The Latest Tools for Student Collaboration

Tuesday, March 3, 2015 -- Scott Sterling

The Common Core and the other next-generation standards all call for students to spend more of their time communicating interpersonally and collaborating with peers. To some teachers, that might mean pushing some desks together. But, this is the 21st century, and to borrow a (now-dated) phrase, there’s an app for that. Here are some helpful collaboration tools for use in the classroom.

Storage and sharing

Google Drive and its companion apps are an obvious choice to appear on this list of collaboration tools, so humor me and the few teachers who still have students sharing documents via a USB flash drive. The point in bringing up the Google Docs suite now is to make sure that you’re maximizing its potential. Google adds new features all of the time (that’s the beauty of an online software program). The thing that has really annoyed you about Google Docs, for example, might be fixed by now. Check out the training section of the Google for Education site to brush up on new features and benefits.

Task management

Task management is a key job for any group, but it is particularly important among a group of disorganized students. What educators are looking for in a program is availability on as many platforms as possible and ease of use for students. Remember the Milk fills those needs and is one of the most popular task-management systems out there.

Online polling

Have you ever tried a whole-class project? Do you remember how complicated it was getting everyone to agree on a direction? Conduct online polls with either Poll Everywhere or Mentimeter. Both solutions are useful because they have different account types that might be more suitable to your needs and budget.

Organizing and presenting

Almost all projects require research, but students are only together for about an hour per day. They can also be notoriously forgetful and disorganized. Some sort of online storage solution is a must. That’s where LiveBinders comes in.

Think of the app as an online folder or three-ring binder. Students in a group simply fill the binder with photos, videos, and links to information that they might need later. They can also share those pieces with other parties who might need them (such as if smaller groups are collaborating with each other on a bigger project).

Mind mapping and brainstorming

Students often feel the need to organize their thoughts and ideas graphically, usually on a whiteboard.The typical brainstorm software options, Microsoft’s Project and Visio, are too complicated for students.

There are many online brainstorming options, but SpiderScribe might have the lowest barrier to entry. Students simply place text boxes, pictures, and arrows where they need them to visualize the flow of the project. This is especially perfect for students to envision any sort of presentation or linear production.

Looking for more online tools to use in your classroom? Check out these 10 FREE Digital Resources for educators