teenage authors who are looking for a place to publish their work and read those of other teens. Through a very simple-to-use interface users can create online “books” complete with chapters and a custom cover.  Once published, other Figment authors can provide feedback through comments, reviews, or simple “hearts.”  To test it out I created my own from a short piece I already had on my computer – feel free to give it a read and maybe even some feedback.

Figment has some powerful features that are worth highlighting:

  • Friend & Follow –  Figment writers can “friend” and follow each other just like on Facebook, but now the focus is on writing rather than pictures or websites.
  • Easy Interface – If you can type and click you can easily create a book on Figment.  Since my text was already typed up I literally had a book created in under two minutes.
  • Contests – Figment has a “Contests” area that provides engaging and timely writing prompts.  At the bottom of each prompt there is an area where you can see all of the entries that have been submitted for that particular topic.  For example, here is the list of entries for the New Year’s topic.  As entries are published other Figment readers review and “heart” their favorites.  Based on what is described on the current contest, the entries that are most hearted are then reviewed by a young adult author and he or she selects the best one with the winner getting a signed copy of their latest book and some Figment swag.
  • Feedback – Figment users can easily provide feedback to one another through a variety of formats – comments, reviews, and hearts.  From an educational perspective I would like to potentially see more structure for the feedback.  Perhaps writers could be “coached” to have their readers address certain areas to avoid the inevitable “It looks good?”
  • Forums – Normally, the Forums section of a website is hardly worth noting, but on Figment it looks like this area is actually used as a tool to allow the writing community to help better develop the website.

While Figment has the features I mentioned above, it has one area that has left me a little bewildered.  As a Figment writer, there is no way to add a multimodal component to your text.  Users don’t have the ability to add pictures, sound, or even formatted text (bold, italics, color, etc.) to their writing.  All of your writing must be text-based.  I’m kind of left scratching my head as to why the creators of Figment would have kept their definition of writing so limited?  I would like to see an online writing community where teens could construct and submit a variety of different publications (text-based books, graphic novels, videos, even just text with occasional images) to be read and reviewed by other teens. Perhaps I should submit this idea to the Forums?  :-)

In spite of this one area of confusion, Figment is definitely worth reviewing.  According to the site Legal section, all users must be 13 or over and they will also need an email address.  Figment does not filter work, but users do have the ability to flag inappropriate work that does not meet the community Guidelines. Like all online tools, Figment is a website teen authors should use with parental and teacher guidance.  It provides a perfect opportunity to have conversations about safe and ethical online behavior while at the same time helping your student develop an authentic written voice.

Joe

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