What better way to teach students how to responsibly share information than to incorporate an authoring tool into your teaching. Getting students to create information and place their names as authors is a great way to address a few issues:
- belonging and contributing to a community
- sharing true information for the benefits of the community
- writing skills
- information literacy
- digital literacy
…the list is long. It’s a fantastic method in or outside of the classroom which will engage your students into a collaborative environment which everyone will enjoy.
There’s benefits to the teacher as well. you will now have more free time and won’t necessarily have to constantly send individual notes with the same information to the whole class. Think of all the feedback that you need to provide for every class; or instructions for next class. You can now share links and useful information that your students will be able to access with one click.
One option that has already been explored and proven successful is setting up a website. On it you will create content for your students to access at any time. However, the real benefit is providing the option for your students to blog in real time from the classroom and post their notes on the website. That way if you have someone who missed a class, they can just go to the website and find all notes and content that they missed without you having to spend time individually with that each person.
Another great way to set up a blog. Students can access the blog and contribute to posting you or other students made. The discussion goes on… You can reset the blog for each class of yours, or for the school year, or make it an ongoing project without erasing any of the notes posted.
Another collaborative tool which is also widely used is a Wiki. This is a fantastic tool which allows your students to create their own Wikipedia for the class. The idea is that students will not be just posting on it, but they will be adding and editing pages for the purpose of improving them. At the end you will end up with the perfect page for the perfect topic that everyone will find useful because it was created based on students’ interests and preferences.
What I have used and find really helpful is setting up a class space on a cloud platform, such as Dropbox. This space will give you an opportunity to have all course content in a familiar environment to your students as it it similar to a folder they would see on their personal computer. The difference is, it does not live on a computer, but on a cloud server. This allows you to share the folder with everyone you want to contribute to it. So every time a student (or you) adds something, everyone can see it.
Now lets take a look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of the above options. I will start with the disadvantages because they are not that many. For example, the first one that comes to mind is that we need to be connected to the Internet in order to access any of the tools. Another disadvantage may be (I haven’t seen this too much) screening all posts to make sure that what students post is true and useful. One way to solve this is to set strict rules for posting – sort of a template which everyone must follow. If the post doesn’t follow the template, you can erase it. Having these publishing rules will also discourage students from posting “just anything”… One disadvantage is that students’ comments may make your website, blog or Wiki huge. When you have people commenting on comments and posts, things can get out of hand. One way to deal with this is to set restrictions for time and length of posts. For example, you can close a discussion at 7pm on Friday because on Monday you will open a new topic for discussion.
These are just part of the small issues you may encounter. However, you should focus on the advantages. They definitely outnumber the disadvantages. Here’s what to look forward to:
|It looks like an official space for your course. You can upload tons of your teaching materials, handouts, assignments, instructions, etc. in separate pages for your students to access and download. It takes a bit longer to set up as you may have to use some HTML skills or make sure your template can accommodate the purpose of the website. You don’t need to update the website that often once it’s set up.||The likelihood of your students knowing how to use a blog is really high. They probably already have their own. You can upload materials on a blog but remember that its main purpose is to share information which provides for discussion. Blogs are usually a bit more informal than a website. They are dynamic and always changing and growing. They also need to be updated regularly.||One of the most favourite tools for educators. You can share information, upload documents, spark conversation, edit and update regularly easily, your students will be able to edit and update, publish their content, constantly improve the content. A Wiki is the perfect collaborative and sharing tool for education. It’s dynamic and all participants are authors which increases the responsibility to share good information.||This tool doesn’t take up space on your computer as it lives on a cloud. Although it has storage limits, they are usually so big that you will never worry about going close to the limit. Dropbox offers 2GB of space which for a course is more than enough. This tool is the closest to what you would see on your own computer in terms of interface. It looks exactly like a regular folder. It’s very easy to upload materials as it’s a drag and drop function.|