Thursday’s Tip: The Power of Online Collaboration

Goodbye Power Point…Hello Prezi!

One night this past spring I witnessed my 15 year-old daughter hard at work on a group presentation for her Freshman Honors English class. We all know how painful completing group projects can be, and she moaned and groaned at the prospect of collaborating on an essay and visual presentation with two of her peers. Once she finally got going, it was amazing to see the collaboration between these three students – who were each in their homes working from their computers.

They worked simultaneously with two online tools. They used Google Docs to work on the essay and to chat about what they were doing. They also used Prezi to create an amazingly cool, interesting, and informative presentation. This tool is like a giant white board that lets you zoom in and out and set a sequence of your choice for the words and graphics to be shown. The result can be striking.

The most exciting part about this tool to me (as a parent and a teacher) is the enthusiasm the students have for using it and therefore, the enthusiasm they have for working on a group project. My daughter and her peers worked for hours and all three of them had an equal part. They could each see what the other was doing to both the essay and the presentation in real time. They could ask each other questions…”Hey, I need a quote for this part, who has one?” and “What do you mean you broke up with him?”…just like working in person. However, since they were working online, and there is somehow more freedom to say more personal things than you would in person, they really got to know each other in a way that they never would have in the school building as these are three students who would not choose to interact with each other and don’t share common friends.

So instead of a presentation tool…maybe Prezi could boast itself a tool that also breaks teenage social barriers! Cool stuff either way!!

This post was submitted by Tami Chappel, a special education teacher for Kirkwood Schools here in Missouri. You can read more from Tami at her blog, Pioneer Prep.