What is Collaborative Writing?

Collaborative Writing refers to written works that are created together (collaboratively) by multiple authors. Through collaborative writing community-generated documents and databases are created. Sometimes an editor or an editorial team oversees the work. But many grow without any of this top-down oversight. [Wikipedia. The Free Encyclopedia, Karjaluoto 2008]

Characteristics of Collaborative Writing

  • People work collaboratively on a "document" in an online environment.
  • People jointly compose the complete text of a document.
  • People contribute components to the document.
  • They modify by editing or reviewing the document.

Google Docs is a good tool for Collaborative Writing. If you want to create an online resource together --like a website-- a wiki is very useful.

The educational potential of Collaborative Writing

  • Support collaborative and participative learning.

Application scenarios in education

  • Develope a project collaboratively.

Scenario 1: Maintaining a Terminology Dictionary

  • At the beginning of the course (term) the teacher prepares in GoogleDocs an empty blank containing a Term and a Description fields.
  • The teacher shares the document with the students. It is comfortable when all of them participate in the same dedicated Google Group
  • During the school year the students fill in the new studied terms and their descriptions.
  • Periodically the teacher checks the document and its history and (if it is needed) review the students records. He discuss the mistakes and checks the level of understanding of added terms

Scenario 2: Peer Evaluation

The scenario is suitable for high grades students. It helps for development the critical thinking, analytical thinking and self-evaluation skills of the students.
  • Background: Students work individually or in small groups on the project. They know in advance the evaluation criteria.
  • At the end students prepare the presentation of the results.
  • The teacher creates a Google form, containing fields for quantity evaluation the coverage of the criteria and for qualitative argumentation of the proposed score
  • Just before the presentation of students projects the teacher provides the URL address of the evaluation form to them
  • Each student evaluates the presented project and submit a form (one for each project including the own one)
  • The teacher generates a summary report and sends it to each team.
  • The whole class discussed the proposed scores and other’s comments
  • Each team/student present the conclusions and ideas for improvement of the result based on the received peer feedback.

Scenario 3: Writing a translation

Translating takes a lot of time. Working on a translation as a team is inspiring because it shows results faster.
  • Choose the text according to the abilities of your students. Examples: Several poems, a short story, a short novel.
  • Give each student a page on the class-wiki (or a google-doc) where he/she writes the translation
  • Peers read each others translations and discuss them in class. If the class is large, make small groups and only discuss certain translation problems in class.
  • It is always inspiring to publish the product if possible. Make a podcast and print it on a cd, publish the texts in magazines or make your own book.

Scenario 4: Easy writing in a foreign language

Make writing in a foreign language fun by using twitter:
  • Divide your class into groups of 4-6 students.
  • Ask the students to write a story by twittering alternately in their groups. Give them about two weeks time.
  • Ask one of the students to moderate the group and another student to send you the story when it is finished.
  • If the students use a hashtag for their story, it will be easier to follow.

Tools and services for Collaborative Writing

Google Docs, EtherPad, EduPad
Wikispaces, PB Wiki, Wetpaint, MoinMoinWiki, MediaWiki, dokuwiki

How Collaborative Writing works

Google Docs - Video Tutorial


Collaborative Writing

Farkas, D. K. (1991). Collaborative Writing, Software Development, and the Universe of Collaborative Activity. In Harry M. Lay and William M. Karis (Eds.) Collaborative Writing in Industry: Investigation in Theory and Practice, (p. 13-30). Amityville, NY: Baywood.