Using collaborative tools


Google docs


Docs and spreadsheets are a real gem that needs to be discovered. Basically it is an online word processor and spreadsheet creator that automatically saves and stores your work online to be retrieved, edited and printed anytime anywhere. Documents can be organized in folders, hidden from view or exported and printed.

Let's start with documents. This has all the features you will expect from word processors such as Word and Lotus. Aside from the usual text editing you can hyperlink, bookmark, insert pictures, comments, etc. If you are one of those people that gets carried away with writing and forgets to save on a regular basis only to lose the work the moment the computer freezes, you will be in heaven with Google documents, the system saves for you automatically so even if by mistake you click the exit button all your work will be saved right to the last minute. The spell check comes in multiple languages so writing in other languages in no longer a problem.

Spreadsheets - again it has all the feature you would normally find in similar programs such as Excel and, like docs, saves automatically as you work, allowing you to edit your work from anywhere providing you are connected to the Internet.

For both docs and spreadsheet, the added bonus is that you can share your work with other people and you can choose if they can also edit or whether they are limited to only viewing the file or printing. One of the neatest features is that if you share the file for editing it keeps a record of all the editing that has been done, when and by whom. Imagine the possibilities! You can run a collaborative project, share lesson plans, organize marks and other administrative tasks with your team without emailing copies of materials back and forward (no more remembering what version you are supposed be working on).

Google also has a version of Power Point in the suite of applications. It does not have all the features of the proper Power Point but the ability to share online presentations and see who is viewing it is a great tool. Interacting with people anywhere during your presentation is a real bonus.

Documents can be exported in a variety of formats from html to pdf.

Google docs can be integrated with Moodle http://moodle.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=102212=451407.

To finish, like all other tools on Google, it comes with a very extensive and easy to use help site, for example look at the way it teaches you how to use formulas in spreadsheet.


Wikis
What are wikis?
You are probably familiar with Wikipedia an online free Encyclopedia that anyone can edit. Wiki is an online collaborative tool that allow you to create and share spaces in this fashion. It can be as simple or as complicated as you like, you can add videos, files, images, text. widgets... the possibilities are endless.
Although there are many free online Wiki facilities some are better than others, for example some "look" more impressive but are jammed with advertisements that you have little control over. Others are very basic and don't give you much flexibility when it comes to add your own multimedia content or files. Always read the terms carefully before signing up for wiki facilities.
My personal favorite is Wikispaces, with Wikispaces you can create your free wiki and start creating and collaborating for free. Easy to follow tutorials will show you from the very beginning (create your new wiki) to managing files, etc. It also one of the best regarding annoying adds, yes it is less "jazzy" but offers more freedom and choice.




Etherpad
There are some amazing ways these days to write a collaborative piece of work on the go. iEhterpad is one of those tools. Not only it will capture immediately what everybody is writing but it has a chat feature where students and teachers can interact, ask questions, etc without compromising the written text. Great for in lab - in class activities, no more hiding and pretending to work as the text is immediately displayed with the name of the writer. Great for peer review and marking.

Since I have last commented on this took Etherpad has been taken over by Google and at the moment (will keep you posted) it is no longer available but an alternative is Piratepad


Free webpages
Would you like your students to create easy webapges to practice their languages skills. Once again cloud technology resources allow you to create and publish webpages for free. There are many available these days, these are only a few suggestions. Just one word of warning, read the terms of use carefully and check for yourself the kind of advertisement that will appear on the pages.
My picks:
http://www.weebly.com/
http://www.thinkport.org/default.tp
http://www.webnode.com/