Your Web 2.0 Review Series #6: Collaborative Documents Software and Services

This is the sixth in a series of forum posts asking for feedback on the software and services around the different categories of Classroom 2.0 programs. This time it's collaborative documents. Google Docs, Zoho Writer, ThinkFree, WriteWith, YourDraft, or others.

Which are your favorites and why?
What features are important to you?
(If you're feeling verbose) What are the pros and cons of the programs you've tried?

Hopefully, these discussions will provide an unparalleled reference for new users making choices about what tools to use.

To reply, please click here to continue the thread on this topic already started by Classroom 2.0 rock star Susan Tsairi.

Tags: documents, reviews

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I haven't really bought into a single service yet. I still primarily rely on Word for all my word processing needs. Between my laptop and office computers, I'm never really had the need for a Web-based system. I do, however, appreciate the ability to access documents anytime/anyplace as well as the ability to share and collaborate online. Therefore, I've been searching for good applications.

Features that are important to me:
1) Concurrent editing
2) Export/Save as popular formats
3) Reviewing features (track changes/commenting)
4) Offline editing
5) Sharing (to world, groups, and individuals)
6) Integration with other services (ideally, open API so others can develop for/with it)

The first I tried was Zoho Writer. I really do like all of the Zoho apps. They've got a good suite as well as other peripheral products. I found Writer to be easy to use, but it didn't wow me at the time (this was about 6 months ago).

I then tried Google Docs as I've slowly been moving to many of their services. Google Docs did wow me with its simplicity and its integration (though the integration with Firefox isn't working very well right now). I liked the ability to do concurrent editing.

Neither of these is good enough to get me off Word yet. There is one simple feature....Reviewing. Track changes and comments are the life-blood of editing and cooperation (note I didn't say collaboration) as I currently practice it. I haven't seen this available in any app yet and would like to have it.

Coventi Pages has this to some extent, but still not as well as Word does. (I'd even settle for close).

MoonEdit also looks like it has potential. When doing concurrent editing, each user has a different color cursor. Neat addition in my mind.
I have used Google Docs in the classroom this year. I use it as a virtual white board where I post the days activities. I have not used other documents. I like Google Docs because of their omnipresence and for the fact that I have implemented a sponsored domain within Google Apps.
I recently set up a sponsored Google Docs account at my school too. Before that, I'd used my own account for class notes, with a link to them through my website. The students have seen me using it all year and caught on in a second when I got them set up with their own accounts. The students just share their docs with me and I can check them, comment on them, and edit them from anywhere. Many have commented on how much easier it is then printing things out and then having to go back and make corrections (also a waste of paper). They also don't have to worry about carrying flash drives around with them all the time - which they often lost anyway. I've done things similar to this (commenting, etc) with Word, but the process is much simpler and more accessible with Google docs.
I really like google docs for the convenience. I can access my docs anywhere and not have to fiddle around with USBs. I really like the Share function but still work in an area where the 'track changes' of Word still rules. As I read in another post (I think by Laura Gibbs) my ESL students more readily pick up, try and take on new technologies than many of my peers.
My students are AMAZED by GoogleDocs - it's one of those "wow" moments for them. I offer it for extra credit as part of my Technology Tips in the class, along with other nice Google services.

The writing we do in class is webpage- and blog-oriented, but I encourage them to get familiar with GoogleDocs because I know it can be so useful in their other classes, especially when they work in groups. Many students have written to tell me that they love it because in their group-work classes, the professors don't actually help them find truly collaborative tools to use, and Word documents shared via email attachments can get MESSY indeed.
Hey folks please check out this new tool at www.saywire.com it combines many of the web 2.0 features into to one interface.

Chat, Blogs, media hosting, and wiki like pages among other things.

It also serves as a great private communication platform between the teachers, students and parents.

Susan, thanks for opening this diologue and helping us help each other.

David

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