Monday, November 28, 2011


I use google docs for collaboration quite regularly both in school and outside of school. 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.


Collaboration opportunities on the web abound! However, I continue to find that I and other teachers need access to web 2.0 applications that do not require emails and/or passwords to access. Another collaborative site with an etherpad, though with many more collaborative features is called Twiddla. This is a jump on and go site. Once you have gone on to the website, simply begin a new meeting and then you can begin. You can type, draw, put up post-it messages, upload your own documents, images and even webpages. A great feature with Twiddla is that once you create a whiteboard, you can save it as a screen shot and access it from Twiddla at a later time.

For an example of a whiteboard that I created, once again for students to collect data collaboratively in a science lab setting, see the url that was provided when I started this whiteboard... Students simply need to be given the url and they can begin adding to it - no email addresses or passwords needed! Now, the board is technically public and anyone could access it. But, this also means that students can access it at a later date and a different location as well.

I need to play with Twiddla a bit more to discover its true capabilities, but one cool note about it..... Check out this great feature... "Don't forget that we're still Free for Educational Uses! Sign up for a Free Trial, then send us an email from a .edu address (or whatever screwy extention they use in your land), and we'll hook you with a Pro account free of charge. We're at Be sure to include your username!"


Screencast is a wonderful way to upload content to a website that won't upload in it's original format. I've used Screencast mostly for uploading and publishing Jings and other movies from youtube that would not be accessible at school otherwise.


Jings are a great way to share information with others. Sometimes, you want to take screen images that you can't access at school and still use them as part of a larger presentation. Sometimes, you want to share information about how to access or perform something on the computer and you need a visual. Jing is your answer.

Jing is software, it's not web based, so you have to download it. When using Jing, you have a 5 minute maximum in which to convey your screencast. You can do as many 5 minute casts as you'd like, but they max out at 5 minutes. This is first seen as a drawback, but really is a benefit since learning is much more easily tolerated in short bursts--even for colleagues and other adults.

Jing is a TechSmith product and be downloaded here:

For what you'll do with it, stick to the free version!


Exploratree is a great site for finding and printing graphic organizers. You can even make your own!