Part of the Cool Sites series

Collaboration is the real step to education transformation. When we gather to produce, our ideas, talents, and skills embody our final outcome. Each person who participates has the ability to add full attention to the designated task versus one person spread thin over several tasks. Collaboration is also important for students who will have to work with others in some capacity to be able to problem solve or brainstorm.

Why Teaching Online Collaboration is Important

While completing my Masters online, I discovered that many people lacked collaboration skills. I observed 20+ global teams in which members fought or offended each other by their lack of communication and team building skills. These skills include having the ability to compromise, lead, meet deadlines, deal with disagreement, and communicate in an effective manner. When we collaborate online many forget that online communication is very different than person to person communication. Sometimes an online message can be misread or come across quite differently than the message we originally tried to communicate.

Why is Online Collaboration Different than Face to Face Collaboration?

Online collaboration is very different than in person collaboration mainly because we don’t have nonverbal cues to support our messages. Many researchers believe that nonverbal communication is as high as 60% to 93% of all communication. This means that a majority of our online messages could be misinterpreted, yet many of us do not communicate with this in mind. When we accidentally offend others we shut down the lines of communication, which jeopardizes the final outcome or our efforts. In our digital world, online collaboration will become increasingly important, yet schools rarely teach students to collaborate online. We can change that by ensuring our students participate in at least one online collaborative project this year. I would love to see the day when schools teach all learners to collaborate effectively with their peers worldwide. We would be able to solve issues like the environment, the economy, and possibly prevent wars. Wow! That’s pretty powerful potential!

Top Collaboration Sites

These are my favorites free tools to get your students and you collaborating! Included is a brief description and helpful links to facilitate using these tools more effectively.

  • Wiggio- Developed by college students this free site has everything from meeting planning, your own whiteboard, updates, group mailing, a calendar, video conferencing room, group text messages, and much more! I love this website. Read more about it in the ILearnTechnology blog.
  • Enter the Group- create project pages and online classrooms for free. Includes features like to-do lists, tasks widget, chat, message boards, group email, file sharing, an online calendar, checklists, blogs, polls, and more!
  • Juntos- communicate in real time through audio, video, and chat. Supports a multivideo chat and scheduling option.
  • iBrainstorm App for iPad and iPhone- Allows up to 4 to collaborate on a brainstorming diagram or group thinking process that can be emailed. Has drawing and writing tools.
  • Scribblar-Real-time multi-user whiteboard, image upload/ download, text chat with userlist, live audio
  • Google Tools for Educators- One of my favorite ways to collaborate! Collaborate in real time to create slideshows, drawings, documents, and more that are on the web and can easily be embedded and organized in folders.
  • Zoho- Collaborate on PowerPoint presentations, spreadsheets, word documents, and more. Similar to Google Apps, but shows a condensed view of all recent project activity and includes group chat rooms, forums, wikis, and a tabbed interface.
  • CrocDocs- Collaboratively highlight and comment on PDFs, Word documents, images, and more!
  • Prezi-the alternative to PowerPoint. Create non-linear presentations with images, text, video, and cool transitions. Now with the ability for students to collaborate on one Prezi together in real-time.

Collaborative Document & Whiteboard Tools

  • Twiddla- real time collaboration on documents, websites, and images. Includes writing and drawing tools and audio to talk in real time. No registration needed.
  • Skrbl- Multi user whiteboard that can be embedded. Sketch, text, share files, upload pictures all in one common shared space. No registration required.
  • Groupboard- Free online whiteboard and chat that can be easily embedded into your website. Also is an iPhone, iPad and Android app.
  • Titan Pad- real time collaboration on document that assigns everyone their own color. Includes formatting options like MS Word. No registration needed.
  • Meeting Words- nearly the exact same service as Titan Pad.
  • Type With Me- Like Titan pad with the ability to save as a PDF, website, bookmark, pdf, and more.
  • Writeboard- real time collaboration on document that tracks changes from each person, no registration needed.

Online Sticky Boards

Most of these services allow you more options if you sign-up for free. You can also make your walls of post-its private in all these services.

  • Wallwisher- Put messages up to 160 characters on an online board. Looks like post-its but these can include videos, links, images, and audio. This online board is embeddable which is its best feature. Additionally, you can choose from a variety of backgrounds and pictures from Wallwisher’s library! You don’t have to be registered to post. I love Wallwisher and am registered since I have around 30 walls. The problem is that this service is unreliable and often down so here are other options below.
  • Pindax- Post text, images, and files, also the ability to embed and search your posts! Not as nice looking as Wallwisher but a good alternative.
  • Linoit- Include links, images, video, and audio as well as change the size and color of your fonts. Has various background options and other attractive options. It’s embeddable as well.
  • Stixy- Add tasks, appointments, files, photos, notes, and bookmarks to boards. More options than Wallwisher but doesn’t have an embedding option.
  • Listhings- It’s a corkboard template, but has the ability to change the color of notes and create several note pages! I haven’t found the embed option. Read more about Listhings here.
  • Spaaze- Described as a virtual corkboard, add images, video, and more. No embedding option but does allow you to search content.
  • EditStorm- Brainstorming board that allows collaborators to post ideas on different colored notes. Has an idea bot idea bots that look up related concepts, synonyms and even words that rhyme with any term that has been used. You can also poll ideas but you can’t add video, audio, or images. Some html is supported. There’s also templates to choose from and an iPad/iPhone app. Not embeddable.

More Resources

Challenge:

Use one of these tools to get your students collaborating online this year!

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What collaboration tools do you love?

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