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
Wallwisher.com 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.
You 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. MikoGo.com . 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.
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:
CoMapping.com $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.
Bubbl.us 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 MindMeister.com), 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.