Teaching with Technology

Practical ideas for Web 2.0 in the Primary Classroom

Etherpad – The best thing since sliced bread?

March 31, 2009 by mrkp · 6 Comments · Literacy, Tools, Writing, Year 6

Today provided me with one of those – ‘blimey things are going to be different from now on’ moments.   After a staff meeting about guided writing with children last night, I put two and two together and realised that a tool called Etherpad could be a match made in heaven.

I came across Etherpad through a tweet from my Twitter network.   It is a collaborative online text authoring tool.   The nice thing about it is that it lets up to eight people author the same work in real time.  This is a significant advantage to Google Docs collaborative element as this does tend to be rather sticky.

Each person has a different colour highlight and it’s really easy to invite others through the url.  

 I tested it with the class today by showing the class this video of Batman the Animated Series (thanks to Dawn Robertson for the idea.)


Then I split them up into groups and assigned them each a few seconds of video to describe as a narrative, trying to focus on powerful words, pace etc.   I shared the url with each group and we all watched each other developing the narrative together.

What was really powerful was that we could see the writing in real time and children were editing ‘live’.   The different colours also gave me as a teacher a really clear visual representation of how I was modelling the writing and in fact which aspects of the writing needed to be focused on next time.

The Results:

Batman The Beginning
The lights shone through the shadowy clouds like a cat's eyes searching for its prey.   They stood there waiting, until it was clear to go.  The city skyline behind them looked like the shattered teeth of a giant miserable beast.  The city looked bleak dispressed.The howling wind blew through each cloud.
BANG!   With a tramendous force the door of the bank shattered into a thousand pieces.   The explosion was brightly coloured and sparks fell, floating down onto the dirty floor.   
Wind shivered down Batman’s spine, he knew something wasn’t right. He jumped into his Bat Mobile and raced off with wheels smoking. The caped crusader started to rev the engine of his metal beast, about to charge into action.
The villans started to run, their feet pounding on the moonlit streets.  Suddenly a glowing light appeared.   They sprinted even faster because they knew it was coming.
At last they saw him at the corner of their eye.   The end was closer.  Faster and faster they ran they ran just as much as their legs could hold it .   They  leapt onto the cobbled wall and started to climb like wild animals, their breath harsh and fast. Batman  flew high in the shimmering sky and  dropped onto the fragile roof of he building. He appeared as if from the moon-lit night like a deadly shadow.   He stopped, stared, relaxed and confident of his ability to save the city.   As they saw him the villain's eyes filled with fear, sweat poured down their for heads .
Robbers sat in the dark gazing up at Batman. Batman, looking down at the sly criminals, shone in the lightning bolts.  He stood tall and proud after his latest capture. The moon was a silver frame againest the black shiloutte. 

I have to say that it was one of the most exciting developments in my classroom over the last year – and there have been quite a few.  I can’t wait to set up another activity for tomorrow and see what come of it!


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