Using wikis and Google Documents for online collaboration

14 Mar

A week for the CALL course has ended again; and I should admit the course was much better this week. Last week, I had many problems about controlling the students because of the number of students and their different skills for using the technology. This week, I changed the procedure and, firstly, I introduced the tools of the week – PBworks and Google Documents. Then, I demonstrated how these tools can be used in language classes. After that they all worked on a Google document. This was also a bit confusing for the students as they all started to write at the same time; however, I managed to show what they can do using this tool.

I discovered PBworks (PBwiki in those times) almost six years ago when I was in a dormitory room at METU. In those times, I really admired to see how I can use this tool for educational and personal purposes. I presented this tool in many conferences and I used it in almost all classes I taught. Both my students and the audience at the conferences liked it, too. After six years, I found that the only change about PBworks is just the name; the other features are still very useful for language classes, especially for reading and writing classes.

In the second hour of the course, I also showed Google Documents which is another great tool for collaboration.  There are some differences between Google Documents and PBworks; however, both tools have some advantages according to your purpose. If you would like create a webpage and publish it on the internet with a great design, it would be better to use PBworks. In this page, the visitors can also make comments and wiki pages can also include some widgets, Google gadgets, guest book, etc. However, if you just want your students work in collaboration and do it without publishing their work online, Google Documents is much better. In addition to this, you should wait for your turn in PBworks, only one user could edit at the same time; but in Google Documents, many users can edit at the same time. However, this sometimes cause a chaos on the document. For example, 30 students started to edit at the same time and on the same document yesterday and some students deleted the others’ sentences and this was a bit chaotic.

Despite their disadvantages, both tools are great tools for online collaboration. Working on a sheet of paper with your friends, students or colleagues is great not only for educational purposes but also for personal purposes. The students can see their friends’ writings, they can edit and at the end they create a common project, which is motivating for the students. They can share their projects on the Internet and they can also edit them. In addition to this, when a teacher assign the students in groups, some students complete the project and the teacher usually doesn’t know to what extent each student contributed to the project. If teachers use wikis in their classes, they can follow their students’ tracks and can evaluate the students more objectively although the students work in a group.

In order to better understand the wikis, I suggest you to watch the following video. Actually, I tried to embed the video but it was not allowed by the owner of the video. Wikis in Plain English.

As for the tasks of the week;

1. You will have a reflection paper about the topic of the week (online collaboration, wikis, Google Documents, etc.)

2. Go to page and get a PBworks account.

3. Then, visit the following page ( and click on “request access” on the right side of the page. Here, you will wait until your request is approved.

4. Once it is approved, visit http:/ again and edit the page filling in the table with the required information.

5. Finally, do not forget to save the page.

That’s all!…

Just a reminder: There must be at least 4 blog posts at the end of this week.

1. What do you think about the CALL course, what are your expectations?

2. Reflection paper for the 2nd week (blogging).

3. Task for the 2nd week (adding a TED Talks video and commenting on the video).

4. Reflection paper for the 3rd week (Wikis and Google Documents).

See you next week!

Dr. Sedat Akayoğlu

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Posted by on March 14, 2013 in Uncategorized


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