Ideas for Encouraging Collaboration and Creativity Part I: how to collaborate virtually

How to collaborate virtually

If you are working in different geographical areas and struggle to meet regularly then you need to find easy yet effective solutions to ensure that your collaboration does not suffer. Also, these ideas work well if you simply wish to kick-start the collaboration before meeting. Here follows a series if ideas that could help maintain a continuous creative working relationship:

Wallwisher: the creative wall

tips on being creative great for sharing ideas – click to view example is an online notice board where you create the content by adding interactive stickies to the board. This online tool is superb to use get the creative flare sparked up amongst colleagues. Sign up and start your own wall, then your co-workers can upload images, share ideas and links. Wallwisher is ideal to use a couple of days before the big planning meeting as it gets everyone thinking, then you start the meeting by going through the team’s examples.

The Creative Blog:

Blogs are commonplace nowadays and the list of blogging software is growing steadily and it’s fairly straightforward to set one up having little or no coding experience. The idea behind the creative blog is to keep a running discussion on a key issue, and change the issue regularly. For example, one school comes up with the topic for discussion and the teachers share ideas by adding comments. One particularly good way of keeping the creative flow going is to have regular times when staff or departments add their thoughts e.g. at Department Meetings. At the end of the set time frame, e.g. every half term, the post is printed to PDF or Issuu /ZinePal for easy sharing and to put the creative thoughts onto paper.

Simple Video-Conferencing:

Meeting detailsYou might have tried to do video-conferencing but you found it slow with poor audio and video quality? Although some methods are still annoyingly poor, some tools are in fact very good e.g. . This service is not only free but also very straight forward and all you have to do is to register and download the MikoGo widget which you use to meet online.

Each time you want to start a session simply launch MikoGo and copy the session ID and then email/phone whoever you are meeting with and they enter the session ID – done! If you are doing vid-conf individually then inbuilt or basic webcams are fine. However, if you want to capture more than one person you’d benefit from a Point Tilt and Zoom video camera. They can be pricey but there are cheaper alternatives. The PTZs are great as they enable you to involve people around the room by ‘Pointing’ the camera and then zooming in on the person.

Collaborative Mapping:

This process is simple and only requires the people involved to sign up to a mind-mapping website that allows for sharing and collaborating on the same mind-map. There are many such tools available like for example: $25/year (approx £15): This is a superb tool as it gives users the possibility of collaborating on the same map at the same time. Free: Another solid application where people can work together on the same maps although not at the same time.

The strength of these types of online tools lay in the opportunity to sketch out rough ideas whilst at the same time build on each others’ thoughts. Many of such mind-mapping websites also give users to possibility of uploading images, adding links and even documents of various kinds. These more powerful features tend to involve a nominal charge, like with CoMapping (or, but it is worth the money spent as you can lead, develop and collaborate on very large projects quickly and easily without much delay or complications. We have worked with both teachers and students on different projects and everyone agrees that it made collaborating more engaging and efficient – students benefited greatly during group work particularly when it involved a longer independent learning project spanning across a half-term as they could continue to work from home or simply just uploading documents, images and audio files to use when they returned to school.

If you haven’t tried any if these ideas yet then why not use one or two of the examples with a current collaboration, you will not regret it.

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Johannes Ahrenfelt

Johannes Ahrenfelt has previously worked as County Advisor for Learning & Teaching with ICT, Head of Department and University Lecturer. He has taught for 10+ years in schools around Norfolk, UK, and is currently leading an inspirational team in Norwich as Head of Faculty. Johannes shares his passion for pedagogy on his blog, social media and when delivering training in the UK and abroad. He has also published several books worldwide, one of which has been translated into Mandarin and Malayan.

6 thoughts on “Ideas for Encouraging Collaboration and Creativity Part I: how to collaborate virtually”

  1. Do you have any feedback on using these? Any successful (or disastrous) projects? I have seen most of these too but not really put them to any meaningful use.


  2. Hi Tony,

    Thank you for reading. We have used all of the suggestions mentioned in the post and they have worked on the continuum of well – excellent. I found working on a mutual blog somewhat time consuming in the beginning to get it up and running and perhaps not as easy as I had thought as people, in this case teachers, couldn't find the time to add their feedback at the start but this changed with time. An example of a successful collaboration using a combination of Drupal and a standard Blog can be found here: . Work completed on this website was later published please see: . We use collaborative Mind-Mapping, for example Mind-Meister (and to an extent in TEEP and PGC training and find this tool superb to continue the discussion after having delivered training.


  3. Thanks for the speedy reply. I have been thinking about getting teachers to keep a reflective journal by blog but feel that they would not put in the time to make it worthwhile. I have recently found for keeping an online journal of CPD via Nik Peachey… and am planning to try it out in the New Year.

    I really like the idea of for post-training sharing of ideas and ti is much easier than keeping a blog going or asking people to keep logging in to a VLE.

    Have you used for concept mapping? I think it is much more powerful than other mapping tools (e.g. can add hyperlinks, link to other mind maps, embed documents, etc) but requires a download…

    Btw, what is TEEP and PGC training? Postgrad Certificate…?

  4. Thank you further suggestions and links Tony. Keep us informed how you get on with penzu : ) . I agree to an extent about your arguments for using blogs but if you persist then I feel that they can make a difference particularly if you schedule time to update it e.g. During Department or Team Meetings.

    For info on TEEP training please see and for another post on this site: .

    Typo, I meant to say PGCE ; )

  5. We are using Tumblr ( to keep departmental blogs in our Visual, Media and Performing Arts faculties. We intend to use them as hubs for creative professional development, publishing examples of experiments with a variety of Web 2.0 tools. Students also seem to enjoy Tumblr. It's easy to set up, customisable and enables simple publishing by email. Several courses/classes now have their own Tumblr blog, including our experimental enquiry based learning course, Tallis Lab ( We are also using Google Docs successfully to aid collaboration. We publish departmental and faculty documents, share lesson plans, create lesson resources and collaborate with colleagues outside school. We have a Blogger blog for our staff/student creative learning action research group ( where we share our experience of using a range of online resources. We really like using Wallwisher but Spaaze and Stixy are also interesting alternatives for virtual noticeboards. I think Twitcam has real potential. We recently used it to broadcast live from a sculpture project at a central London gallery. The artist we worked with has just contacted us to say that she was inspired to set up her own blog as a consequence of seeing the students working so naturally with new media.

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