A Selection of Quick, Easy Approaches to Interactive Classroom Collaboration
Have you thought about trying some sort of technology for interactive, collaborative activities in your classroom but held back because you were concerned about the time it would take to learn and set up? Or perhaps you were concerned about costs, or you just weren't sure how to get started.
Well, here's a set of tools and tips that can let you give it a try without having to spend a lot of time setting up for it.
There is no shortage of great tools for interactive collaboration in the classroom, and we've shared plenty of them in prior articles, but in this post we're focusing on no cost or low cost tools, and a couple other key considerations that can help you get up and running with ease. We've stuck with tools that are commonly considered easy to use. Where available, we've also suggested tools that require no sign up for students, which can help to make it simpler to try them in your classroom.
Some of these tools require a computer, but some also work with smartphones or tablets.
Twiddla (online interactive whiteboard)
Our articles on online interactive whiteboard tools have been extremely popular, so clearly teachers love these tools. One of the easiest to get started with is Twiddla.com. You don't even need to create an account, and inviting others to collaborate on Twiddla is quick and easy (just hit the green GO button to start a session and use the Invite option).
Online IWBs are powerful resources for collaboration since you and your students can edit the white board simultaneously. Learn more about Twiddla and five other online IWB's in this article.
Mindmeister and Bubbl.us (collaborative mind mapping tools)
Collaborative mind mapping and brainstorming tools can be excellent interactive applications for the classroom, with potential uses that fit well into a wide variety of lesson plans. One of EmergingEdTech's first articles featured Mindmeister.com and Bubbl.us, so we're long time fans! This post by Jane Hart, includes a baker's dozen of these types of tools, many of which are free (and labelled accordingly).
It's also worth noting that Mindmeister and Bubbl.us both have smartphones apps to compliment their functionality.
Tackk (discussion board built around content you post)
With Tackk.com, you can post one or more pieces of digital content and then have online discussion about that content. Students will have to create accounts in order to post, but they can use Instagram, Facebook, Google, or other popular accounts to get started in just a couple clicks. Tackk discussion boards can be private and password protected, so that's a bonus as well.
Check out this 3 Minute Teaching With Technology Tutorial video to get a quick introduction to how Tackk works.
Padlet (collaborative sticky note wall)
Teachers love Padlet.com, and other “sticky note wall” applications. In this article, “Padlet: A Blank Slate on the Web to Collaborate With Others“, teacher Shaun Takenouchi explains how the ability to collaborate is Padlet's “killer feature”. Padlet's special “backpack” edition for teachers can be tried for free for 30 days, then it costs just $5 per month or $45 per year (with unlimited student accounts).
I am not aware of any totally free sticky note tools that allow collaboration … if you know of any, please comment and tell us about them! Thanks.
Students will have to create accounts in order to use Twitter.com, but it's quick and easy to do so. Once students have accounts, Twitter serves as a great interactive ‘backchannel' and it can be used in various other collaborative manners. Check out this old popular favorite article, which offers access to over 100 ideas for using Twitter in the classroom.
Fakebook (student-friendly Facebook alternative)
There are plenty of ways to use Facebook to collaborate and interact, but the world's most popular social media site is not where you want younger students to be. Fortunately, Fakebook from Classtools exists to solve that problem! As soon as you open Fakebook, it will prompt you to create your first post, so it's easy to get going with it. Check out this gallery of examples to see how students have used Fakebook creatively.
Diigo (Social Bookmarking Site)
This article from EDUCAUSE is focused on Diigo and explains how, “Social bookmarking websites enhance and improve the learning experience by encouraging group collaboration and making organizing and saving web resources faster and easier for students.” Diigo, “allows users to highlight any part of a web page and attach sticky notes to specific highlights or to a whole page. These annotations can be kept private, shared with a Diigo group, or forwarded as a special link to other individuals or groups for collaborative purposes.” Click over to the full article to learn more.
Socrative also has the advantage of not requiring students to create accounts. It's super easy to use once you get the hang of it, and it can be used from just about any device. While it will not let students interact directly with each other, with a little creative thinking Socrative can facilitate interactivity and collaboration.
This article can help to get you thinking about the role Socrative can play in collaboration in your classroom: Jigsaw your way to Collaboration with Socrative. Check out this 3 Minute Teaching with Technology Tutorial video for a quick introduction to Socrative.