Friday, August 3, 2007

Before Blogs and Wikis: Three Tools to Enhance Collaboration

While I've posted about most of these individually, as I've become more familiar with them, I've realized how wonderfully they tools would mash-up for use with students working together on projects, research or wiki-development. These are tools to enhance creation of a final product, not for creation of the final product itself. They make the collaboration process easier and more effective.

Thinkature: This site enables students to brainstorm and plan online in real time. Students record ideas on color-coded, rearrangable cards. The arrow tool allows students to connect ideas, or they can use the drawing tool to create diagrams. They can upload images and discuss their progress using IM or voice chat.

Backpack: Once they've generated their ideas, the group can organize and follow their progress by creating a To Do List on Backpack. They can also collect notes, images and files here prior to creating their project or wiki. Backpack also mashes with WriteBoard, allowing students to save, create and collaborate on their document in one site. (Less log-in info to remember!)
(Zoho could work here, too, but I like WriteBoard because it allows students to compare versions/drafts. It all depends on what you need!)

Diigo: Once they start their web-related search, Diigo, an add-on extension for Firefox and Internet Explorer, allows students to highlight text and post sticky-notes directly onto webpages, then share their comments within the group. Others can add their own comments to the note. Selected text is archived to a "my bookmarks" page, along with the comments and a copy of the website. Students can collaborate within the bookmarks site or on the individual websites. Diigo supports RSS feeds, allowing teachers to follow student progress. The more I use this tool, the more I'm convinced it ought to be integral to every research project. It allows students to actively connect with the information they're reading--to question, annotate and infer. All in collaboration with their group. How amazing is that???

These tools will be especially useful for the for the "easy planning" where they need time together, but don't especially need input from me. What an in-class timesaver! For bigger projects, they can do initial planning in class, but carry on the details online.


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  5. Interesting post Jeri. Wanted to point out that the link is not pointing right for Thinkature -I'm sure a lot of people would have wanted to check out the tool that you introduced (of course they can google and find out but I thought I will comment here and let you know.

    P.S: I have also sent you a voice mail-hope to hear back from you!