Online Collaboration and Communication Tools: Web 2.0

Now that you have a solid understanding of today's educational technology trends and issues from the prior pages in this SoftChalk, it's time to dive into the more functional aspects of the module, and examine the uses of online collaboration and communication tools for teaching and learning.

Think about the Internet of the late 1990's versus now. In the late 90's, you could access information found on hideously designed web pages with animated gifs and colorful buttons, but you had no mechanisms to shape and share information in real time. Today, there are literally hundreds of web-based applications in existence that allow you to co-create content and share it with the world, and this is the essence of Web 2.0.

Take a moment to study the following roll over activity to get a sense for the power of using this new Web 2.0 as Solomon & Schrum (2011) have described it:


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Google Apps for Education (GAFE)

Google has revolutionized our ability to connect and collaborate in ways we could not have fathomed even five years ago - all for free. Because of that revolution, Google Apps have become the most popular platform for learning in the world. Take a moment to review an infographic from blogger Sylvia Duckworth (@sylviaduckworth) that illustrates what I mean:

Your school does not necessarily have to be a GAFE school for you to gain access to some of the collaboration applications, including things like Google Documents, Google Presentations, and Google Forms and Google Hangouts. If you're not a fan of Google, many other similar free cloud-based applications exist, such as Microsoft 365 and Zoho.

M-W-B Opportunity: Take a moment to review Holland and Sockalosky's (2013) article
titled "10 Creative Ways to Use Google Tools to Maximize Learning"
from the popular EDTechTeacher blog.


Using Google Documents for Collaboration

Student collaboration is a complex, but critical process for learning. If you've ever had "synergy" in a meeting with your colleagues, you likely understand the benefits of collaborative learning.

Google Documents allow you to create online documents, work on them in real time with other people, and store your documents and your other files -- all online, and all for free. With an Internet connection, you can access your documents and files from any computer, anywhere in the world. The animation below shows you how this looks in Google Docs:


Wondering what the advantage of this is? Again, it's the ability to create, work in real time, store files and documents 'in the cloud,' and access them from any Internet connected computer in the world.

In our course, you are currently experiencing this in both your small groups (for your Key Point Entries), and with your Team Lead (for your Reflections) using Google Documents. It is my hope that you will build confidence using this powerful online collaboration tool and begin to realize the impact it can have for your students. Research I've co-conducted has shown that [college] students sometimes struggle with using these tools at first, but after experiencing them in a well-scaffolded environment, will use them even outside of the context of class (M-W-B: see a case study a colleague and I conducted on this here).


Using Social Media for Teaching and Learning

Students love to communicate, and their primary platform for doing so is social media. Many educators immediately think of Facebook when they think of social media, but there are actually many more social media technologies available to use. Email, text messaging, blogs, microblogs, and wikis are just a few examples/forms of social media. Some of the benefits of using social media in your teaching role include:

Wondering if other schools/educators are actually using Social Media?

A question I hear quite often is "how can I incorporate social media into my classroom if my school doesn't allow it?". Take a look at a blog post I wrote titled Skittish Social Media Use Sets Students Back that talks about some of the fears and misconceptions about social media, and why it's important for educators to serve as a change agents for more strategic implementation of social media.

For almost every form of social media, there is an educational platform that you can utilize. One of the misconceptions outlined in my blog post is something I call the Facebook fallacy - i.e. the belief that Social Media IS facebook, when in fact there are hundreds of social media tools at your disposal to use. Many of these tools were created specifically for education. For example, take a minute to explore the free twitter-like service at:

If you're willing to dip your toe into the Social Media waters, the possibilities for incorporating these platforms into your teaching practice are limitless. Check out 10 ideas/tips colleagues and I recently presented at a teaching and learning conference for using social media in education:

  1. Follow and have your students follow experts in your field on Twitter
  2. Use a course hashtag (like our #TarletonOOC)
  3. Create closed groups in Facebook (you don't have to be "friends") ;-)
  4. Use social media to role play (ex. class FB page as Abraham Lincoln, posting historical facts and events)
  5. Challenge students to summarize a lesson in 140 characters (this can even be done on paper)
  6. Challenge students to summarize a lesson in a six second Vine video
  7. Have students tweet or blog live during events (elections, conferences, debates, the Olympics)
  8. "Hangout" with guests from around the world with Google Hangouts
  9. Have students blog about their learning experiences
  10. Have students produce and create a YouTube video for next year's students with tips for being successful in your class

There are, of course many more ways to incorporate social media into your teaching practice, and, if you're new to social media, you can try to slowly incorporate strategies that work for you, your students, and your subject matter. Take a moment to read "A Teacher's Guide to Using Social Media and the Internet in the Classroom" from Brandi Jordan's teacher's blog.


Using Google Hangouts for Collaboration and Communication

Another powerful (free) tool Google offers that crosses into both collaboration and communication is Google Hangouts. Your experiment activity this week is to try this tool out (you'll have directions for that later). Wondering what it is and what the advantage is? Watch this video:

Take a moment to peruse a great compilation of 50 ideas for how schools can use G+ Hangouts for learning provided by The article is broken down into the following four categories:

After you've had a chance to experiment with Google Hangouts, think about how your own school could leverage the platform for teaching, learning, communication, collaboration, and administrative tasks.