I am completely sold on Etherpad. Today I used it in two ways, both with obvious success. Students were engaged, able to retain information without being distracted, and thinking progressed at a high level. Perspective, empathy, and self-knowledge were all revealed during the discussions.
Inner Outer Circle
The outer circle used the left hand side to summarize and formulate BIG questions. It used the chat function to carry on dialogue about what was happening in the middle. I could monitor the chat to make sure people were involved, and understanding what was being said. I would periodically stop and let the outer circle summarize what they were hearing from the inner circle, and to give the inner circle participants the collective thoughts and ideas of the outer circle participants.
After both groups participated inside and outside of the circle, I then gave the participants a chance to affirm or to “argue” with the summary that was created about them by others. Uniformly, they were impressed with the summary, saying that others had heard them correctly.
Then I asked them to formulate an upper level thinking question that was still left unanswered, and to answer it. The focused concentration was amazing as students worked hard to answer the question posed by them! And they can see what others are saying as they themselves answer the question.
Finally, we posted both the chat and the summary/written response onto our class-created site. What a lesson! Again, I cannot say enough about the positive effect of etherpad on the class.
Another use of Etherpad. In Cultural Studies class, we used Etherpad to collaborate in creating subheadings.
Directions for subheadings are as follows: (1) As you read, pay close attention to the subheadings of the chapter; (2) As you read, take notes on the specific details in the subsection; (3) Use these notes to turn the subheading into a complete sentence that expresses the main idea of that subsection; (4) The subheading must be included as part of the sentence; (5) After reviewing the sentences you have written, return to the section heading and make a complete sentence from the section title that expresses the main idea of the entire section, and; (6) After completing the chapter, turn the chapter title into a complete sentence that expresses the main idea of the entire chapter.
The classwork is on display at Chapter 10, Lesson 5 Subheadings.