Tools for Collaborating Online: March 1-19, 2010



by Emma Duke-Williams -
Number of replies: 19
Given that the subject of this seminar is "tools" for collaboration, and not just "Google Wave" - I'd like to start thinking about other tools - in the wave "Scope - Collaboration Seminar" (no idea if linking works!)we've already had the suggestions of Knowledge forum & Etherpad; in the wave "SCoPE - what is collaboration" wikis and forums have been mentioned - but what others do you like, or to tie in with the idea of testing, would you like to try out to see if you like them or not.
(Alternatively, do you have any ideas of what the ideal tool would allow you to do - who knows, someone else might know that it exists and can introduce it to us!)
Indeed, do we think that wave is a good *collaborative* tool, or is it more of a discourse tool?

I'll also post this to wave, as I know that some people are more active here and some there.

In reply to Emma Duke-Williams

Re: Tools!

by Peter Rawsthorne -
I really don't know where to jump into this conversation... So here seemed like a good place. I'm liking all this discussion about Wave, tools, how to use these technologies, synch vs. asynch, discussion vs. chat... the neat feature of Wave to replay something. It's all good, and IMHO all goes back to the internet is the learning platform. Wave, Etherpad, Moodle, Other they can all facilitate learning. What I would like to enter into is a discussion about how to use these tools (from a pedagogical / epistemological perspective) to deepen learning (understanding) or to engage in a Vygotsky Master Apprentice (or dare I say Peer to Peer) type of discourse.

The times I have used these tools for this purpose I found it was mostly event driven. In that I had a dialogue with a small group; we all put our $0.02 in, we sometimes had a synchronous chat and other times it was asynchronous. It just depended who was online at the time. What became most important is that we all collaboratively edited the summary at the end of the discussion (and brought a distinct and comprehensive closure to the "learning event"). I have found Wave very good for it implements many "tools" to facilitate the discourse.

So if the tools are going to be changing and new ones coming along... shouldn't we focus more on the pedagogical approaches to using the tools? And then "play" with the tools to implement the approach?
In reply to Peter Rawsthorne

Re: Tools!

by Emma Duke-Williams -
Hi Peter,
I take your point - I'd thought about doing it the other way round - i.e. starting with tools - (especially those that are new to us), and then moving through using them with colleagues & finally students; however, as it is a collaborative event, I'm more than happy to adjust the order you'd prefer it.

I'll start a new thread & wave now.
In reply to Emma Duke-Williams

Re: Tools!

by Irwin DeVries -
Hi Emma (and Peter),
I get the idea of leading our technology explorations with pedagogy and in the big picture that's what we (hopefully) do. At a more practical level it's a messy process and quite iterative. We come to these explorations with a general sense of expections, hit some walls and also make some interesting discoveries that trigger new ideas. Over time these ideas and potentialities may fold back into revised pedagogies. One approach is to come up with some pedagogical challenges, what-if scenarios and play them out collectively on the tool(s) in front of us. (From what I've seen browsing around for ideas on how people are using Wave, it seems to be pretty good for managing complex, multi-level projects across an organization or work unit.) And then to debrief: e.g. What learning experiences or processes are enhanced by a tool like Wave? What is the "cost-benefit ratio" in time, effort and frustration versus some kind of productivity? Where would we recommend it and why? What type of support would it need?
In reply to Peter Rawsthorne

Re: Tools!

by Heather Ross -

I've often been at conferences or in conversation with instructors where they hear about a new tool (at least new to them) and they say something along the lines of "Oh, now I just have to find something to use that for." As you said, tools change, and not every tool is right for the learning environment. It should always be about "I need to do this. What would be the right tool to use?"
In reply to Peter Rawsthorne

phases and processes

by Sylvia Currie -

Peter Rawsthorne wrote,

What became most important is that we all collaboratively edited the summary at the end of the discussion (and brought a distinct and comprehensive closure to the "learning event")

One thing that struck me as I read Peter's observations is that there are key phases of the collaborative process, and they aren't necessarily addressed by one "tool".

As we've been playing around in Wave (10 waves, 250 messages so far!) I've been thinking about the fantastic view we have on the process of collaboration. Isn't that one huge gripe we hear from learners -- that there is an unfair distribution of work, and that they don't see their ideas represented and acknowledged in the final product? If we are to emphasize the process of learning as well as the product, isn't it wonderful to see how discoveries are made, how ideas are formed, how documents are constructed... I'm completely in awe of the 'replay' feature in wave for that purpose.

I'm also fascinated in watching the activity in our SCoPE Waves by the willingness of participants to jump in with quick, short replies and with new questions and observations. Why is that? Does it feel different than a forum? Less worry about noise? I often think that's a barrier in mailing lists and forums where members are subscribed by email. We're so concerned about INBOXES these days!

There are other phases of collaborative work that may be more challenging. Summaries [insert better word...learning landscapes?] are so useful, but always seem to be such a burden. For example, I'm always challenged by the best way to summarize SCoPE seminars. I've tried a few different formats:

Usually the challenge is TIME, but also it can be a lonely process -- one that few participants are keen to participate in. And for sure more can be automated.

How do we facilitate the summary phases of collaboration (end of a phase, end of a project, end of a discussion)? What tools enable us to see the work we have done together more clearly? This is on my mind now because we've only been at it for 5 days and we've generated so many questions, ideas, resources, bits of advice... It would be great if we could create a useful outcome resource for this seminar. Hey, are we collaborating? big grin

In reply to Sylvia Currie

Re: phases and processes

by Jenny Mackness -

Hi Sylvia - I'm wondering what discussions I am missing. I can only find 7 waves! Should I be searching for new waves on a regular basis? I only found the 7th wave after seeing your message.


In reply to Jenny Mackness

finding the waves

by Sylvia Currie -
Jenny, this is good question. How to keep on top of the new waves created as part of a project. It seems there should be an easy way to do that but I'm not quite sure what it is!

One is to:
  • search on
  • save the search
  • regularly click the saved search link to see what waves pop up
I tried another little experiment just now. I created a new wave called SCoPE waves:
Then I dragged each SCoPE wave into this new wave. That gives an organizer page with links to the various waves. It appears that it also brings in all members of the waves into one.

I also tried without success to embed the new wave into a SCoPE page. I'll keep working on that one!
In reply to Sylvia Currie

Re: finding the waves [& saving new ones]

by Paul Beaufait -
One extra step I take after following Sylvia's sugggestions, and clicking on the saved search ( to see if any new waves show up, is saving the search again, over itself (no new listing). I don't know whether re-saving the search makes any difference.

Another extra step is going to the middle panel, and opting to follow any new waves that have shown up.

Wouldn't it be nice if Wave churned those up automatically, and asked, politely, whether you'd like to add them to activity shown in your inbox?
In reply to Emma Duke-Williams

Re: Tools!

by Sandy McAuley -
Interesting. I can't say anything about "Tools" unless I reply to your posting. Pretty constricting.

One of my criticisms about most web-based collaborative environments (because I think they're bigger than "tools") is that they restrict you to a variation on the nested discussion type of format. Working collaboratively, whether online or in other modes, requires more than this hierarchical, linear structure. Tools inevitably limit our capacity to work with ideas and each other according to their sophistication, but simple tools make simpletons of us if we ignore more sophisticated alternatives.

Two things come from this. Wave is confusing, but it's a work in progress, open to contributions from people who know what they want to do. Wave gives them a framework on which to graft their improvements.

The second thing is a specific instance of this. I just found a reference to a mindmapping extension to Wave that would move beyond the nested hierarchy to which we find ourselves restricted right now. If I can figure out how to make it work, I'll post it here. If others can, please let the rest of us know!!,!w%252BGsNLs9FYC.1
In reply to Sandy McAuley

Re: Tools!

by Nick Kearney -
Interesting. I can't say anything about "Tools" unless I reply to your posting. Pretty constricting.

Yes Sandy. I felt constricted. so the first thing I did was to go out into the garden and answer you. Beautiful moonlit night.I felt so free. But I don't think you heard.

Forgive the tone, but the comment seems to me part of a backlash I have been hearing recently that criticises anything social and raises up the individual at the expense of other group voices. Worrying in my view, I view it as a political issue, and profoundly anti-democratic, and from your other posts I think you may agree. Or not.

Having to reply is not constricting, it is a basic element of human dialogue to reply TO someone, and that is why so many of the tools we use are linear. Linear helps.

However I don't think many of these people who collaborate here would have difficulties dealing with multiple mutable threads. We have myriad ways of moving across boundaries, playing with limits, but we will always endlessly be replying.

Best to you

In reply to Nick Kearney

Re: Tools!

by Jo Ann Hammond-Meiers -
Dear Nick,
Thanks for giving the sense of "breath" to the discussion. I find myself swirling about what constitutes "helpful" or "successful" in terms of collaboration.
I sense that there have to be "difficult or challenging" times when people collaborate. I'm certainly not thinking that every effort needs "conscious" collaboration -- mandated by a course's parameters.

I found myself collaborating a lot in the past ten years -- and wondering at times why I was okay with often seemingly giving a lot without a "fair or immediately equal exchange". I realize that I always get more good karma, and that I am so rich in so many ways -- and that I think I'm very bless by the collaborative efforts that I and others have made. I even feel like some of my rewards include friendships that I might have never formed outside of these exchanges, and yet these friends offered much more than I could have imagined.

Perhaps I'm left wondering how one knows "failed collaboration" or whether the individual efforts would not "come forth" anyways -- even if later -- after the collaboration experience.

Thanks for sharing your ideas and experience. Jo Ann
In reply to Emma Duke-Williams

Social Bookmarking.

by Emma Duke-Williams -
I see that someone's added quite a few Social Bookmarking tools to the Mindmap; I wonder if they are a good way into Collaboration with students, as they're relatively non-threatening; and can be useful to others if you're working as a group (e.g. with a shared course specific tag).

I've been trying recently to get students to use Scholar, as we've got that incorporated into the VLE (So it does things like picking up a course tag quite easily) - though I've not found students to be particularly keen.

(They weren't that keen on delicious either, the previous year ... guess I didn't bribe them enough with marks!)

In reply to Emma Duke-Williams

Re: Social Bookmarking... [keen-ness & portability]

by Paul Beaufait -

Emma (15 March 2010) suggests that students aren't "particularly keen" on using Scholar for bookmarking in a VLE this year, and weren't, about using Delicious last year, either.

That makes me wonder what students are keen on, in the VLE, and whether they can take their Scholar bookmarks with them when they leave it.

In reply to Paul Beaufait

Re: Social Bookmarking... [keen-ness & portability]

by Emma Duke-Williams -
As far as I know you can take scholar bookmarks with you once you've left ... though not 100% sure, as I've not left!
I suspect that I didn't give them enough reasons as to why they'd want to share bookmarks; or perhaps the starting list I gave them wasn't exciting enough. (Or maybe too long ... perhaps they didn't think there were more out there! Who knows)

It wasn't really a key part of what we were doing; I just suggested it as an extra, should they wish to use it. That's probably the key reason why they weren't keen to use either tool.

Being 'keen' on the VLE ... whole different issue!
In reply to Emma Duke-Williams

Upcoming Sloan Consortium Webinar

by Sylvia Currie -
I came across this upcoming Google Wave webinar organized by Sloan Consortium. I thought I'd mention it here in case folks are interested in digging into educational uses of wave some more. They put on some great events at Sloan-C. I couldn't help noticing the enthusiasm in this webinar description! (bold is my own)

Google Wave – the revolutionary new free collaboration tool from the undisputed leader in online technologies promises to change the way we integrate Web 2.0 into our teaching and learning. With more than a million people worldwide already using Wave, the technology is quickly becoming the preferred new tool for online collaboration. Integrating Twitter, iframe Web windows, instant polling, drag-and-drop documents, native text chat modes, mind maps, streaming video, audio, and much more – all into a single slick Wiki platform, Wave is the ideal tool for group projects, reflective journaling, and class collaborations. This Webinar will introduce participants to the new technology and provide examples of effective uses of the technology, resource sites, and access to a Wave “sandbox” to test out the many gadgets, bots and extensions available in this exciting new technology.
In reply to Sylvia Currie

Re: Upcoming Sloan Consortium Webinar [+ pedagogy, + tools]

by Paul Beaufait -
Hey, Sylvia! Thanks for pointing out the upcoming Sloan Consortium seminar (Mar 31). Am I not mistaken in thinking that the three facilitators of that seminar intend to wrap it up in just 90 minutes? Maybe that explains in part why two out of three objectives for participants to achieve seem process rather than outcome oriented.

Participants will:
• Examine the top twelve Web 2.0 tools in Google Wave[;]
• Explore how Google Wave enables sound pedagogy through interaction and collaboration[; and]
• Learn how to incorporate Google Wave into teaching[.]
(Introduction to Google Wave in Education, Event Summary, ¶1).

The third sounds remarkably ambitious for 90 minutes, doesn't it?

I realize that the remarks above may regard pedagogy, more than tools (as do remarks below), but I'd just followed a link Sylvia had set in Google Wave leading back to Nick's post here in SCoPE, which suggests:

Having to reply is not constricting, it is a basic element of human dialogue to reply TO someone, and that is why so many of the tools we use are linear. Linear helps. (Tools for Collaborating Online: March 1-19, 2010; Tools; 5 March 2010, 05:48 PM)

So, since the Sloan seminar came up on this Tools thread, and to keep a long search for a better place to reflect on the objectives above short, I decided to reply here. I disagree with suggestions that discussions in either Moodle or Wave are linear. That is, beyond the typed output level on a finished (and timed out) post. Most discussion records are hierarchical threads (though in Moodle you can display them as a flat list [and in Wave maybe Sylvia has seen my typing;-)]).

However, I'm concerned that, in the absence of available options to start new threads, which Sandy assesses as, "Pretty constricting" Thursday, 4 March 2010, 05:33 PM), or to make new waves, which is hard to imagine; haphazard threading of posts may become the norm, especially in dis-engaged groups of learners whom educators coerce into participation in online forums, which harks back to my question for Emma about VLEs (15 March 2010, 10:15 PM).

I'd like to close this post with a crumb of food for thought: If learners feel confined, constricted, or coerced online, what does that say about tools we choose for them to use, and the environments in which we expect them to interact with those tools and collaborate with one another?

In reply to Emma Duke-Williams

Re: Tools! [Does SCoPE have a Diigo group?]

by Paul Beaufait -
Every time you encounter one of the juicy links that people pepper posts with here in the SCoPE Moodle, like the pointer to Clint's blog post about facilitating discussion through networked learning outside a closed discussion forum (,16 March 2010), don't you wonder whether setting up a SCoPE group in Diigo would facilitate collection, discussion, follow-up exploration, and collective annotation of those links?
In reply to Paul Beaufait

Re: [Does SCoPE have a Diigo group?]

by Sylvia Currie -
It does now! Excellent suggestion, Paul. I got started with Diigo a couple years ago then abandoned it in favour of Delicious. I tried the group option back then for an online conference but it didn't fit our needs. But it looks like the group feature has really advanced since then! This could really be a big step forward in our efforts to create outcome resources for SCoPE seminars. approve

So... here's what I did this morning.
  1. Created Diigo group for SCoPE
  2. Used advanced search to find posts to this seminar that include links (searched on http://)
  3. Installed Diigo toolbar
  4. Bookmarked resources mentioned in this seminar (not all but got a start on it!)
  5. Part way through the process I had the idea to copy over the "show this post in context" link on the forum post where the resource is mentioned. That way we have context for why and where the resource was mentioned.
I can see how gathering our resources during our seminars could easily become a regular practice in SCoPE. And as Paul mentions, there are more possibilities: "collection, discussion, follow-up exploration, and collective annotation"

The Diigo toolbar is really well designed so it makes bookmarking during a seminar a snap. Thanks so much for the idea, Paul! I hope everyone will join the Diigo group and help to gather the resources that emerge during our participation in seminars.
In reply to Paul Beaufait

Re: Tools! [Does SCoPE have a Diigo group?]

by Deirdre Bonnycastle -
The problem with all the bookmarking sites is just how many links there are unless you focus your topic. My Delicious site about Active Learning has 1700+ links, my Diigo only 400+ because I've been more focused on the type of information I collect there.

SCoPE covers so many topics that a SCoPE bookmarking site could quickly become enormous.