Etherpad is a really clever little web based tool, which allows you to create a pad – which is like a web based document, but where multiple people can edit it at the same time (this is diferent to a wiki, where only one person can edit at any one time).
To create an Etherpad go to their website http://etherpad.com/ and click on the orange button – this will generate a pad for you, and all you need to do is email the web address to the people you want to collaborate with, and off you go. If you want to take it a step closer and have a URL that means something, then add your own text to the end of the http://etherpad.com address – and as long as no-one else has this then you are away.
How can this be used –
Planning activites – I have used this for planning activities with other people, as it colour codes who edits what, it is easy to see who is doing what. It doesn’t matter if you edit it at the same time or seperate times – it works well both well.
Supporting Phone or Skype calls – I was having a Skype call with someone trying to arrange a timetable for a training event we were jointly running. We created the programme in Etherpad, and then collaboratively edited it as we were talking.
Collaborative note taking – if you have a room full of learners taking notes, some of them may miss something. If they work in small groups so they all take notes but into the same Etherpad then there is less chance of things being missed, as well as the chance to get other peoples views on what it being learnt.
And there must be many many more uses, which only our imagination can limit us.
So how do they make money – you can pay to have a premium account, with this you can make your pads secure (with the free version, your pad is in the public domain, so anyone that finds that pad, can view and edit it), so I hope that they can make enough money from this mechanism to allow them to keep the free service open for us that want to use. Obviously we need to be aware that the free pads are open to the World, so not a good idea to use for sensitive information – and in certain situations, once the pad has served its purpose, I have deleted the contents.
All in all though a very neat little tool.