9 March 2012

From Me to We - Collaborative Writing

In so many ways our learning process is social and collaborative, yet when it comes to writing, it seems to be a one-way street of learners writing for the teacher, the teacher reading and marking the writing task, returning it to the learner and the learner filing it away. As a writing teacher, I have regularly introduced peer editing and peer reviewing (usually with a guide to help learners focus on what they should be editing/reviewing) in order to broaden the writer's audience. On the other hand, even when learners may be reluctant to share their written work, still expecting the teacher to be the sole "authority" of his/her writing, they gradually appreciate the opportunity to read their peers' written work and to add comments. 

This doesn't always need to be done formally; having students sit in small groups and exchange their writing (e.g. paragraphs) and comparing how they achieved (or not) the task, is an important part of their learning process.

 Without the teacher peering over their shoulders, this exchange gives students an opportunity to see how well they themselves are expressing themselves among their peers. Above all, it helps foster a more autonomous learning experience. Being an autonomous learner may sound positive to educators, however to many students, being independent is still an uncertain learning experience in many cultures and needs to be practiced in small steps.  Students need to feel confident that becoming autonomous does not mean that the teacher is not interested in their work nor that they won't have any guidance in their learning process. Nevertheless, being an autonomous learner is part of learning, part of developing one's critical thinking skills and hopefully, developing one's self-confidence. 

Here I have already referred to some tools which are great for collaborative writing. Another interesting site to use is Sync.in , a web-based word processor for realtime collaboration.

PageOrama comes to the rescue for other moments of writing and sharing;  if you or learners suddenly need a webpage to share information or a piece of writing, PageOrama is simple and an immediate tool to use.

Choose a page name, a title, write the content, click to submit and the document is published. You can also include images and if you want to edit your page, you can email it to yourself to edit later.

Note Mesh  is another option for students to share. This time, however, the focus is for college students to  share their study notes.  The idea behind Note Mesh, is that the same class can share their lecture notes to study.

And finally for today, there is also Collabedit , an online editor, which learners can use in real-time.  Learners can use Collabedit for collaborative coding, but also as a text editor.

How do you get learners to write collaboratively?

Further suggestions:

JustPasteIt - to share texts and links

Pro Writing Aid - Free manuscript editing tool

Study Guide for Writing


  1. I don't know if you've referred to this before but I use collaborizeclassroom.com. When I want feedback from students during class time I would usually use Twitter. Titanpad and TypeWith.me also seem like good tools for collaborative writing. I have used the first one.
    Thank you very much for the sites you recommend here, will have to go and take a look.

  2. Hi Jose, thank you so much for sharing and teaching me too! No, I haven't used CollaborizeClassroom but with your recommendation, will certainly take a look and see when I can use it.

    Hope that you may continue having time to pass by and add your views, suggestions and recommendations more often :-)

  3. Hi Cristina,

    Thanks for your post on Collaborative Writing tools. I really think that (in some form) they will be a standard teaching tool before too long.

    There are so many applications and they can be really useful in allowing learners to negotiate and construct meaning.

    I've blogged my own feelings about some of the tools (incl. Sync.in) here: http://classroom201x.wordpress.com/2011/05/11/collaborative-writing/

  4. Hi Angela,

    Thank you sharing your thoughts and your own suggestions for collaborative writing. I know about Pirate Pad but have used mostly Titanpad with learners. There are a couple of these ether pads which offer similar features. It's always great to have several to choose from and everyone can then see which one they prefer.

  5. Thanks Ana, for highlighting some tools I wasn't aware of. I was also wondering why Google Docs didn't make it to your list. I use it frequently with my students to edit their project brief together and it works great for me. My two cents.

    Keep up the great work.

  6. Hi Robin,

    Glad you found tools of interest. I didn't include Google Docs as it is quite well known. However, it's great that you included it here in your comment - always appreciated :-)

    Thank you!