Thursday, December 30, 2010

Collaboration on the Web

I use google docs for collaboration quite regularly both in school and outside of school. My high school-age step daughter uses google docs for many of her assignments and easily submits assignments by simply sharing them with her teachers. However, as a middle school teacher, one problem that I face with google docs for student use is that you need an email (preferably a gmail account, though not necessary) account to participate or even read or have access to the documents created. The collaborative aspect of google docs is great, but since you need to know the email of the person or persons with whom you'd like to share, this can become a problem for sharing with students. So, I searched a bit and found a bunch of similar collaborative forums where students might collaborate on a document through a web link.

One of these sites is called TitanPad, a basic web-based word processor that allows collaborators to see changes to a document in real-time. There are no email accounts needed, though it is possible to share via email. Once you have started a new "pad" you are given a web link to send out via email or post onto a webpage. Users will simply go to the website and read and even add to the document. A quick example is the one I started and can be viewed at Your students can view and even add or change the document. Each new member will receive a different color to distinguish his/her changes.

This forum would be extremely useful for students who are writing together. They can start a new document or import a template or their document already in progress. They can access the document from home or from the classroom and then can export the document in order to save it as a file. As a teacher, I could use this in a science lab, for example to create a data table for students to add to as they collect data at lab stations. Each group could then see the data added to the document. And, I could create a separate link for each of my individual science classes.

I am going to explore other similar web-based word processing options, though TitanPad is certainly a simple and easy-to-use possibility.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Using a Discussion Board

Check out Word Press at

In my classroom this year, all of my students were set up to be part of a discussion board in order to discuss the ideas in the novel
Out of the Dust. I was quite impressed with their ability to write meaningful entries and also to agree with and disagree with one another.

The discussion board that I used was Word Press. Word Press is really a blogging site, much like "blogger." This was a closed discussion board, in that I had to provide a username and password for each of my students. But, this way, I could be sure that it was a safe site, without advertisements and would allow only registered users to participate in the discussion. The discussion board was simple and extremely easy to use. I did not have to approve comments, but I did have access to delete comments if it had been necessary.

One downfall to using this discussion board was that in order to create the student accounts, I had to provide email addresses for my students. I made up this data and it did not seem to impact the ability of students to use the site. Another issue was with grading! I had the expectation that my students would each post one time for the 6 sections of the book. But that alone was 180 entries. However, on top of that, I had given them the opportunity to earn extra credit for additional meaningful entries. I need to figure out a less time consuming way of giving my students a grade! Any ideas you have would be appreciated!