Sunday, 22 March 2009

Using Etherpad

I heard about Etherpad via Twitter, and also Mark Warner's blog, Etherpad is a website where people can work collaboratively on the same document. Brilliant!!

It really is simple to use. Just go to Etherpad and create a new pad. You can then email the link for the pad to other people. Up to 8 can work on the same pad all at once. You can see people editing the document before your very eyes!

The potential for use in school is unlimited. There are many opportunities for using it with staff - all those times where we've put a document together with just one scribe? Well now everyone can get involved! It could also be used for communication!

The classroom possibilities are where the strengths of Etherpad really lie. I have used it with the class this week. Bearing in mind it was the first time using it, it did come with one or two problems, but I'm pleased to just get the ball rolling!

We have been working on balanced report writing for the last few weeks. The trainee teacher that had been teaching the class finished her successful placement on the Friday and so I wanted an exciting project to end the focus on reports. I decided that we could write a balanced report on bedtimes. I presented the children with a biased report explaining why children should go to bed early. The children used Etherpad to plan ideas for the other side of the argument. I used our blog to set up links for each table to find their Etherpad. It went really well and I was pleased with the work produced.

Later in the week we used Etherpad again, this time to prepare a script for a radio talk show. The children had to prepare a radio show where callers would phone to offer their arguments, for or against the issue. The children elected host DJs for each team. They had to write an introduction to the show whilst the others would enter information from the callers. It was really good fun. The DJs did find it a little difficult to keep up with the arguments being presented from all of the callers. With hindsight, perhaps we needed more DJs!

I found that the connections to the Etherpads were a little unreliable, but I think this had more to do with our painfully slow internet connection this week rather than with Etherpad itself. The children became frustrated with the connection continually breaking, so the quality of work was not as good as I'm sure it could have been.

I'm looking forward to finding further opportunities to use Etherpad in the classroom. Have you used Etherpad? How have you used it?