Merrily Mural.ly : Creating Online Collaborative Documents

Drum roll everyone, this is my last and final blog for my Computer Applications in ESL Teaching Class. As a final topic I chose Mural.ly. In essence, Mural.ly is a collaborative social network allowing many users to post things on a common online document. The idea is for a user to sign up to this site and then the user has two options : either work on the document alone or invite other people to join in so that they can work together. All of a sudden, all the people invited can freely work together on the same document.

Because of the freedom that it allows, Mural.ly reminds me of mindmaps. Mural.ly also allows you to create a path for your viewers, it that sense it reminds me a lot of a Prezi. In fact, this article describes Mural.ly as a cross-section between Prezi and a Mindmap. http://edudemic.com/2012/09/mural-ly-mind-mapping-tool-waiting/ how mural.ly works and most features. Described as a cross between prezi and a mindmap. This blog article also describes Mural.ly’s key features and aspects.

Though the comparison with Prezi is easy, it is not entirely accurate. I find (and the creator of Mural.ly, Mariano Suarez Battan, backs me up) that people use Prezi in order to add a narrative to the document. A user is interested in Prezi because he wants his viewers to follow a certain path. The Prezi user makes sure that the viewers see image a, then image b, then image c and finally image d. With Mural.ly, that is a secondary thought. The second main difference is that Mural.ly was created in order to gather information from the Internet such as maps, Pinterest content, Dropbox files, Wikipedia entries and more.

Mural.ly is very intuitive and easy to use. My classmate Marne and I made this Mural.ly document during our Wednesday evening class. This represents a half hour’s worth of work. I think it is important to point out, that though all the images, article and video that you see were found on the Internet (it was a simple drag and drop operation) Marne and I built our Mural.ly document without ever thinking about the narrative option.

As Marne and I were getting accustomed to Mural.ly, she realised one of the great applications of that software to an English as a second language class. You divide your class into teams, you give each team a current events topic they need to explore on the Internet and voilĂ . They are collaboratively building their own online document. I think it works better in small groups because even though the software allows for changes to happen simultaneously, if too many changes happen at once, the possibility of two (or more people) changing the same thing at the same time becomes greater. Which means that one user’s change might erase another user’s modification. Another possible application in class is for presentations : team members can choose a topic, build their Mural.ly together and then present it in front of the class. Had I known about Mural.ly, I would have used it for my WebQuest : it would have been perfect as my students’ information gathering and presentation tool. As one of the latest technological tools allowing for great creativity as you gather Webbased information, Mural.ly can also be used in a classroom context as a plan that the teacher will follow during his class. That is less interesting because it is not as interactive as it can be.

Mural.ly shows great promise and the best part of it is its collaborative aspect and the creative freedom that it offers. Any classroom activity using Mural.ly should focus on both. In this short blog, I did not begin to fathom all the possibilities that Mural.ly has to offer in an English as a Second Language class, but I will explore. Question is, did my blogpost made you want to explore as well?

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Yippee Weebly!

As I am getting ready to write my final blog, I am thinking of all that I have accomplished in this class. I know, it does not seem like much, but I wrote a blog, created a Web Quest (meaning that I created a Web site) and I have ventured way out of my comfort zone! That made me realize that I have used a tool allowing me to create a Web site and that there are surely many ways I could use it in a class room. The name of the tool is Weebly. So, Weebly beware, for you are the subject of my current (and final) blog for Computer Applications in ESL Teaching 1.

Weebly is a Web site allowing you to build your own Web site. It is very easy to use. Case in point: I used it and I am still alive. As a barely computer literate individual I was able to use Weebly to create a Web Quest that has hyperlinks to Internet addresses, images and outside documents. I did need guidance (thank you Mark Miller), but I would say that Weebly is pretty easy to use. A problem I had with Weebly is that it becomes very slow and sometimes comes to a complete stop if a lot of people are working on it at the same time. That being said, the pros of Weebly in a classroom outweigh this problem.

As I wrote earlier, I found Weebly to be fairly easy to use, but how would I use it in a classroom environment? The first ideas that come to my mind are managing my students profiles (grades and papers), receiving their assignments on line, getting in contact with my students and their parents and creating a Web site. I could also use the Web site I created to post materials and exercises on line. Since it is possible to have all sorts of files on Weebly, I could add the You Tube videos that I found relevant to my class and post them all in one place. Even better, they would be there for my students to see and read whenever they need to.

By creating a website through which students, parents and teacher can cooperate, Weebly allows me to teach my students to blog, in English and in an ethical and responsible way. Yes people, Weebly offers its users the possibility of posting blogs. I also realized that weebly allows me to help my students organize since I can provide them with resources and a schedule of the upcoming classes and assignments.

There are many other ways I could use Weebly in a class room, all I did here is give you an idea of what are the possibilities of this tool. However, just like any tool, Weebly is only as good as I can make it to be. It is worth mentioning that Weebly is user friendly, free and easily available… The question is: why am I not using it? Or put it another way: What am I waiting for? Graduation folks. Graduation.

Google Super Drive

As I read through some blogs and articles about possible applications of Google Documents in the classroom, I realize that, as is often the case, the only limit to what can be done is my imagination. As a matter of fact, one author came up with more than 80 different ways to use Google Documents in the classroom. To me, the most interesting aspect of Google Documents is its cooperative aspect. Teachers can get their students to write stories together or correct one another’s assignments.

For me, the most interesting possibility is the fact that all the students can work together on an assignment. That is how I would use Google Drive: ask the students to write a story together (in teams of four). Collaborative writing through Google Documents can be both fun and interactive, the challenge is to stop the students from writing together all at once. In order for this activity to work, I would need to make it very clear that students can only write one line at a time. The other difficulty, for the students, would be to come up with something that “works” even though it would be the result of 4 different imaginations (and therefore the text would tend to go in four different directions). As they work on their collective assignment, each teammate would have the possibility of correcting his / her fellow teammates’ mistakes. By correcting one another, students learn their grammar better. Through Google Documents, this is all possible live, all the students need is a gmail account (which they might already have anyway).

Even if correcting one another while writing a story together is great, it differs from correcting someone else’s assignment altogether. One of the toughest tasks for a teacher is to correct and grade the work of students. It is very time consuming and the students have to wait before getting any feedback. For me, an interesting solution is to ask the students to put their documents online through Google Documents and to ask one of their classmates to correct them. I have mentioned earlier the advantages for the students of correcting one another but this also makes life on the teacher easier as he / she can focus on helping the students live in class as they are confronted to their writing problems. This model is very efficient because it allows the teacher to give the students more writing assignments while the teacher uses less time correcting and grading… and spends more time teaching and helping.

Using Google Documents also makes flipping a class much easier, I did not dwell upon this because it is not the possible application of Google Documents that struck my interest the most. In this case, the use of technology was only limited by my tastes and preferences. Now that says a lot.