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October 20, 2010 / Cameron Campbell

Collaboration tools

We all know that one of the ways Lincoln University has always excelled is by graduating students that are work ready, the kind of person who hits the ground running and can be slotted into a variety of roles. One of the ways we do this is through the use of case study and project-based learning activities.

A downside to these sort of activities is that they can be difficult to manage, both from a teacher as well as from a student logistics point of view. A possible way of dealing with these issues is to divide the class up into groups and then have the groups work together via the web. 

This handles the eternal group work problem of syching up many different schedules. By collaborating via he web the students are also sure thy have a full record of everything that is “said”.  From a teacher perspective you can check in to the projects as they are in progress. This means you can provide formative comments in order to help the students, helping them to stay on track. 
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Here are some possible tools that you could use, with a little bit of commentary aout the tool. 

https://posterous.com/ blogging platform without all the hassle: you can email, text, go to the site to post etc. Added bonus points that it allows you to link from it to any other social media system. Supports group blogging out of the box.

http://www.zoho.com Comparable to Google docs, but many many more tools/options. Specifically there is their docs (http://docs.zoho.com/jsp/index.jsp) and Projects (http://www.zoho.com/projects/index.html). Negatives are that students (and you) would have to sign up for yet another service. It’s also got a “we can do anything online” feel to it. Frankly, I find it a  touch overwhelming. 

Google docs (docs.google.com): While Google docs for education would be ideal, regular Docs are pretty well suited to most applications. They’ve recently beefed up the speed of their collaboration (live editing by multiple users) and are promising that it works on most mobile devices. A big factor that would recommend  this tool is that a large number of your students probably already have a Google account of some flavor. The new “shared folders” feature seems pretty amazing, and would make sharing a base document or central repository with a whole class pretty straight forward.

Wiki’s: Wikispaces offer free educational wikis. The benefit of theirs versus many others is that you can export the final document in several formats suitable for further work in Word and then for handing in as a report.  (http://www.wikispaces.com/site/for/teachers?responseToken=0bcf01b683b9e37ebf370cfcb0afab8a0)

So there you have it a short review of some of the free tools available to use to support collaborative learning on the cloud. 

 

 

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