Monday, February 18, 2013

Could Share Documents be the answer?

As I mentioned I would yesterday, I did go on a merry hunt for an alternative to Google Docs.  One tool that appeared promising is Show Document.  It seemed to have all the features I was looking for, and allowed users to work on multiple document types.  Below is a screen capture showing the various options the site offers.  Naturally the ones with the dollar sign in the upper left hand corner cost money, but the others seem to be available free of charge.  There are some good options here.

I don't mind saying I was thrown by the video on the homepage showing how to use the tool.  When you take a look at it you will see some older students collaborating about a slide show and making changes on the spot.  However the students were not only making the changes on the slide show, they were also using their cell phones to discuss the changes they were making.  Something about that nags at me.  If they have to be describing what they're doing over the phone then maybe it isn't exactly online collaboration.  Oh well, it still serves the purpose.  I don't see any free option for collaborating on a slide show on the site but I'm primarily interested in the document sharing and co-editing.  I went ahead and opened a free account and created a document.  Just to try it out I created a second email address and then invited myself to collaborate.  It may have gotten too confusing but when I was operating as host I could edit the document.  When I was operating as a guest I could click on the document but I couldn't type a thing.  I guess that calls for some troubleshooting... and coffee.

I gained some insight by going to this website where I found some helpful information that allowed me to correct the problem with allowing another person to edit the document.  One feature I like is that in order to invite someone to collaborate you simply have to send them a link by typing in their email address.  When you do, you get a screen that looks like this:

They will get a get a screen that looks like this. 
They will simply need to click on the button to join the session.  Then they simply wait until the host invites invites them in.  This indicates to me that it must be real time collaboration.  It doesn't seem to work quite the same way as Google Docs where a guest can simply log on when they want to collaborate and get started.  Here is a very simple document I created as a simply test.  I've changed the color of the text to indicate that there are two different people writing on the document.  A very small cursor appears toward the bottom of the page with the name of the person who is currently writing.
I gave the collaborative white board a try as well and was pleased with the ease of use.  In general I find Share Documents to be a helpful, easy tool to use.  I'm more familiar with Google Docs and prefer to use that tool, but as an alternative, Share Documents would work well for allowing students to work collaboratively on a document.

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