6 Ways Students Can Collaborate With iPads

The app store is loaded with options that allow students to create content on their iPads. From comic strip creators to mind maps, video editing and publishing, screencasting & digital books, the options for individual student creation are expanding.

However, collaboration between students is often a critical component of any classroom activity or project and increasingly there are options available that allow for collaborative efforts across iPads.

Below are six ways to support collaboration between student iPads that cover the spectrum of creation options that range from text to digital storytelling to video creation.

Explain Everything ($2.99)

A flexible and powerful screen casting option, students and teachers can collaborate on screencasts by exporting Explain Everything project files from an iPad. Students working in groups can have one group member work on a portion of the screencast and can export the .XPL file for another student to download and “open in” Explain Everything on their iPad.

Currently, .XPL (Explain Everything) files can be exported via Dropbox, Evernote, Box, WebDAV and email and the next update of Explain Everything will support .XPL exports to Google Drive.
Once exported to a shared folder online, the .XPL file can be “opened in” Explain Everything and new content can be added to the original screencast.
With the upcoming update to Explain Everything, .XPL files can also be merged into one project. This feature will allow students to create a portion of a screencast and upload the .XPL file to a shared folder online. Later, all of the project files can downloaded and combined on one iPad by merging the separate project files into one screencast. The final, merged files can then be exported as a compressed movie to YouTube.
In addition to student collaboration, a teacher can check on the progress of the student creation by viewing the .XPL file on an Apple computer by downloading the Explain Everything player from the Mac App Store. This allows the teacher to view the screencast without the student having to compress and export the project as a movie file from their iPad.

Google Drive (Free)

Prior to the release of Google Drive, collaboration on Google Documents on an iPad was a tedious and frustrating experience. Within the Google Drive app, students can now create folders, documents and spreadsheets that can all be shared and collaborated on in real time directly from an iPad. In addition to creating and sharing Google Documents, Google Drive now also supports the “open in” function on the iPad. PDF files can now be uploaded to a shared folder from an iPad to Google Drive. Students working in collaborative groups now have the ability to create not only a Google Document to collaborate on the writing process, but they can also upload PDF files to a collaborative folder. Students conducting collaborative research can convert web based articles and blog posts to PDF documents using Printfriendly, edit the PDF in a PDF annotation app such as Notability and can then upload the document directly to Google Drive.

BookCreator ($4.99)

Book Creator has been the standard for eBook creation on an iPad for quite some time. Now, with the recent update to the app, collaboration is possible between students or between an entire class. One student can begin working on an eBook in Book Creator and can export the file to a number of online storage platforms including Google Drive, Dropbox and Box. Another student with access to a shared folder within one of these platforms now has the option to download the original file and “open in” Book Creator. Further, multiple Book Creator files can now be merged on an iPad to create one final eBook from multiple iPads. All students can now contribute to a class eBook, upload their segment to a shared folder online and the teacher can download, “open in” Book Creator and combine the files into one collaborative class effort. The final book can then be published online as a PDF or ePub file.

iPad Camera, iMovie & Dropbox ($4.99)

Creating and editing video using iMovie on an iPad is typically a process conducted on one iPad by one student or a group of students working on one device. However, students have the ability to export iMovie projects to the camera roll and upload video from the iPad camera roll to a shared Dropbox folder. Once that video is uploaded to a shared folder, it can be favorited within the Dropbox app by clicking on the small star icon. Once the file is favorited, it can be downloaded to the camera roll. This process now allows students to collaborate asynchronously on a video project. When combined with iMovie, the video creation process can become a collaborative effort. One student who is beginning the process can create in iMovie and export their portion to the iPad camera roll. Once exported, the video file can be uploaded to Dropbox from within the Dropbox app. When the file is favorited within Dropbox, the option to save the video to the photo library will be available. The video can then be imported into iMovie on another iPad for further work and editing. This solution works well for a collaborative effort where multiple students are simply using the built in iPad camera to shoot video. The video footage from multiple devices can then be uploaded to a shared Dropbox folder, favorited and downloaded on one iPad for the final editing process in iMovie.

Subtext (free)

A free iPad app that supports collaborative reading. With a strong focus on education, Subtext allows teachers to create private groups or classes within subtext where students can read collaboratively with their peers. The reading material can include public domain texts from Google Play and Feedbooks, any document in the ePub file format as well as web based articles that can be instantly converted from inside the app or by using the “Save to Subtext” bookmarklet. Teachers can now curate reading content for their class and students can read collaboratively by leaving questions, comments and insights into the reading. Teachers also have the ability to embed comments, questions or prompts within the ePub file that students can reply to while reading. ePub files can be created through a number of free platforms.

  • Pages (Mac) allows documents to be exported as ePub files
  • Online Convert allows documents to be converted to the ePub format.
  • Papyrus is a web based eBook creator that allows teachers to create custom ePub files from a combination of text and URLs.
  • Readlist allows ePub files to be created from a curated list of URLs.

There are also two upcoming updates to Subtext that will make this collaborative platform even more classroom friendly. Google Documents integration is coming soon. This will include one-tap acces to Google Docs, making it easier for teachers to create content from their existing lesson materials and easier for students to export excerpts or annotations to write papers or organize their study notes. Also, an assignment system is coming soon that will allow teachers to assign a page range and a series of Activities, assign a due date and monitor student submissions.

Diigo
While Diigo is typically used as a social bookmarking tool from a computer browser, there is an iPad Safari bookmarklet that can be installed that allows students to bookmark to a collective group directly from Safari on an iPad. A teacher can create a collaborative research group for a class where students can bookmark and annotate web based resources or current events articles related to their course content. Once the Diigo bookmarklet is installed students can quickly bookmark without having to leave Safari. This collaborative tool could also be used by students working on a group project where they could create their own small Diigo group, bookmark, annotate and collaborate on the research process. To view any bookmarks added by group collaborators, students must visit Diigo through Safari, not the Diigo iPad app.

Video Tutorial to install the Diigo Safari bookmarklet:

3 Comments

  1. Craig

    January 24, 2013 at 8:15 am

    I say this often, but besides the ability to collaborate on screencasts in Explain Everything, everything in this post could be done and done more easily on a laptop. I get frustrated by the lengths people go to in order to make iPads do what they want to do.

    • Greg Kulowiec

      January 24, 2013 at 8:17 pm

      Craig,

      A valid point indeed. I agree with you in some respects, but I would argue that along with the collaborative screencasting option, the ability to collaborate on digital texts through creation and reading is easier to accomplish on an iPad. I don’t see these examples as going to particularly strenuous lengths to make an iPad do what one wants. Instead, I see it as a way to make teachers and students aware of what is possible if they choose to go this route. Ultimately I think that whatever device is chosen by a student or school, the choice should be made first based on what the student / school wants to accomplish and then they can work backwards to find the best fit.

  2. sharon shmorak

    January 26, 2013 at 1:32 am

    If education is about sharing why use iPad and not open tools?