Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

The Best Online Tools For Real-Time Collaboration

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'Friday Mornings . Tuttle at Centre for Creative Collaboration' photo (c) 2010, Tony Hall - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

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:

Neat Chat, Stinto and Chatzy are easy ways to create private online chatrooms. Wire Club Chat Room and Meet are similar sites, though Meet has a much more attractive interface.

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.

Skrbl is another online whiteboard. Skrbl lets you copy and paste text and documents — Scriblink does not.

Zoho Show and Google Presentations let you work with others on PowerPoint-like presentations in real-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.

I’ve just added CoSketch to both The Best Online Tools For Real-Time Collaboration and The Best Art Websites For Learning English.

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.

The Broth is a similar application. The advantage with The Broth is that the chat messages remain permanently, while it appears with CoSketch that they disappear after you’re done. With CoSketch, though, since you don’t have to register it’s easier to use.

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.

Buddy Meeting lets you easily create an online conference room for up to twenty-five people where you can also your desktop. It seems pretty simple and it’s free.

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.

AWW lets you draw with others or on your own, and does let you save the creation on the web. It doesn’t have a chatboard, however. You can read more about it at Richard Byrne’s blog.

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.

Keep The Record is an online audio-conferencing tool which can include up to ten participants and provide a permanent recording. I learned about it from Nik Peachey.

Simple Meet Me is another in a long line of easy tools to quickly stet up online chatrooms.

This is how Read Write Web describes Spreecast:

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.

Vidquik is a new tool that lets you easily make a video call to someone. It’s free and, after registering, all you have to do is type in the email of the person you want to call. They click on the link and the two of you are in a web-based video call. For now, at least, you can’t record the call, and it appears to only allow two people on at the same time.

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.

Watchitoo has created a “Playground” video service that lets you have up to eleven people on a video call at one time for free. You can pay for expanded services.Unfortunately, all the participants actually have to register on Watchitoo in order to be on the call, as opposed to other services which just require the initiator to be registered, but it’s still a decent service.

Meeingl is a super-easy tool for creating online conference calls. You can read more about it at Richard Byrne’s blog.

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.

Editorially lets you collaboratively create documents.

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.

Richard Byrne recently shared about a new site that might end up being the best of the bunch. It’s called Stoodle.

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.

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.

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Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.

44 Comments

  1. How about Yahoo Messenger??? Why don’t you mention this in your list. I’m interested in your idea as I’m going to use Yahoo for the real time collaboration.

    Thanks.
    Long

  2. Long,

    Can you tell me more how you’re planning to use Yahoo Messenger?

    Larry

  3. How???

    This is a big question, though. Anyway, I’m looking at the chat discussion via Yahoo Messenger by analyzing the transcripts to measure the equalized participation, the collaborative interaction in comparison to F2F counterparts. The students will be given a problem-based task, they have to discuss through Y! to come to the final discussion point.

    Or, Do you mean to know how Y! Messenger work? If you are willing to register the Y! account, we can make a pilot experiment.

    Best,
    Long

  4. Mebeam also records the rooms , so you can play them back,
    which is really useful for remoe education and
    going back to listen to parts of a meeting.

  5. Hi Larry,

    I appreciate all of your excellent postings of online tools. I am a graduate student at Columbia University Teachers College in New York. I will be completing my Masters in Computing and Education in May. I have used Gliffy.com which is a mind mapping flowcharting tool as a collaborative online application during my internship at two Middle Schools in the New York City Public School system. I used Gliffy to have the students creat their own version of a constellation by clicking a dragging the star form onto the virtual graph paper. Then, I used the line tool to have the students connect the stars to form a constellation. This was part of an overall Astronomy unit which I set up on wikispaces.com The Astronomy unit was based on the STAR Legacy design model, originally created at Vanderbilt University. Here is the link to our collaborative wiki:
    http://share.wikispaces.com/Legacy
    I am currently writing my thesis on the changes needed to effectively implement technology in the classroom. I enjoy reading your postings!
    All the best,
    Sharon Mistretta

  6. Have you tried Wrike? If not, than I recommend you do so and visit their site at http://www.wrike.com/. I like Wrike, as it is integraed with my inbox and it’s now easier to deal with the mess my inbox tends to be. Wrike lets unlimited number of users collaborate at the same time on a whole structure of tasks. It resembles a wiki in a way, only its more structured.

  7. Sharon and Frank,

    Thanks for the excellent suggestions!

    Larry

  8. In Japan, even with university students who are six or more years into learning English as an additional language, it is terribly important that the tools we choose be easy for them to use (starred item five in your list of criteria for selection, 2008.03.02). That is, if they are to use them in English at all. Given a choice between students’ vernacular and English, in available tools, they often choose to use the vernacular.

    WiZiQ, for example, might meet the free and no-downloads criteria, and serves for not only graphic or textual exchanges, but also provides audio and video interfaces. It doesn’t seem to be available in languages other than English at this time. I’m not so sure about ease of use, because I haven’t tried it with students yet.

    Another criteria I use in the appraisal of online tools is whether they require separate registration and login. Though readers here may have login procedures automated with keychains on dedicated home or office computers (or both), so registration login may seem like a no-brainer; even after successfully completing registration procedures, which is often a hassle, students firing up a machine in a school or university laboratory or library, or in an Internet café may need to punch IDs and passwords in by hand every time they log in.

    For instance, if students already have a Gmail account and a Blogger blog, with integrated Google logins, Google Docs could be a more attractive option than ZohoWriter. On the other hand, if students were already logged into ZohoWiki, ZohoWriter might be the document sharing tool of choice.

    One other point I’d like to add before I go is a pointer to a nugget from TidBITs that I dug up yesterday that may be of interest to Mac users who already use OS X 10.5.2 (not me, at least not yet). I quick posted it here:

    iChat: quick and satisfying collaborative editing (2008.03.05)
    http://pabspotpourri.blogspot.com/2008/03/ichat-quick-and-satisfying.html

    Cheers, Paul

  9. Thanks for your list. This will help us literacy coaches in LAUSD the next time we have a virtual meeting.

  10. Thanks Larry,

    If its any help we work with online collaborative tools specifically designed for e-learning and web collaboration.

    In your criteria you mentioned free, this it is not however, for a nominal fee you get full time support and on-going training as well as a full back end support system that ensures quality and allows for recording and archiving of sessions.

    Tell me what you think. Here is the url: http://www.batipi.com

    Thanks,

  11. Hi Larry an interesting post indeedl, there is one tool i’ve been using lately to manage my projects online – http://www.comindwork.com. But actually i don’t use as a project management tool, i use to share and manage my team’s knowledge, i can see how easily and with a great value this tool could be used for educational purposes.

  12. Larry, it’s great to see you included Dimdim in your list of best online tools for real-time collaboration! Thanks!!!

    -k
    Kevin Micalizzi, Dimdim Community Manager
    e: kevin (at) dimdim (dot) com

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  16. Please take a look at LearningFront.com. It’s a free learning community that combines social media with professional development tools to improve teaching and learning.

    http://www.learningfront.com

    It’s been used successfully in urban schools to increase student achievement on classroom authentic and state assessments, to deliver school and organization professional development and graduate courses, and to share lessons and assessments as wikitasks.

    Thanks. Nick

  17. Thanks so much for all the info you frequently provide. Has anyone tried mywebspiration for collaboration? Free at the moment but may go to subscription soon. It requires registration.

  18. Hi Larry,
    I am in an I.T committee and was wondering if you could give me some websites that would help me edit photos and make slide shows.

    Thanks Lexi

  19. Hi Larry,
    I have been running in circles here and I am hoping you can help me. I want to upload a podcast I created onto my wordpress page. But it seems that I might be missing a step. Would you have any suggestions? Your site is very helpful to me with lots of tips.
    Thank you
    barbara

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  21. Larry,

    Thanks for the list.
    Have you tried http://Enterthegroup.com? It’s rather new but it enables groups to communicate and get organized online.
    It has a bunch of tools all in one place and it’s free.

    Best rgds,
    Sal

  22. Thanks Larry for sharing all of this valuable information about online collaboration tools.

    I have myself since the Fall of 2008 started to collect and organize all of the best online collaborations tool inside a technology map that keeps them easily accessible inside a set of application groups.

    There are now over 300 collaboration tools listed here:
    https://www.mindmeister.com/maps/show/12213323

  23. Thank you! I have found a great tool!

  24. I use Dooster as my online tool for all my business collaboration requirements http://www.dooster.net

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  26. I recommend http://linoit.com/. Seems even better than Corkboard Me and Wallwisher. It’s just like Wallwisher in that you can post videos, pictures and even upload documents. Also, you can have it open so that students can post without signing up or entering an e-mail address etc.. I am trying it out now on my site to see how it goes. Getting tired of Wallwisher problems and how Corkboard Me does not allow for video sharing.

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  28. Larry,

    How about Scribblar? Wonderful, simple free virtual room.

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  32. Have you tried RHUB 6-in-1 appliance? It not only allows you to do webinar but gives functions of web/video/audio conferencing and remote support/access. Try their completely free demo: http://www.turbomeet.com

  33. Quick update on Skype: Skype 5 supports screen-sharing, free for one-to one calls, or with groups on Mac if you have premium service (http://www.skype.com/intl/en/features/allfeatures/screen-sharing/). It also supports group video calls involving 3-10 people, though 5 sounds like a practical limit (http://www.skype.com/intl/en/features/allfeatures/video-call/).

  34. You should also check out wiggio.com. Wiggio is a free online toolkit that makes it easy to work in groups. With Wiggio, you can upload files, create events on a shared calendar, host virtual meetings, poll group members in real-time, and more. Wiggio is extremely simple to use and completely free. You can find out more by visiting http://wiggio.com.

  35. That’s a lot of research you have provided for us readers. But it was in 2008. Interesting either way because the coments infor is current. I use Dooster because that’s what my elders and betters chose for me. I did have some say though. We’re very happy with Dooster and I enjoy using it. It’s a good communication tool. We have much fewer slip up nowadays.

  36. Hey Larry,

    thanks for the list. So many interesting applications in there! I really enjoyed reading through them and discovering plenty of new ones. Also, I’d like to suggest another app that I use almost daily. Like some others in your list, it’s focussed on meeting efficiency. What I like most about it is the slick design and the intuitive usability which makes it very easy to implement it in teams. The name of the tool is Agreedo and you may check it out at http://www.agreedo.com

    Oh and it’s completely free to use!

  37. big list. I probably tried all of them at one point or another. http://www.tinychat.com, http://www.popchat.com, iwebcam.com, http://www.stargazervideochat.com, what am I forgetting? Basically, all of them are free, lots of them have very shady people, but if you can navigate around the craziness of free video chatting and video chat rooms, you’re gonna have some fun.

  38. Thanks for the super long list. That was very detailed. Here is a new video chat website I found out that could be a great skype alternative, tinychat alternative or even a chatroulette. It’s called Reflap and it allows you to receive calls and make easy video calls to friends and family. try it out http://www.reflap.com

  39. You mention Google Slides (their new name for Presenter) but not Google Documents. When Google purchased Etherpad they put their programmers to work to add those features to Google Documents. The only drawback to this is that you have to have a Google account (but it still meets your free requirement), but many schools have their own Google domain (GAEE) so students and teachers have accounts.

    Great list by the way.

  40. Have you tried the collaborative text editor WriteURL? http://www.writeurl.com.

  41. Docs9.com is a much better alternative, and best of all it’s the easiest, simplest to use in my experience so far. It offers a much better, lightweight alternative to Office 365.

    https://www.docs9.com/

    I could have a live presentation ready to share in a matter of seconds. The coolest part was everything from Microsoft Word, Powerpoint, Excel to OpenOffice Writer, Impress, Calc even Google Docs is handled in the exact same way. Because this works purely in a browser, most of my participants enjoyed watching my presentation on their iPhones, Androids, even iPads. Few yet were impressed they could use their old browsers, and for first time had nothing to setup or configure at all!

    Upload, and Share.

    Some corporate organizations might want to take a look at support for Visio, and Microsoft Project as well. It was a relief not having to ask my participants if they have Visio, or Project installed.

    It seems to have grown quite popular amongst young entrepreneurs who collaborate ideas, some self-employed individuals such as teachers, but some corporate organizations seem to favor Docs9 coupled with Skype for most of their online meetings. It has been a huge time saver for many.

  42. Hey Larry,
    Thank you for taking the time and pain of personally trying these tools first, and then enlightening us all regarding them. I was surprised to read about some here, which I have never heard of before. Would surely read more them now, and probably sign up for their Free Trial.
    However, another tool about which I have read through comments and write ups is proofhub. I would suggest you to give it a try. As, it is helps teams increase their productivity and has a free trial as well.

    Thanks!

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