The best collaboration tools for the classroom

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Collaboration, communication, creativity and critical thinking are some of the key skills that we need to nurture and encourage in our learners. I am always on the look out for learning opportunities that utilise these skills, and I love discovering tools which can be used in the classroom that can support them.

Here are some of the best tools I’ve found for collaboration in the classroom.

padlet_blog_300.pngI can’t believe it’s taken me 8 blog posts until I have written about Padlet. It is an absolutely fantastic web-based tool which can be used for any area of the curriculum. I was really pleased to see that they added an iOS app last yearbut even before this, I used it extensively in class.

Padlet is essentially a digital notice board. Any body with a link can access your Padlet and add comments, insert pictures, links and even videos. This can be done with or without a sign up so it can be done very quickly in the classroom, without the need for students to go through the (often tedious) process of entering email addresses and passwords. The iPad app means that students only need to sign in once, then any posts they make will automatically include their name. It is also necessary to create an account/sign-in if you would like to your students to make their own padlets.

These can be used for anything. I have used them to curate research for a project, as a working glossary for a Unit of Inquiry LINK a digital space to brainstorm adjectives to describe Batman LINK as well as a safe space to ask questions/leave an exit ticket.

As a teacher, it is possible to setup a simple blank padlet with a single click and students can start entering their information. There are significantly more options available which are really useful for tailoring the purpose of your padlet and structuring the layout to assist students.

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Screenshot of Padlet options pane

Specific themed wallpaper can be added, a title, description (which can include instructions for students of how the padlet should be used) and many more. My personal favourite feature is the ability to create a custom URL. This means students can easily type the wall’s direct address, instead of a string of letters and number which could prove tricky. Of course, links to your padlets could be turned into QR codes and displayed in class. Check out this blog post for more.

This is a great tool as it is so simple to use and reliable. Students can quickly and easily add or edit information, share ideas and pool resources. The fact that they can be created so simply is a real plus too. Project groups can setup their own padlets to share their work outside of the classroom. It really is a powerful tool. If you haven’t already, I would strongly encourage you to give it a go in class soon!

baiboard.pngBaiBoard Collaborative Whiteboard – FREE

BaiBoard is a free iOS, Mac, Windows and online application that allows for synchronous and asynchronous collaboration. I stumbled upon it a few months ago when I was looking for a collaborative workspace for my students. It is an app that not many people have heard of in education as it is primarily designed for business. There are a number of awesome features which would really work well in the education setting so I wouldn’t be surprised if it is up there with the ‘big guns’ soon enough, especially as the price is right!

On the surface, it looks just like a number of screencasting/whiteboard apps. Content can be included including text, annotations, pictures etc. on a number of different pages. There are stickers and other little add-ins available too, which are nice, but aren’t anything special.

Where this app sets itself apart is that users can be added as collaborators to the BaiBoards. This can be done with a code, so doesn’t require a login or even an account. Users can then work on the same BaiBoard in real time together. Fantastic! There are also messaging features (including VoIP) so group members can chat and discuss what needs to be done (perfect for homework activities) You can also leave messages to be read later, meaning that groups choosing to work asynchronously can still communicate effectively. Another fantastic feature is, as a teacher you can join the various BaiBoards operating in your class. You can monitor how work is going, ensure the communication tools are being used appropriately and even screen share, all through the cloud platform.

It really contains a remarkable number of features for a free app. I would recommend giving it a go. BaiBoard isn’t designed for the classroom, and I think the feel of the app reflects that – as stated in this graphite review it can be a bit of a challenge to get to grips with all of the multiple sharing options.

Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 21.28.47.png

BaiBoard features

Both tools in this blog post are fantastic and I would thoroughly recommend them.

Obviously, there are more well known collaborative writing/presenting tools out there, but I like to focus on the process of collaboration instead of looking at the end product.

Please let me know what you think of my suggestions, do you know any better tools?

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Featured Image icon: Collaboration by Krisada from the Noun Project

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