I’ve been experimenting with a variety of online tools for collaborating in “real-time.” I really don’t have much use for them in the classroom, since the different time zones of our various sister classes don’t make it logistically feasible. I’m more interested in exploring their use for possibly coordinating work with teachers of those sister classes if that project continues to expand, and for use in some collaborative writing I might be doing in the future.
Even though I’m thinking about these tools for my own professional reasons, since I’m still not particularly technically proficient, and because others might be able to think of other classroom purposes, I’ve used criteria similar to my other “The Best…” lists in deciding which ones to include here. They include:
* No software download is required.
* It’s free.
* No equipment is required other than, in some cases, a microphone. A webcam needs to be optional.
* Multiple users can collaborate at the same time.
* English Language Learners can use the tools easily.
* I can think of it having an education use.
Unlike my previous lists, I haven’t tried-out all of these applications extensively. Therefore, I don’t feel I can rank them the way I usually do. However, I have had a pretty decent, though limited, experience with all of them.
Also, in this list, unlike my others, instead of including links to the actual application, I’ve mainly included links to my original posts about the sites (that is, I’ve done that for sites I’ve already written about). I thought people might find the additional information they can find there useful.
There are quite a few other online collaborative tools, but I didn’t include them because they just seemed too complicated.
The ones I’ve found that meet my criteria include:
Here’s an online word-processing applications that allow multiple users to work on the same document simultaneously Zoho Writer
Scriblink is an online whiteboard that can be used by up to five people at one time.
MeBeam is an online video conferencing site. It allows you to just use microphones for audio if you don’t have a webcam. MeBeam lets up to eighteen people participate.
Mind42 is a “mindmapping” tool that has tremendous collaborative features. I’m still having a hard time, though, figuring out more than one or two minor educational projects that students could create with it.
I’ve used the Authorstream web application to post several slideshows on my website. It’s quite easy to use. Now they’ve added a new feature called Present Live. You can quickly upload a PowerPoint presentation and then show it in real-time over the web. A chatboard is connected to it so you can communicate instantly. You can read more of an explanation on how it works over at Mashable. Authorstream itself also has a nice screencast about it.
Scribblar allows you to create a virtual “room” in seconds — without having to register — where you can collaborate for writing or drawing, with the ability to have a text chatboard or audio/webcam communication. It couldn’t be easier to use. If, and when, we can ever coordinate time zones, it would be a neat tool to use for collaborating with others in the International Sister Classes Project.
Show Document couldn’t be much easier for uploading a document and then having multiple people — in real time — editing it and using a chatboard to communicate. No registration is necessary — just upload, get a code number, send it to others, and then you’re all working together.
It’s an easy way for English Language Learners and anyone else to collaboratively draw a picture. There’s no real registration necessary, either. You just go to the site, are given a private “virtual room” in which to begin drawing, and then you email the link to whoever else you want to participate. While you’re drawing there’s also a text chat feature to communicate. You can then save the image and either link to it or embed it in a student/teacher blog or website. You can also upload a photo for and discussing.
Students can develop their English skills by communicating via the chat room (for example, mine could do this project with other students in our International Sister Classes Project) and/or posting their image with a description.
Twiddla is basically a whiteboard that allows text and audio chat for real-time collaboration. You can review websites within the application, and no registration is required.
Etherpad was a great way to collaborate in real time. You just paste a bunch of text in a window and, without even having to register for the service, send others the url and everybody can edit it in real time. It also has a chat option. You could go back to the url address at any time to make further, adjustments, too. Etherpad was bought by Google and was shut down in March, 2010. They’ve open-sourced their code, though, and you can use Type With Me , Sync.in, or PiratePad now, instead. QikPad is a similar nice online collaborative writing tool that has an embedding feature.
Tiny Chat is the latest addition to this list. It lets you, without registering, immediately create a private chatroom. You email the url to others, who can then participate either in real time . There are other similar tools already on this list, including ones that allow you to participate with audio and/or video messages. But Tiny Chat deserves to be here just because of its ease of use. They’ve also recently added many features, including a video capability. You can read more about the new features at Read Write Web.
Flash Meeting looks like a very impressive free application for video conferencing. It’s designed specifically for school use, and you can participate even if you don’t have a microphone (you can text) or a webcam.
Let me know if you are aware of other collaborative applications that would meet my criteria. Links to these sites, along with 8,000 others, can be found on my website.
Big Marker lets you create an online conference, and is free. It seems pretty straight-forward and usable.
Slideshare, the popular online slideshow site, just added a new feature called Zipcast. With a simple click, it allows you to create a public or private video and text chat next to the slideshare presentation you’re viewing.
I posted about Corkboard Me in January. It’s very similar to Wallwisher, but even simpler to use — and with fewer features (you can’t embed videos, nor password protect your content). You can, however, easily post images by just pasting its url on one of the virtual post-it notes. Corkboard Me recently announced some additional features, including real-time collaboration and a chat room for the people collaborating. I’ve certainly noticed a lot of quirkiness lately with Wallwisher, and I know quite a few others have experienced the same problem. So, I’m going to start having my classes use Corkboard Me.
NOTE: New Development: Wallwisher, the great virtual “corkboard-creator” tool, has just announced some nice improvements. They include making it even easier to create a corkboard and having immediate real-time collaborative abilities by seeing what people you invite are doing on it as they do it. They say there is more to come in the next few days. I’ve tried out both of those improvements, and they work very well. Wallwisher went through a period when it was very buggy, but they’ve come on strong over the past year to become a top-notch tool.
Meetin.gs is a new site that lets you organize virtual meetings that also let you documents and media. It’s looks pretty simple and easy to use. It’s not open to the public yet, but I received an invitation very quickly after I requested it.
AOL has just begun AV By AIM, a super-simple video chat room. You just go to the site, say you want to start a chat, and you’re given a unique url that you can use to invite up to four people to join. No registration is required.
Concept Board is very easy to use screensharing tool. After registration, you can create up to twenty-five Concept Boards for free. You click on “new Concept Board” and you have one — you can upload presentations, make comments, draw on it, etc. All you have to do is its url address to others so they can gain access to it, too.
Join.me lets you your screen with up to 250 people and provides text chat (they seem to be having some technical troubles — at least during the last update I’ve made to this list).
Any Meeting is an online meeting tool that also records the audio. Up to 200 people can participate.
I posted last year that Skype In The Classroom was going to begin soon, and it apparently has. You can read more about it at Read Write Web’s post “Skype in the Classroom” Launches to Connect Teachers & Students Worldwide. And you can join it directly, too.
And, speaking of Skype, Sra. Spanish has written a helpful post titled Classroom Skype: Do’s & Don’t’s .
Skype Announces Free Group Video Calling for Teachers is an article in the School Library Journal describing a new program Skype has for teachers (thanks to Justin Baeder for the tip).
Draw It Live lets you create virtual “rooms” where you can collaborate with people of your choices to draw. It also includes a chat window. You can save the image to your desktop, but it doesn’t appear to let you save it on the web. Thanks to The Center For Applied Second Language Studies for the tip.
Live Minutes is new online conferencing app that is entirely browser-based and it doesn’t even appear you have to register in order to use it. You’re immediately given a unique url address for your conference that you with the people you want to connect with — and you can audio, a virtual whiteboard, documents, etc. You can’t video right now, but they say that feature is coming.
Think of Spreecast like a multi-person video chat service mashed up with a traditional, text-based live chat feature. It allows up to four people to appear on camera at one time and invites an unlimited number of viewers, all of whom can make comment and ask questions of the participants. Alternatively, sessions can be held privately.
Screenleap “allows as many people as you like to see your computer screens at once without needing to set up an account.”
Three Ways To Watch Videos and Discuss Them In Real Time is a useful post from Richard Byrne.
Speek lets you very simply organize conference calls. The number is unlimited, but they say the quality begins to deteriorate after ten people. You quickly register and then you’re given a url address for your call. You email that out, people click on it and enter their number, and that Speek immediately calls them. It’s pretty easy. They say you can upload files to , but that didn’t seem to be working for me. I suspect they’ll work out that kink quickly.
FlockDraw, with no registration required, lets you create a virtual room where up to ten people can draw in addition to being able to “chat.” You can save your drawing on the Web. It can’t get much easier than what they’ve set-up.
RealtimeBoard is a new online whiteboard that seems like a decent tool for real-time collaboration. It’s easy to use, and lets you upload images from your computer or by its url address.
Reflap is a free tool for online video chats. You can have up to five people on the same chat.
MashMe TV lets you create a free video conference with up to ten people. In addition, you can all watch a video and/or draw together.
Quip is a new online word processing tool that is free to non-business users, adapts its look to the kind of device you’re using (tablet, desktop, smartphone), and lets you collaborate with others on your document. You can read more about it at TechCrunch.
Mighty Meeting is a free site that lets you create free online meetings where a slide presentation or documents can be . It seems to work quite simply, which is always a plus.
Whiteboard Genie is an online collaborative virtual whiteboard.
Face Flow lets you create a video chatroom for up to four people. It’s free to use, and registration is fast.
Talky seems like a very easy video chat site where you can create private rooms.
This list includes quite a few tools that let you create documents with others, including some that allow instant text chat.
Notepad is a new tool that has both of those features and, unlike most other sites, also provides an audio chat feature. No registration is required to use all its features.
There are lots of sites out there that let you create virtual “corkboards” and you can see them at The Best Online Virtual “Corkboards” (or “Bulletin Boards”). Padlet (formerly known as Wallwisher) is probably the most well-known tool of this kind.
Like the best of the other sites, you can create these bulletin boards easily without registering and you can collaborate with others to create them.
Two features, though, that Stoodle has but, as far as I can tell, others do not, are:
* the ability to search and find images on the Web within the application itself. With the others, you have to find an image in another tab and then paste the url address into the site. Stoodle gives you that option, too, but searching within the site makes it a lot easier.
* The chat feature between collaborators is text and audio. I don’t believe any other similar tool as the audio chat feature.
The only two negatives that I see are:
* unlike Padlet, you can’t embed a Stoodle board.
* Using Stoodle the first time isn’t as intuitive as Padlet. It would be nice if they had a short video or just some screenshares identifying how to use the icons. One can figure it out in a minute or two by playing with it, though. Just note that in order to move around the virtual “post it” notes, you have to first click on one of the icons on the left.
Of course, Google Hangouts does the same thing and more.
Deekit is a new tool for collaboratively creating online whiteboards It’s similar to other whiteboard tools on this list, though it does appear to have more bells and whistles. It’s free — at least, for now — and you can read more about it at TechCrunch.
Google Hangouts Gets Its Own Site, Just Like Facebook Messenger is from TechCrunch and Let’s Hang! 10+ Ways to Spark Collaboration with Google Hangouts is from Shelly Sanchez Terrell.
If you’ve found this post useful, you might want to consider subscribing to this blog for free.
You can also see 660 other “The Best…” lists here.