Saturday, October 10, 2009

 

Real-Time Collaboration Tools

I received my Google Wave invitation last Thursday night, but only know one colleague who has an account, so I haven't spent a lot of time playing with it. In the class that I am teaching using free/open tools, we thought we would try Google's Sidewiki to facilitate collaboration. This tool only works with specific browsers, and software must be downloaded and installed. Even though I did that on my Mac (Firefox only) and my Windows XP netbook, I am getting inconsistent results. I am finding it to be buggy (I see different things in the sidewiki on the same pages, depending on which Google account I am using... not good). So, we are going to try a different solution: http://etherpad.com/


EtherPad has the real-time collaboration of Google Wave, but doesn't require an account invitation or even a log-in: you just click a button on the first page and you are ready to edit. Click another button, and you can invite collaborators. Copy the URL, and you can share the site with others. At first, I embedded a Public EtherPad into a Google Sites page in our course, and we edited it there. Later, I replaced the "live" page with a recording of the entire session. There is a Play button and a Time Slider to play back the document. Paste in a URL, and it is converted to a link automatically. We didn't add any multimedia, like you are supposed to be able do with Google Wave, but our focus was really on the conversation in text. We will use this tool in our class as an example of a real-time collaboration tool.

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