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New, Free, Collabrified Apps for iPads: WeWrite+ & WeSketch+
The collabrification of educational apps continues! Joining WeMap (concept mapping for iOS and Android) and WeKWL (KWL charting for iOS and Android), we welcome WeWrite+ (text editing) and WeSketch+ (drawing and animating – and ANIMATING!) to the suite of collabrified educational productivity tools available, free, for iPads. (What the heck is “collabrification”? Read our short blog post: Web 2.0 to Social 3.0 – The Next Big Thing)
(Facts of life: (1) We needed to add a + to their names since WeWrite and WeSketch were already taken; sorry for the confusion this will invariably cause! (2) Currently, there are only iOS versions of WeWrite+ and WeSketch+; we are finishing work on their Android cousins – we should be posting them by December, 2014. Yay! And, just as the iOS and Android versions of WeMap and the iOS and Android versions of WeKWL “inter-operate” – one student can be on an iPad and one on an Android device, and both students can still work together on their concept map or on their KWL chart – the iOS and the Android versions of WeWrite+ and the iOS and the Android versions of WeSketch+ will also be inter-operable. Androiders: thank you for your patience.)
WeWrite+ is a vanilla text editor. Currently, it just supports two or more students working together in real-time as co-authors of a document, where each student is writing on his or her own iPad. There are two situations in which WeWrite+ can be used:
- Learners are co-located: In this situation, the collaborating students are in the same classroom, sitting next to each other. In collaborative writing, it is critically important that the students talk to each other. Why? In a word: coordination. Assuming just two students are collaborating, if they aren’t talking to each other pretty constantly, then invariably one will “step” on the other’s work – erase it, change it. But when the collaborators talk to each other, this sort of inadvertent collision doesn’t tend to happen.
- Learners are not co-located: In this situation, one student is at home, sitting at their kitchen table while their collaborator is at their home, perhaps sitting in their bedroom. WeWrite+ doesn’t care where the collaborators are located; WeWrite+ works just fine in this situation. BUT, in order to support the constant conversation, we suggest using Google Hangouts. Hangouts is a free download (iOS and Android) that supports two or more users (up to 10, in fact) engaging in video or audio conversation. Frankly, it is an amazing app! Skype can also be used, but the free version only supports audio chat. When not co-located, we suggest the students start-up Hangouts (or Skype) first, and then start-up WeWrite+. Hangouts (Skype) runs in the background providing support for verbal conversation, while WeWrite+ runs in the foreground providing support for collaborative writing.
Note: The above suggestions for supporting collaboration when students are not co-located applies not only to WeWrite+ but to our other collabrified apps: WeMap, WeKWL, and the new WeSketch+.
In this blog, we are simply announcing the availability of two new collabrified apps. That’s the easy part, actually. In another blog we will make curricular suggestions on how and when to use these two collabrified apps – and how to help your students learn to collaborate!
For example, in the beginning of the school year, we have observed that students, when using a collabrified app, do not really know how to talk to each other in a civil, collaborative fashion. The boys, in fact, tend to not talk at all! But, by the end of the school year, the students have learned how to engage in a collaborative conversation – complete with disagreement and peaceful resolution. (Sometimes rock-paper-scissors is the best way to resolve a dispute amongst collaborators!) Pretty interesting – students DO learn!!
If you are interested in using our collabrified apps, please drop us an email. (Click on ES, above) We are putting together a community of “collabrified app using teachers” since it is especially important at this early stage, that we share our observations, our curricular activities, and our instructional strategies for how and when to use collabrified apps in the classroom.
But, while these are early days, we stand by our earlier prediction: In three years, every app will be collabrified. While one can certainly use an app in solo mode, apps will, with the tap of a finger, enable a user to connect, live, to another user, so the users can work together, in real-time. The collabrification of apps (and websites, but that’s another discussion) is underway – and is inevitable!
That’s good news, actually: virtually all learners, when working alone, hit a point where they get “stuck” – get confused, lose motivation, etc. But, with a collabrified app, that learning impasse can be easily addressed: a finger tap brings in a collaborator – and the collaborator sees on his or her screen exactly what the “stuckee” is seeing. Together, the stuckee and the collaborator can work through the confusion, the misunderstanding. Indeed, a learner never has to learn alone again!
Cathie Norris is a Regents Professor and Chair in the Department of Learning Technologies, School of Information at the University of North Texas. Visit her site at www.imlc.io.
Elliot Soloway is an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor in the Department of CSE, College of Engineering, at the University of Michigan. Visit his site at www.imlc.io.
Find more from Elliot Soloway and Cathie Norris at their Reinventing Curriculum blog at thejournal.com/rc.