I need no convincing to believe that digital collaboration is here to stay. Not only is it here to stay, collaborating with colleagues anywhere or anytime is now part of my daily routine in which I regularly engage with others via a range of Social Media platforms.
It’s coincidental that just as I read the notes for this week’s assignment, I read Dan Haesler’s recent article in The Age: Today’s youth work beyond ‘basics’. Making the point that digital collaboration is very much a part of today’s education, he quotes Jack Andraka, a young scientist who I blogged about back in July.
Andraka believes online collaboration is the key to learning and innovation. “The internet doesn’t care about your gender, race or religion,” he says. “It’s a place where only your ideas count, and we can use it to help people around the globe to innovate and change the world.”
Using tools to facilitate online collaboration though is a new concept for me. While I’ve explored the virtual worlds of Nings and Online Webinars, exploring tools that enable online collaboration in real time is a whole new ball game for me.
My first foray into this world was to check out Producteev – a task management tool. The descriptor supplied in my course outline sounded inspiring:
Producteev allows you to list and arrange a number of tasks under a project banner and invite collaborators. You can then assign individual tasks to different people and manage your project completely online, ticking off each requirement as it’s completed. Further, you can attach the relevant resources to each task, whether those are documents, links, videos or media so that everyone has access to, and can collaborate on, the most up-to-date content. You can also assign alerts to specific tasks so that you’re notified when something is updated on the tasks you have a stake in and much more.
As cute and friendly as the promo video (well worth a watch) was though, once I had signed up to this free service and worked through the process of registering, I found little guidance on how to get started. Perhaps it didn’t help that I was looking at this on my own – maybe I should be partnering with someone to get a better feel of it. Being time poor however, I admit to not persisting. If your experience using this has been positive though, please convince me to give it another try!
Skype was the next digital collaboration tool I tried. While I’ve had this installed on both my iPhone and iPad for some time, I’ve really not used it much apart from an occasional call to a family member. Experimenting with it has been fun. Keen to explore the conference call option, I soon realized that I’d need to download Skype onto my laptop – though I understand that now the new iOS7 update supports conference calls on the iPhone/iPad.
A quick online search for a ‘how to’ video turned up this little gem which filled my need for more information on using Skype as well as how to make a conference call. If a simple nuts and bolts video on making a conference call is all you need though, this one is really great. After a little play which showed me just how useful this could be, I then set about figuring out how to use Skype to screen share. A clear explanation can be found on the Skype Support page. Already my mind is clicking over on how useful this could be. I can’t wait to experiment more! I now realize that I am able to Skype a work colleague who has their laptop connected to an Interactive White Board. By sharing my screen via Skype with my colleague, students seated around an Interactive White Board are able to see a presentation I make from home or any other location on the globe! The conference call also of course allows interaction between me, the presenter, and those watching. How cool is this! Clearly the range of possible uses of Skype in the classroom is endless. And as often happens on the zigzag journey we embark on nearly each and every time we go online, I came across a link to 50 Ideas for Using Skype in Your Classroom. One of the ideas listed is this video which shows just how powerful Skype can be in the classroom:
It’s just on two years ago that I blogged about my use of an alternate digital collaboration tool – Yammer. In my post: Yammer – another one to add to the list! I recognized its value for collaboration and sharing between members of our school staff:
My workplace has just started to play with Yammer and it could prove to be a great way for us to share with each other on a professional level anytime, anywhere. Along with my colleagues, I look forward to seeing how Yammer can enhance our move toward inculcating Social Networking into our daily routines with each other.
As it turns out, while some staff members enthusiastically embraced the use of Yammer, its use kind of diminished after a few months. Since then, as the school LMS has taken on an increasingly higher profile, use of Yammer has become history, with the last active use being more than a year ago.
After seeing the promo video for Wiggio, another real time digital collaboration tool, I couldn’t help myself. I signed up! But my patience ran out soon after. Although I’m happy to have a play with this on my own, I was really hesitant to start entering the email addresses of others to have them join me. As a result, all I’ve really gained from signing up is a look at some of the detailed ‘how to’ videos. On the surface, Wiggio looks good. Perhaps when I have a need to create a working group, my purpose will be more refined and I will get into using this a bit more.
Unfortunately for me, a prominent ‘Sign Up’ tab on a website is like sticky paint to me. I just have to press it! That’s just what happened when I peeked at the Mind42 website! Alas though, my enthusiasm to explore has been squashed. I’m still waiting for their confirmation email to create my account. Guess I will have to put this one on the back burner and be satisfied with the descriptor I have of this tool:
With Mind42, you can work across an Internet connection and map out project ideas using text, images, video, links, upload documents and more. Then save your maps for future reference.
instaGrok is another great tool for real time collaboration. Although I blogged about this early last year, a post which was subsequently published on Bright Ideas, in which I raved about its use, I’m yet to use it with a class of students. Having re-visited it just now though, I’m feeling more inspired to convince some students to give it a go! It really is a great tool that has much value for students researching.
It’s clear that the scope of digital tools such as Prodcuteev and Wiggio are broad and allow users the luxury of collaborating within a dedicated online environment in real time. Being able to screen share and/or share documents and make live changes or brainstorm the pros and cons of issues in real time is valuable. So too is being able to assign tasks, monitor the progress of a project, present or chat in real time via internal email or video conference. Perhaps because I’ve not fully experimented with these tools though, I’m not convinced that they differ greatly from other platforms out there such as Google+ ‘hangouts’. Clearly I need to dedicate more time to explore this issue.