Top 5 Online Collaboration Tools for Primary Children

I was asked earlier this week what my favourite online collaborative tool was and although I did suggest one, I didn’t really want to miss some others out.  So here are my top 5:

  1. Wikis – these are, I think, the most flexible tool of all.  They can  be used just for text but are best when images, video and podcasts are included.  Think wikipedia and then try out that model with your class.  Can you produce a page about a river in your area, an event that is happening, a period of history being studied, a story?
  2. Etherpad – this is a great tool for producing text that a group have collaborated on.  Etherpad will allow upto 8 people on at any one time.  Each person selects a colour so that writing can be identified.
  3. Voicethread – here images are put together and then comments can be recorded through speech or text.  There is an education section that schools and classrooms can sign up for.  Voicethread 4 Education is a fantastic wiki that shares how teachers have used Voicethread with examples as is Voice Thread Resources and Ideas.
  4. Blogs – although there is only one author usually on a blog, the collaboration here takes place between the writer and the readers of the blog.  The comments boxes are used to continue a discussion that the blogger has started.  Fantastic tools for developing children’s voice and allowing them to write about their own interests.
  5. Mind-mapping – I have been a fan of mind-mapping for some time and there are now online tools that allow you to map collaboratively.  MindMeister is currently my favourite one.  This tool allows you to invite others to collaborate on the mind-map and is so simple to use.  I use the free basic version but there is an academic version at a much reduced rate.  Please feel free to collaborate with me on the mind-map I am creating for a short talk on why children should blog.

The 2009 Horizon Reort: The K12 Edition discusses the reasons why collaboration is so important and also mentions some tools that have proved to be useful and reports about their use.  Well worth reading.

Linked posts: Collaborative Writing with Children and Collaborative Writing

Collaborative Writing with Children

This is the second post in a short series about collaborative writing.  It was written collaboratively using Etherpad at http://etherpad.com/XHq0OmeA0o .

Collaborative writing is a new skill for many children.   Letting go of your own writing and allowing others to adapt/change/edit it can be an uncomfortable feeling.

So what can we do?

@AngelaStockman  suggests several ways of collaborating on writing. “Sometimes, we’ll remix three word videos or six word memoirs. I think having the examples there helps at first, but once kids have had experience with this, they are more confident blazing their own trail. I’ve also watched teachers start kids off small on a wikispace and then invite them to continue shaping the piece.”

  1. Give children collaborative writing experiences offline.  Angela’s idea for this is great because it removes ownership of the writing by cutting up and mixing around the words/phrases being used.
  2. @markw29 suggests starting in very small collaborative groups, gradually adding more collaborators over time so that children become used to this way of working.  Children often work in pairs so this would be a good starting point.
  3. Allow time for children to actually play with the collaborative tool being used and to get used to what can be done on it.
  4. Teach about responsibility when working collaboratively.
  5. Try cumulative activities where collaborators add an idea, sentence, line, paragraph one after another.  This means that previous writing is not changed but collaborators must consider cohesion and style to maintain the flow.  Flicktion on Flickr is a great example of this.  If this doesn’t get through the school filter you can still borrow the idea and not use Flickr for it.
  6. @scottfisher74 took the opportunity to address preparation for SATs creatively and gave his class a writing starter that they then went and collaborated on an answer.  The children were in friendship groups.  A good way to group for a first go.
  7. Create the bare bones of a text and ask collaborative groups to improve it.
  8. Here is a great idea from  Diplomacy in Action for a collaborative reflection after working on a piece of writing.  In the group each child is assigned a letter A, B, C etc.  A briefly describes how their participation has affected the group’s work.  2-3 mins and no questions permitted.  B either asks A a probing question or paraphrases them.  B then describes how their particpation affected the group’s work and so on round the group.  This would be a real challenge but would start to get to the heart of effective collaboration.
  9. Story MashUp offers an interesting model for collaborative writing – here the collaboration is between reader and writer.  I do like this idea.
  10. What ideas do you have?  Please share them.

Linked posts:  Collaborative Writing, Using Etherpad in the Classroom, Kent ICT (@mbarrow)has a great page of ideas created collaboratively and from Etherpad itself more ideas.

Written by  @AngelStockman, @markw29, @scottfisher74 and Sara, Jenna and Mo who are trainee secondary English teachers and @joysimpson

Update: a great post about reasons for writing collaboratively

Image recaptioned from lolcats

Collaborative Writing

 With the development of online collaborative tools there are now so many opportunities for collaborative writing.  So wanting to make the most of these opportunities this post about collaborative writing has been written collaboratively using Etherpad  http://etherpad.com/XHq0OmeA0o .
I am going to split the writing into two posts: models of collaborative writing and collaborative writing with children as there is so much on the Etherpad.
Collaborative writing is not about taking turns to write words, or about one person thinking and one person writing.  It is about sharing thoughts and ideas knowing that the collective wisdom will be greater than an individuals.  It is a collaborative reaching for meaning ,  a description that we often use for guided reading with fluent readers, only this time we are doing it through writing.  With online tools it can be synchronous or asynchronous.
Collaborative writing blurs the boundaries between being a reader and a writer.  Because the writing is not all yours, you need to be a reader to tap into what is being written and what you think about it and then become a writer when you add to, edit, re-organise the writing.  This is collaboration at the point of composition.  In fact when I think about it I collaborate frequently at the point of composition within my team when writing powerpoints for training.  Imagine seven literacy consultants writing collaboratively! 
But we can also have collaboration at the point of idea generation, or capturing ideas as we call it in a teaching sequence.  Here the boundaries between being a reader and a writer are still blurred but are not quite as muzzy as at the point of composition.  You need to read the other ideas listed to check that yours are not already there but you do not necessarily need to read as a writer and try to maintain the flow or cohesion.  You can add in our own style.
The model of collaboarative writing for this post has been interesting.  I set up the Etherpad thinking that I would be collaborating at the point of composition but this wasn’t what happened.  It is actually a collaboration at the generating ideas stage.  The model of writing that we normally use is very much about writing belonging to one person and being of that person. It perhaps feels a little uncomfortable changing something that belongs to someone else.  We need to think completely differently about writing if we are to collaborate at the point of composition. 
The next post will focus on collaborative writing with children, how they found the experience and some ideas about the types of opportunities we can offer them.
Many thanks to @AngelaStockman, @markw29, Sara, Jenna and Mo for collaborating.  I can’t find Sara, Jenna and Mo on twitter.  I would love to know who you are and why you are interested in collaborative writing.

Collaborative Writing

With the introduction of Web 2.0 tools into the classroom, collaborative writing is now becoming a reality.  This is not the collaboration of writing that we used to know where one child wrote and the other had the ideas or took turns in writing words.  This is one which can be extremely powerful.

I recently read a wonderful post  by Mark Warner ,which detailed how he used Etherpad in his classroom, and was struck by the children’s responses.  They reminded me of the responses from trainee teachers I had worked with using wikis.  What is becoming clear to me is that the model of collaborative writing is different, very different and demands that we approach our writing differently.  But how?

What I would like to do is to write a collaborative post about collaborative writing; how it is different and how we can prepare children to make the most out of it.  I will post the writing in a fortnight.  If you have a point of view about collaborative writing or some ideas to share please drop in and add them. 

Creating Comics with Pixton

I am thinking about collaborative writing at the moment and I also love comic creation sites as they have so many uses in the classroom.  With Pixton you can do both.  Pixton allows you to create comics and then make them available for others to remix.

Comics are a great way to show pace through a story.  The larger the frame the slower the pace.  They can be used to sequence the main events of a story.  They can be used to explore how stories can be made to move on when told through speech.

This is such a flexible tool.  Characters expressions, features, clothing and positions can all be changed.  You can zoom in or zoom out, add props, add backgrounds and change the colour of almost anything.

I invite you to remix this cartoon and add your own ideas.  Post a link in the comments section so that we can see the changes.

For soon to be updates at Pixton read the Free Tech 4 Teachers post