ag00373_It feels so good to be finished my teacher-librarian courses at the University of Alberta.  I can’t say enough about how great the program is for preparing teacher-librarians for the 21st century but I’m glad to be finished so that I can move onto other learning challenges. 

I wasn’t sure how much I would blog after my courses were completed but a Twitter friend of mine, Chris Harbeck from Winnipeg encouraged me to get back at it and share my teaching and learning experiences so I”M BACK!

Recently, I put out a Tweet (there must be some word for this which I don’t know) that I was having difficulty using Google Spreadsheets for an online discussion I wanted to have with my grade 9 students about freedom to read and book challenges. 

The first time I tried to set something up with my class it was such an incredible hassle.  I tried using the students’ school email accounts to invite them to edit the spreadsheet we were going to use but only a small group of students actually got the invitation.  Then I discovered that the students needed to sign up for google accounts before they could edit the document.  What a waste of time – first collecting all the emails and then having them all get google accounts and then inviting them all over again.  Perhaps not too much work for one class but I wanted to do this with 8 separate classes!

And then I found I couldn’t edit my own spreadsheet so that’s when I sent a Tweet out to my PLN and Chris came to my rescue.  At first we tried to “fix” the spreadsheet problem but then he suggested I give www.etherpad.com a try. 

So the next day at school, that’s what I did.  I can’t say my first stab at it was brilliant (I didn’t know only 8 people could edit the document at one time and I needed to set more stringent online etiquette rules with the students)  but I’ve since done the same online discussion with several classes and it’s gotten better every time.

Using www.etherpad.com was a great way to teach students how to work collaboratively in an online group (one of the goals in Manitoba’s LwICT Continuum) and discuss a sensitive and timely issue at the same time.  Etherpad also allowed students who wouldn’t normally say anything in a regular classroom discussion to express their opinions in a non-threatening way.  Overall, I have been impressed with the high level thinking skills demonstrated by the students.

My only complaint with etherpad is that you can’t delete the URLs after the discussion is completed.  Because of this, I decided to have students use nick names which only I could track.  I took down the link to the site right after the students completed the discussion so that no inappropriate comments could be added by students later.

All in all, if you want a simple way to have an online discussion, I suggest you try etherpad.com.

Jo-Anne

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