Using “The Most Dangerous Writing App” in the Classroom

The Most Dangerous Writing App

So many of us go through moments where we just stare at a page and can’t get our ideas out. Often for English language learners, this comes with the added fear of making mistakes. They are more worried about getting the language right than actually writing something worth writing.

Recently, We came across an app that might help with this issue, ‘The Most Dangerous Writing App.’ It is a free online app and its sole purpose is to make you write and as it says on the site, ‘shut down your inner editor and get you into a state of flow’ (The Most Dangerous Writing App, 2017). You just need to go to the site and you will find very easy to follow instructions and controls. There is a handy help in the corner if you run into trouble but this is unlikely.

The app is a writing app like no other. Basically, if you stop typing for more than 5 seconds all the things you have already typed will be lost forever, never to be seen again. This makes you really focus on getting your ideas out and not on getting it accurate. You can set a target time from 3 minutes to 60 minutes or a target word count from 75-1667 words. Once you make your target, you can save your work.

This is Ben’s first attempt in three minutes:

I have just been introduced to this app which basically gives me a time limtied and i can’t stop writing. It is great for editing as it doesn’t have a spelling checking function which means you can go back and edit it later and look at what you can produce in a very short period of time.

As a language teacher this could be a great app for learners who have difficululty starting and getting stuff down and feel nervous of making mistakes. Although this is the first time I am using it, i can already see it’s potential and would think it could be used to bring exctiment and confidence to my learners.

The downside would obviously be that all the hardwork someone produced could be gone and forgotten forever. I hope this doesn’t happen to be. I just wrote this in 3 minutes!

As you can see, his writing has lots of punctuation and spelling mistakes but he was able to write 144 words in 3 minutes. This is a lot more than he would normally write if he weren’t racing against the clock (or app)!!

How can you use it with EFL learners?

Teachers could start students off easy by giving them a word limit of 75 words or 3-minute time limit. They could give them the chance to try it out and write about something familiar, like a personal introduction or their feelings using the app for the first time.

This allows learners to first focus on fluency.

Once their ideas are down, then they can work on the accuracy. Students can proofread their work and make amendments to it. They can share it with others and get ideas on how it can be improved. Having something down makes it much easier to work on, than having nothing at all. All the writing is private and isn’t stored on the app. It’s a lot of fun too!

Once Students’ Confidence Grows

Students can challenge themselves or each other to write more over longer periods of time. Teachers could then build a ‘The Most Dangerous Writing App’ Wall of Fame with all the students’ attempts, including the number of words in the time limit and reviews from their classmates on their ideas.

Why don’t you give it a try with your learners or use it to write your next article for EFL Magazine?

The app was developed by Manuel Ebert who can be followed at: https://twitter.com/maebert

The app can be found at: http://www.themostdangerouswritingapp.com


Sterling Shaffer Wu is a senior lecturer in the English Language Education Division at the Education University of Hong Kong. He is interested in ELT Methodologies and E-learning in ELT.

E-mail: sswu@eduhk.hk


 

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  • I like the idea of giving students a very limited time, like three minutes, to write about a given subject. I’ve tried it a few times and got students to count the number of words and calculate their speed in words per minute.
    It didn’t involve computers: I just gave everyone an A5 sheet of paper. They showed their writing to fellow learners and then gave them in for me to correct. When they got them back the next day, I asked them to re-write a ‘perfect version’

  • Sterling Shaffer WU

    That’s interesting that you looked at it from a words per minute view. I like that and could see it being quite motivating for students. Especially when they see how much they can actually produce when they’re not constrained by getting it right the first time.
    What Ben and I did with this app was try to use it as a constrained environment for us to prime process writing. We found that many students get caught in a draft edit loop, because there’s a strong desire to get writing tasks done in one-shot. We wanted to take that first draft and make something that didn’t anchor the students, but give them little idea that they could build further upon.
    The response from students was mixed regarding the drafting, but it probably took many of our students outside of their comfort zone. But there was overwhelming support for revising. Many students responded that they produced better writing than they usually do as a result of the intervention.