Monday, May 23, 2011

Collaborative Writing with @jonathanferrell's Class

My students recently worked on collaboratively writing fractured fairytales with Jonathan Ferrell's class in Kansas.

We skyped initially as classes to read some fractured fairy tales from The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales.

Skyping the first time with Jonathan's class

One student reading to both classes from The Stinky Cheese Man

We set up a group on Edmodo where we posted information and shared the links to the TitanPads (We chose TitanPad because it was available to Jonathan's students.  Google Docs would have been a great place to collaborate, but his students don't have access to that this year.) the students would work on.

a screen shot from our Edmodo group

The students were so excited!  We split them up into groups of two or three across classes.  It was wonderful because we were also able to schedule it so that students could work on the document at the same time! I checked in on the TitanPads each day so that I could peek in on the group's productivity.

Here are a few screenshots of snippets of students conversations in the side chat box in TitanPad.  Notice that they use text speak in their chats, and that's ok!  Their stories did not include text speak.

One student hadn't heard about Paul Bunyon, so he went to learn about it!

pondering how to get started

making changes to wording and deciding how to share

The students collaborated for about 30 minutes each day for a week.  At the end of the project, we Skyped again, and many student groups read their stories aloud to the classes.  

a student reading his fairytale with his partner

Many of the students posted their completed stories on our blogs:
These links may not be relevant past June as I plan to take down my students' blogs in preparation for next year.

Afterward, I talked with my group about what they thought about the project.  A few of there thoughts were:
  • It was fun to be able to work on the document at the same time.
  • It was hard to come up with an idea that everyone agreed on.
  • Some people took over the group and wouldn't allow others' ideas.
    • I was aware of this and tried to intervene to make sure all authors were a part of the story.
  • It was nice to have someone else to give ideas when I was stuck.
  • It helped having other eyes to catch errors I made.
All-in-all we came to the conclusion that it had similar drawbacks and benefits that we encounter with face-to-face group work, but it was motivating to work with students outside our building.  It was a good end of the year activity because students were engaged when they were working on their tales together. It's definitely something I would do again with my students.  

How could you apply this to your classroom?  What collaborative projects have you tried?


  1. This is a great idea. Might be able to work on something with science this way. Was trying to plan to have my grade 8s teach grade 3s in another school via Skype but we ran out of time with the end of the year in the other school. On the books to work on something for next year.

    How did you find the collaboration?

  2. We found each other through Twitter and attending EdCamp in Kansas City. I just tweeted out that I would like a class to collaborate with, and he responded. It took a little while to find a topic that worked and a scheduled time frame that worked, but we got it done!

  3. Such a creative idea to do such a project with another class not in your own school. My name is Kelsey and I am in an education in media class at the University of South Alabama. I will be checking your blogs until the 5 of June to see what different types of ideas and activities you may have had in your classroom.
    Reading your blog was amazing to me. I never would have thought that using skype and the titanpads in the classroom could turn into an experiment. While reading it seemed as if the children really enjoyed the assignment. The choice for the students to have a stranger as a partner and having to come up with a story was creative. Children have many ideas, and with students different ideas putting the two together could come up with something great. I am so glad to read this because it sounds like a wonderful idea and I would like to try it myself when I become a teacher.