Sunday, April 29, 2012

Collaborative Tools

For our first project in CCA, we had to work in groups to make a google doc about collaboration. The rule was that we had to create a complete project without speaking face to face. This might have seemed like a difficult task, because we are so used to live, in-person communication within our classes. However, we did not panic. With all the collaborative tools available out there, we could be in different places and still communicate with each other at the same time! As soon as Dr. Z gave us the go-ahead, we had to close our mouths and turn on our computers.

But I'll focus on our collaborative research project in another post. For this post, I want to focus on the tools. Collaborative tools have radically changed the way we do school, business, and personal communication. Never before have we had such ease with which we may create, edit, share and publish so freely. Being a future-teacher, having a platform that makes communication and collaboration so easy is crucial to making education its best. Let me tell you about a few of my favorite collaborative tools.

First, there is the all hallowed GoogleDoc. In fact, let's throw in the entire suite of online tools that Google offers. The best part is, anyone with a gmail account can access them. With Google, you get GoogleDocs (including Google slide shows, spreadsheets, forms, drawings, tables and collections), Googlesites, GoogleCalender, Blogger, and so much more! I have just included the collaborative tools that I use, but I think Google tools are some of the best available online today. I don't use flash drives anymore, because I just save everything in a GoogleDoc. Just the other day, I was working on composing a professional email to one of my student teaching mentor teachers, and I wanted my mom's (a teacher's) opinion on whether or not my language was coming off as professional. I saved my email into a GoogleDoc, shared it with Mom, and we were able to chat and make changes/ suggestions together. I LOVE GOOGLE.

Another really nice collaborative tool is Skype. I have used Skype for a couple of years now, because we have family in England who we like to see from time to time. I was amazed at how easy it is to use, and the basic service (hosting two people live-chatting with video) is free. You can even have more than two people meet on Skype, with audio only. We used Skype for our collaborative research project, and it was a breeze. We even Skyped with Dr. Z when he was in Jordan!  In a week, my boyfriend leaves for Berlin, Germany, and we have already downloaded Skype onto his netbook, checked out the time difference between Berlin and Iowa, and made a schedule of Skype "dates." Without this technology, I wouldn't be able to keep in touch with a lot of important people!

Other collaborative tools I have used include: Prezi (we're using it for Visual Literacy right now), Just Paste It, Second Life (this is pretty collaborative, in that you can talk to people from all over the world in a digital 3-d setting, and it's fun!), Dropbox, Wikispaces (both in Z's class, Ping's class, Magda's class, and more), and Chatzy. And I know that once I secure a teaching job (fingers crossed people!), I'll be investigating even more tools to use in my classroom!

Here is a table of online collaborative tools available to users for free at Cool Tools for Schools.

And 15 more free tools for Web-based education and collaboration!

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