Online collaboration tools (#AAPTsm11)

by Stephanie Chasteen on July 31, 2011

I’m at the AAPT meeting and will be posting a few liveblog posts during the week, as I have useful snippets.  Now I’m in the Free Physics Webtools session with Cathy Ezrailson.

One good use of the web is to collaborate with others in a shared space.  Obviously wikis and blogs are one way to do this.   I’m a huge fan of Google Docs for sharing documents among multiple people, but Cathy had a few more for us to check out.  Share your own here on the Wallwisher site that I created!

  • Wikispaces is a free wiki, kind of like what Ning used to be before it turned to a fee model.  Free discussion forums and pages, and if you’re an educator you get an ad-free wiki for free.  PBWiki is another popular one — does anybody have any recommendations for one over the other?
  • Wallwisher is a pretty neat tool for posting notes from various people in a public space.  Think of it as a virtual wall with virtual sticky notes that can be accessed and posted by anyone.  Cathy used it for the session evaluations.  Another good idea would be at a conference or other group gathering, to gather individual notes or ideas during the conference in a shared place.  You can print a poster from the results!  Check out my sample Wallwisher and add your favorite collaboration tools and ideas.
  • Comic Strip Maker isn’t a collaborative tool, but I’ve heard other teachers be pretty excited about the ability for students to make their own comic strip to explain a concept.  Very fun!  Another cool way you can have students create something fun to demonstrate (and develop) their understanding is by creating a Prezi presentation. Here’s an example of the physics of bicycles.
  • Assign-a-Day looks like it would be very handy — you can post classes and assignments on a calendar format for your students to access.  So much easier for everyone!
  • Cathy also had a variety of Curriculum Design tool:  You can collaborate with others on your curriculum at the ALPS site, or make your own at the Teacher Universe. I admit I didn’t check those out, but the other ones above, I did spend some time with and liked them.

I also can’t recommend enough using a course blog to manage your course, rather than creating a static website, for your university course.  I did this for my Light and Color course this summer and was easily able to post notes about assignments, exams, and other information.  Students didn’t participate in the discussions like I had wanted, but it was still great.  This was just a free WordPress account.

Want to see more?  Check them out, and a bunch of other links, at the extensive (perhaps overly extensive) Google Doc she posted for the workshop.  Other items on that list are:

  • Online surveys
  • Online quizzes
  • Group calendars
  • Email listserv creators
  • Mindmaps online
  • Collaborative bookmarking

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