Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Etherpad - collaborative writing space

NOTE: Unfortunately, Etherpad has been acquired by Google and is no longer active! PiratePad is an open-source clone.

Piratepad (Piratepad.com) is a shared web-based writing space that students can use to collaborate "instantly". (Think Google docs without the set-up time.) Multiple people can edit the same document simultaneously, with any changes showing instantly on everyone's screen. When you visit the page, you have the option of creating a team site or a public pad. The public item is free, and you are setup as soon as you click on the button. Simply direct participants to the URL that is generated and you're in business! The Public pad will handle up to 16 people at a time. (So, for a full class, you'll need to create 2 public pads.) There is a Pro Edition with more features and better security for $8/user/month, and free for 3 users.

How could you use Piratepad in a class? Students could use it for "instant" collaboration on a script or outline. The resulting work can be emailed, posted on a class blog or saved in a Word document. (You could even paste the text into a Wordle generator to create a visual take on your brainstorming.) Get instant feedback on what is important, or bothersome or inspiring in a lesson by having all students type into a common Piratepad at the end of a class, or at the start, as a warm up.