Tuesday, August 23, 2011

5 Tools for Online Collaboration

Yesterday I presented at Niagara's Exploration of Technology in Teaching conference on tools for online collaboration. Social media tools like Facebook and Twitter are either ignored or banned completely in education, so I thought this was a valuable topic to share with the 150 or so teachers in attendance. Our students are always-on creatures who do most of their communicating - and therefore collaboration as well - in an environment that most schools don't even consider.

Typically when thinking about online collaboration, two things come to mind - wikis and Google Docs. Both of these are fantastic resources for teachers, but my suspicion was that most of the teachers at the conference either already knew what these tools were, or at the very least knew how to independently find information on their uses. Instead, I chose to highlight 5 lesser-known tools that could be used for collaboration in the classroom. Below is a quick summary for each as well as the SlideRocket presentation I used at the conference.

Tool #1 - Edmodo

I wrote at the beginning of summer about how impressed I was with Edmodo, and the shine has yet to tarnish. Students find the Facebook-esque layout to be intuitive and teacher will find that Edmodo makes it surprisingly easy to manage multiple conversations with students online. Social networks are the epitome of online communication and collaboration, and Edmodo is an excellent and safe way to incorporate them in the classroom.

Tool #2 - BoostCam

BoostCam is a great alternative to video conferencing products such as Skype and Oovoo. While it is certainly more primitive, teachers will find appeal in the fact that it doesn't require registration or any software downloads. If you're looking to create fast, single-serving video connections, BoostCam is a great option.

Tool #3 - Etherpad

Etherpad is a synchronous collaborative workspace similar to Google Docs. In 2009, Google purchased the site and immediately shut it down (were they afraid of a little competition?). Fortunately, they also released the source code. There are now many derivative sites based on this code, all of which are excellent resources (iEtherpad, PrimaryPad, TypeWith.Me, for example) for teachers looking for ways of getting students to write collaboratively in an online environment.

Tool #4 - Crocodoc

Admittedly, this tool was just recently shared with me by one of my graduate students, but it's a wonderful resource for teachers looking to get quality editing out of students. Crocodoc basically creates a layer to any document uploaded to the site. There, students can mark up and annotate on the layer. This provides feedback to the author without giving the peer who is editing the ability to physically change the writing.

Tool #5 - WallWisher

There are other sites that create an online "bulletin board," but to my knowledge WallWisher was one of the first, so I felt it was notable enough to add to the list. Basically, it's an online wall where students can collaboratively post and arrange sticky notes. During my presentation at NETT, one teacher also suggested that it could be used for classification activities - the teacher populates the wall with notes, and then students have to rearrange them. A clever use for this tool!

Save to delicious Saved by 0 users
Digg Technorati StumbleUpon Reddit BlinkList Furl Mixx Facebook Google Bookmark Yahoo
ma.gnolia squidoo newsvine live netscape tailrank mister-wong blogmarks slashdot spurl

4 Responses:

Julián VM said...

Thanks for your post, I didnt know about them and I already check edmodo and wallwhiser, and I hope to use them soon with my students.
Thanks for sharing that information


Hunter Hall said...

My name is Hunter Hall, I am an Elementary Education major at the University of South Alabama. I was assigned to read your blog and truly enjoyed learning more ways to online collaborate. As a future educator when I hear the words online collaboration, Goggle Docs and wikis are also the first things to pop into my mind. I strongly feel that all educators should be presented with the knowledge of your 5 lesser-known tools for possible use in a classroom. I have never heard of Edmodo until now. To gain a personal understanding of this tool I created a teacher account. Right from the beginning I felt as if it was an extremely simple tool that can be easy for anyone to navigate through. After exploring Edmodo I found multiple things about the site in which I loved. The calendar is brilliant, I feel that this could help parents and students keep up with upcoming events, tests, and quizzes. Especially the children, kids love technology so instead of using pen and paper to write down things in a planner they may keep up with things easier. BoostCam incorporated into a classroom I feel could benefit a child tremendously! Explaining how BoostCam works to parents would be a very simple task, all it requires is typing in the proper URL address its that easy. I think this could help parents who work full time jobs keep up with their child’s academics by BoostCamming parent/teacher conferences. I think this could allow a positive atmosphere in a classroom keeping everyone up to date with their child’s personal issues. I chose to explore ietherpad, using this tool I think could truly help student’s grades for personal and group assignments increase. I personally loved being exposed to the Crocodoc tool. I think it is awesome; I am always searching and eager for feedback after writing a paper or an assignment. This tool could allow students not only to receive help on their assignment errors but give students to desire to learn how to correct grammatical mistakes! WallWisher, at first I was a little confused about this tool but after viewing the demo I would consider using this tool in my future classroom. It makes sharing questions, ideas, and examples of assignments or homework in a fun way. Thank you for sharing this information I hope to use them in my future classroom! Here are links to my personal class blog, the class blog, and my twitter address if you would like to respond!
My blog My class blog My twitter

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
online collaboration said...

Hi John, It's an interesting topic. Nowadays the collaboration tools which simply offer slide sharing has not more relevance. The power-point has no more power to engage the teammates/students. It is the interactive collaboration that can help to successfully tap the potential of a team.
-Herman Swan,