Thursday, August 7, 2008

Sharing the Workload

In years past, sharing your assignment with another student was absolutely unheard of! It left the door open for cheating, giggling and an unproductive environment! How did you prove which student did the work? Who learned the most? Did they learn anything at all, or use the time to catch up on school happenings? Many questions were left unanswered with simply “sharing” work. That was then. This is now.

With the integration of technology into the classroom, many traditionally valued ideals in the classrooms of yesteryears are just that – a thing of the past. Technology not only provides our students with multimedia, new methodologies and interactivity – it gives them the newfound ability to gain insight from their surroundings, and others. We already know that collaboration provides students with perspectives beyond their own. But, what method do you choose to set the students up for success in building those collaborations? Simple answer – collaborative workspaces.

There are many Web 2.0 applications to choose from, but here, we will look at four different versions.

1) Zoho Writer (zoho.com)
2) Writeboard (writeboard.com)
3) ThinkFree (thinkfree.com)
4) Google Docs (docs.google.com)

All four of these internet-based applications allow multiple users to edit the same document, at the same time. One of the best teacher features? There are revision updates automatically posted so you can tell which student made which changes, and at what time!

Pros to using collaborative writing tools – builds partnerships within a project, allows for ownership, allows for a unified workflow, and allows for the completion of work regardless of the location and time. Student accountability to each project partner is also a leading benefit. At the completion of the project, each of these applications has the ability to export the documents out into at least one or more popular file formats like .doc, .rtf, .pdf or .txt.

Cons to using collaborative writing tools – before assigning a group project using an online collaboration workspace, be sure all students involved have access to the internet. You also need to keep a watchful eye on the different ads displayed.

Are these applications just for students? Definitely not. These four can easily be used between grade-level teachers, school administrators, and others to collaborate on all types of projects and topics.

Each of the four applications mentioned is completely free. So, start writing. Encourage sharing.

2 comments:

HarshilJK said...

Interesting. Great to see students doing this! We tried it briefly during our time at college as well. At work however, these web based tools work beautifully! We use Deskaway to manage our projects, create timelines, a process, milestones, reporting - the works.

We use Google Docs as well for our non confidential docs - and then we integrate that with Google apps which hosts our mail et al.

Now we are planning to get a youtube channel and a slideshare 'channel' as well - has 'inside' + 'outside' benefits.

Your thoughts?

aprilpatt said...

Hi - thanks for reading! I had never heard of Deskaway until you mentioned it - but I do like what it seems to offer. I believe it would work best for college-level students or those in a professional environment.

With Google Docs and some of the others, the bells & whistles are quite few in number which makes it very easy for the students to grasp immediately. Thanks for the heads up about Deskaway - I definitely want to look into it more!

Your idea for youtube seems to be a good one, as well. My only concern sometimes with existing web-based applications is the "open door" they give for accessing other information we don't want/need our students to see. When you get the channel up and running, drop me a link please. Thanks!