I was first introduced to “Etherpad” a few years ago and I really loved the concept; one document in ‘the cloud’ which anyone can edit with all revisions saved and the authorship of the text colour coded by author.
As with many web2 tools the most important issue is how can this enhance the learning of my students.
I struggled for a while to see a really worthwile way to use this technology and tehrefore I rarely used it but recently I tried it again and this time the results were amazing.
My History students had just complete a unit of student on the persecution of the Jewish community in Nazi Germany. At the end of an important unit such as this one I always like to give the students a past paper question to see if they can apply what they have learned to a real exam question. The activity is designed to consolidate what they have learned rather than test what they have understood so I was happy to try the collaborative writing tool again for this task.
I have been working on writing style with this class so I divided the answer up into four sections: ‘Introductory statement(s)’, ‘Nazi beliefs’, ‘The actions of the Nazis’ and ‘Concluding remarks’. I created two documents – ‘doc 1’ and ‘doc 2’ – on TitanPad using this template and I posted links to these in the class Edmod group. When the class entered the room they were asked to find a partner – friends together is fine – and then each pair was assigned to either ‘doc 1’ or ‘doc 2’. They were given a laptop and asked to get the link to their document in Edmodo and begin answering the question. Each pair took one section of the four part answer and worked on it for about 10mins then I asked the pairs to swap sections to check over their collaborators work. They corrected spellling and included details that were missing. Next I asked them to check throught the entire answer and ensure that a number of key events and details had been included.
By the end of the hour we had two answers which were nearly perfect. My input had been minimal; merely directing the activity and suggesting ideas. The pupils had been engaged in the lesson throughout and the hour had whizzed by.
What we the benifits of using TitanPad over pen and paper?
TitanPad allowed the students to see each other’s work without having to move around the room. They were able improve their answer as they went along…a messy business if using pen and paper. I saw some students use the ‘chat’ function in TitanPad to share information with another group work on a different section so they were actively reviewing each other’s work and making suggestions for improvement. TitanPad encouraged discussion, first in the pairs than across the groups. The students knew that they had to do their best as they were working on a shared answer.
So to sum up, I think the collaborative writing exercise was a great success although the truth will come in how they fair in the exam in June. Speaking of exams, one student suggested that we could use TitanPad to create revision notes for the class in advance of the exam. A great idea I think!
Alternatives to TitanPad
I’ve added these links as you might want to compare features. Most of these sites are pretty similar although some do have registration options for more privacy. For me TitanPad was perfect as there was no need to register students and the pads were live in seconds.