Choose the Right Digital Collaboration Tool for Your Lesson

Learn how to select the right digital tools that meet multiple learning needs.

Grades K-12 15 min Resource by:

Choosing the right digital collaboration tool is dependent upon your desired outcome and what technology is available to you. First and foremost, the tools should help you achieve your academic or engagement goals. Second, you must be able to access and use the tool with your group of students. Before using it with your class, be sure that it is approved by your school and is age-appropriate, as some programs require students to be 13 years of age or older.

The following list provides a sampling of some popular collaborative tools to get you started. This list is not intended to be comprehensive, but rather, resources to help you begin designing your lesson. These options can work in a face-to-face classroom as well as in a fully remote setting.

For these tools to be most effective and to empower all students’ voices, each student should ideally have a device. If this is not possible, students can work in pairs, with each partner taking turns being the pilot and copilot. In this model, the pilot runs the keyboard or device while the copilot provides ideas and input. After a set amount of time, the partners switch roles.

As you select the right tool to meet your learning needs, consider technology that can be used in multiple ways. By having a few “workhorse” tools, students will be less overwhelmed with the technology, and they will have more cognitive energy available for the academic learning tasks. With a thoughtful selection process for tools, you can balance the need to reduce student cognitive load with the desire to provide the novelty and choice that will keep students engaged and interested.

Live Video Meetings

These are great for both launching a collaborative project as well as for students to meet as a smaller group. Screen-sharing options help to facilitate real-time collaboration on documents. Visit the AVID Open Access Choose Your Live Remote-Teaching Delivery Tool article for more details on selecting a live video meeting platform.

Collaborative Production Tools

These often create the foundation for digital collaboration, and they provide the space for recording ideas in a shared space. Most of these tools do not allow for real-time voice conversations. However, collaborators can use phones or video-meeting software to facilitate conversations while viewing the shared document as the collaborative work space.

  • Microsoft 365 (Microsoft Word, Microsoft PowerPoint, Microsoft Excel, etc.)

Virtual Whiteboards

These are helpful when groups want a blank page for brainstorming. Most allow for the adding of text, images, and drawings.

Mind Mapping

Collaborative mind mapping tools are great for brainstorming or finding connections between ideas. Most allow for text and connecting lines while many also allow for insertion of images, video, and more.

Discussion Tools

If synchronous meetings are not possible, discussion tools can help manage the sharing of ideas and create virtual conversation threads. Most learning management systems (Canvas, Schoology, Google Classroom, etc.) offer discussion tools with text, audio, and video response options. Some platforms, like Flipgrid, are specifically designed to be video-based.

Bulletin Boards

If you are looking for a common place to post ideas, consider an online bulletin board. Depending on the service, you can post text, images, video, and more.

Note-Taking and Marking of Documents

While the Google and Microsoft suite of products offer outstanding options here, you might consider branching out into some other tools, as well. Tools like Edji allow for collaborative highlighting, and Vialogues allows for collaborative note-taking on videos. Explore additional options in related AVID Open Access articles: Integrate Digital Focused Note-Taking Strategies and Tools, Incorporate Strategies for Critical Reading and Digital Marking of Text, and Incorporate Strategies for Critical Viewing of Video and Digital Images.

Project Management

This is an often overlooked aspect of collaboration, but it is critical. Group members need to know their responsibilities and where the group is at on their project development. These tools help a group work together more efficiently and effectively. Groups will need to determine a tracking system that works best for them.

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