Collaborative Software With Social Functionality can be a Powerful Asset in the Classroom
Teachers who have taken the dive into education technology have infinite teaching and learning possibilities at their fingertips. One category of technology tools that is often purposefully avoided as an instructional asset is social media. What can hardly be avoided, however, is the way that functionality that is common in mass social media applications has influenced other types of software applications.
Collaborative, socially-enabled tools can provide excellent opportunities for practice, assessment, better writing, and better communication. Here are some excellent collaborative web apps and resources, with social functionality, that can play a valuable role in classroom lessons and assignments:
Comments4kids is a wonderful site that connects student work to a larger audience. The site's aim is for students to feel the impact of their work and gain a sense of community from it by providing a platform for their work to be seen. The site has 4 awesome rules for the comments they accept.
The comments must be:
3. Comment only when you have something to say
4. Always use good convention (capitalization, punctuation, etc)
When students have an audience, they take their work more seriously and the comments they receive will hopefully help stimulate their learning and curiosity.
Edublogs is a blogging platform for students that allows you to set a blog for your classroom safely and easily. By having students write in blogging format, you foster community and idea sharing. Students can engage in eachother's work, leave comments and ask questions. Blogging can also provide incentives for students – since they know their work is going to be shared, they will want to present the best writing they can.
Diigo is an annotation tool that allows students to make notes on their web research pages. It also allows users to highlight an idea on social media with screenshots and annotation shots. Pages can be saved to a cloud and are fully accessible in the version you saved them, even if the website has changed.
Diigo also allows students to share their projects and to collaborate on projects together. It's a wonderful tool for teaching students how to do research in the digital age. And since research is an essential part of writing, this tool will bring your students' writing to a new level.
Etherpad is an open-source online editor that allows students to collaborate on projects in real time. Students get the benefit of a collective effort by observing other student's writing styles, strengths and weaknesses. It allows them to both critique and be critiqued. Collaborative projects not only encourage teamwork and compromising, but also teach students how to defend their point of view more strongly – a valuable skill for academic writing.
Mindmeister is a collaborative mind-mapping tool that allows students to brainstorm ideas, work together to develop them and then share and present them. Mind-mapping tools are great aids for teachers as they give students a visual connection to the information they're learning. They also help students develop and defend arguments and ideas and allow students to share them with others.
Mindmeister has features that help students gather notes and links and access relevant mind maps of other students. It also takes the student through the analytical process and breaks information down into simpler concepts before developing arguments. Many students can work together on the same mind map and can correct and amend each other's information. It's a great tool to use collaboration to generate new ideas. improve arguments and writing.
Wikispaces is another popular platform for teachers to create collaborative projects on social media. Unlike other collaborative tools, Wikispaces allows teachers to see the contribution of each student in real time so that they can offer guidance and support as needed. It has an interactive visual editor to help students improve their editing skills.
Bonus: not quite a social media tool but a must-have for students who want grammatically correct pieces of writing on social and blogging platform:
ProWritingAid is the editing and grammar checking tool of choice. It checks dozens of areas including:
- Passive verbs
- Overused phrases
- Vague phrasing
It also checks for plagiarism and is great for teaching students about plagiarism, how to avoid it and how easily it's detected nowadays. In addition to correcting grammatical errors, it also provides tips and explanations for students to improve their writing.
The collaborative editing, commenting and sharing features available through these applications provide valuable opportunities for students to improve their academic writing and collaboration skills!
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