Image via Wikipedia
Well, another semester has come and gone. As always, I’ve learned so much from my students. One of the things I have started doing in my classes (remember, I teach online) is to make just about every activity and assignment collaborative. That means that students sometimes work together, view each others’ work, and/or are included in all class conversations. There are many ways to share information and enable collaboration than ever before, but you need to use the tools and include instructions for your students. Here are 10 ways I created collaborative learning environments for my students this semester:
- Google Docs: (http://docs.google.com) Yeah, by now you are probably using Google Docs a lot. I really like the shared folder feature in Google Docs. I create one class folder for the semester, add all of my students to it, and then tell them to place their work in progress and/or assignments in this shared folder. You can add folders within a shared folder (which are then automatically shared) to further refine the organization of your root folder, creating separate folders for assignments, for instance. I use Google Docs for creating online forms or surveys, sharing the results with the class, and have students work together at times using the presentation tool of Google docs. Google Docs can take the work out of commenting, editing, and sharing student work. Plus, the added value of this is easily enabling student self-evaluation. It’s very easy for a student to view another classmate’s work to evaluate their own work.
- WallWisher: (http://www.wallwisher.com) We used this tool to discuss key concepts and ideas, and I embedded the “wall” on a discussion forum page on our Moodle course site. Couldn’t be easier and is a great way to share thoughts and view them in an interactive environment.
- Twitter: (http://twitter.com/edtech501) I created a Twitter feed for my EDTECH 501 class and told students to follow me. They can even enable the Twitter feed on their mobile devices, getting real-time updates from me, such as class news, new tools, and other tech info. This is a time-saver and helps me stay in touch with my students.
- Delicious: (http://delicious.com/tag/edtech501) I told my students to tag anything relevant to our class as edtech501 and then put the delicious feed for this tag in a feed reader block (gadget) on my Moodle course site. New info is automatically updated and students are actively involved in getting information for the class.
- Zotero: (http://www.zotero.org/groups/edtech_501) We use Zotero to collect resources on using technology in education, adding information to our shared group Zotero library. Students can access this library online or through their own Zotero Firefox plugin on their computer. This is an excellent way to collect, share, and comment on resources. Why do it by yourself when you can use the power of the class?
- Discussion forums/Moodle messaging/SMS: I use discussion forums in Moodle, encourage students to message me through the Moodle interface, and also provide my Google Voice number for them to call or send me a text message. I want them to be able to contact me quickly and efficiently, getting immediate answers to questions so they can continue working. Plus, I am not very fond of email.
- Google Voice gadget: (http://voice.google.com) I put a Google Voice gadget on the front page of my Moodle course site, which will dial my number once the student clicks it. Through Google Voice you can monitor your calls, seeing who is calling and deciding if you want to answer or have it go to your voice mail. The voice mail is automatically transcribed, and I receive an update immediately on my cell phone. Google Voice allows my students to be able to contact me without me giving out my personal cell phone number. When will Boise State figure out that all instructors need cell phones???
- Feed Links (Google Reader “Bundle): (http://reader.google.com) I came up with the super-cool idea of using Google Reader “bundles” to create a feed for all of my students’ Learning Logs they created this semester. That way, they can simply subscribe to one feed and stay in touch with all of their classmates, reading their blog posts, and responding as needed. When I subscribe to the individual Learning Logs my students create, I add each one to a folder in Google Reader. Then, I create a “bundle,” which gives you a feed URL for all of the blogs. I even can put a bundle gadget on my Moodle course site. How cool is that??
- Technology Teacher Blog: (http://itcboisestate.wordpress.com) I include a block (gadget) on my Moodle course front page that provides updated posts to my Technology Teacher Blog. This is another way for students to stay informed on my whereabouts and what I’m up to.
- Cool Teacher Podcast: I provide a direct link to iTunes so my students can access and subscribe to our weekly Cool Teacher Podcast. It’s a great way to stay current and have fun listening to my rantings and ravings.
What are some collaborative tools you use in your online courses? Let me know–I’d love to hear from you.