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
Of course, Google Docs lets you work on a document collaboratively.
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.
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 Sync.in now, instead.
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.
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.
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).
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
Of course, Google Hangouts does the same thing and more.
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.
You can find many free tools for online individual and group video calls on this list, and another one recently came online. It’s called Sylaps, and it’s pretty easy to use. You go to the site, type in your name, and are immediately given a link you can share to others you want on the call. They say up to eight can participate without a reduction in quality.
Appear.in is a free site that lets you have up to eight people on a video conference call.
Sean Parker relaunches Airtime, a video chat room for watching – together is a TechCrunch post about a new app that lets users create a virtual room.
Skype announced Skype Meetings, which lets up to ten users participate in a free video call and, unlike the “personal” Skype version, also lets you share screens and PowerPoints. You can read more about it at TechCrunch.
Ormiboard lets up to four people collaborate on an online whiteboard and is free, at least for now.
Hstry is a new online tool for creating timelines that’s on The Best Tools For Making Online Timelines list. They’ve recently added the feature of being able to have multiple people collaborate on the same timeline.
Limnu is a free online collaborative whiteboard that looks pretty good.
Web Whiteboard is a nice online collaborative..whiteboard.
Sketchboard is an online whiteboard where users can draw collaboratively.
Dotstorming is an online collaborative tool that allows groups to work together and vote on preferences. It’s like a bunch of other similar tools, though this one stands out because it lets you easily search for and post images.
Mozilla sponsors its own free, online collaborative whiteboard space.
JQBX lets users listen to the same Spotify music and chat about it. I’m not sure how useful it can be in the classroom, but there are some possibilities.
Queeky is a free online drawing tool. I particularly like their MultiDraw feature, which lets you create private virtual rooms where users can collaborate in drawing.
You can easily create and embed a chatbox with Minnit.
Draw.chat looks like a nice new collaborative drawing too. And it’s free.
Here’s how they describe it:
Draw.Chat is anonymous, online drawing board. You can create your paint chat in one click – without any registration. Every whiteboard has a unique, randomly generated URL which you can send to other people to start a real-time collaboration.
Get your personal chat room with the whiteboard where you can drop and paste Screenshots, Images and PDF’s. Use your camera to start a secure P2P video conference. You can also drag and drop images from your camera directly to the canvas. Use the bell for offline notification – when someone else open or write in the chat room. Draw.Chat delivers tools for annotating PDF’s, Maps, and Screenshots.
Scratchwork is an online collaborative whiteboard that seems to be designed with using it for math in mind.
Crayon is a collaborative whiteboard for drawing.
Vynchronize lets you easily create a private “virtual room” where you can watch videos with others and shared comments on a chatboard.
Uber Conference is a video-conferencing tool.
WhatsApp now lets you do a video and/or conference call with up to four people – for free.
Group Face Time Isn’t Arriving In September is a TechCrunch post about an upcoming new feature on the iPhone – up to 32 people will be able to be on a video conference! It’s not coming in September, but should be coming soon.
Hello is a site that allows you to do free video calling.
Go Talk lets you create free video chat rooms for up to three people. Here’s a video about it:
LiveFile lets you upload a document and have a group discuss it and “your audience can click links. They can select text and draw, and everything is shared instantly with every other participant.” It’s invitation-only for now, but I received an invitation shortly after I registered. It seems like it could be pretty useful.
Collabify is a free web tool that lets you video call, screenshare, text and talk with one person without free sign-up and up to four with free registration.
Mixed.io is another tool for collaborating with online whiteboards.
Proficonf is a new video conferencing tool.
Ryeboard is an online whiteboard where you can draw, write and collaborate.
Taskade lets you do a video chat and share documents and write text.
Tape Book is an intriguing app that lets you call someone and record a video together.
WeBoard is a collaborative whiteboard.
Go Brunch lets you create virtual meetings or webinars for free.
Xroom is a new free video conference calling site.
Tico Chat lets you create video conference calls with multiple people.
Groupboard is a collaborative online whiteboard.
Bitpaper looks like a very nice online collaborative whiteboard.
Miro is a collaborative whiteboard
9 Free Alternatives to Zoom for Getting your Classroom Online is from The OxfordTEFL blog
Google has just announced that it’s making Google Meet, its video conferencing platform, free for everybody (see Google Meet premium video conferencing—free for everyone).
Online conferences should be different is a really interesting blog post about different video conferencing tools.
Meetup Online seems like a unique video conference calling app that looks like a series of break-out rooms?
Ziteboard is an online whiteboard for collaboration.
Whiteboard.fi is a very cool site where, without registering, teachers can create virtual classrooms where students can write their answers to questions on “whiteboards.” If they ever add an audio feature to the site, I would say it could be one of the most useful ones around. Read more about it at Blog de Cristina.
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.