Thursday, June 12, 2008

Collaborative Word Processing: 4 Tools

Julia VanderMolen has a great article in techLearning on four Web 2.0 tools that make collaborative writing easier. They can be used by students in different locations or countries or can give students in the same class access to a shared document anytime, anywhere.

Google Docs handles word processing and spreadsheets. Nothing needs to be installed. And documents can be password protected. Google Docs is similar in look and feel to Microsoft Word and Excel versions up to 2003. It's pretty simple to use. VanderMolen offers screenshots and some basics to get you and your middle schoolers started.

Zoho Writer is a Web-based word processor that also lets you post to a blog and import and export documents in lots of formats -- Word, PDF, RTF, HTML, SXW and others. You can also lock your documents. To use Zoho Writer, register at the website. Zoho Writer has a Template Library with basic formats for documents like newsletters and quizzes. You can find other Zoho products like spreadsheets, chats, organizing tools and presentation tools.

Writeboard works as a collaborative writing tool. To use it, just log on. Documents are called "writeboards" and are password protected and, therefore, all private. Unfortunately, there's no WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor and no toolbars like in Google Docs or Zoho Writer. Writeboard gives students a basic text area. Formatting text is done with codes. VanderMolen writes, "You will find it easy and fairly intuitive to use."

VanderMolen calls ThinkFree "Office without the Microsoft." ThinkFree offers applications that have most of the features of Word, PowerPoint and Excel. You get 1 GB of free online storage. Online collaboration is just as easy as with Google Docs and Zoho Writer. Once you create an account, you can use the Write, Calc, or Show components. The site is supported by banner ads and search ads. There's a premium service that offers more storage and no ads for a fee. ThinkFree also has a link that tells you ways teacher and others are currently using it.

VanderMolen includes helpful screenshots and a comparison chart at the end of the article that gives a quick overview of the features of all four tools. I can see using one of these tools for peer editing and group work, making it easier for on- and off-campus students to complete projects and share ideas.

SOURCE: "Four Web 2.0 Collaborative-Writing Tools" 06/01/08
photo courtesy of Zesmerelda, used under this Creative Commons license

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