Blog Post

Tools for Classroom Collaboration

I attended todays "Collaboration by Difference" with Fiona Barnett and Cathy Davidson and was completely blown away by the opportunities for collaboration in a classroom setting. This was not the main topic of the seminar, but it was something that I thought about the entire time I was listening to the facilitators and the participants.

So, my question to you (whether you be HASTAC Scholars or just the interested public, like me) is what tools have worked best in a classroom setting? I know we all want to use the latest technologies in our classrooms but these are not always very effective--whether it is a lack of enthusiasm on the students' or even on the instructors' part. In any case, I want to know more about what tools you have used in a classroom and why (or why not) they worked. Today, some of the tools that were brought up (or thought of) were:

  • Comic book generators
  • Google docs
  • Collaborative Wikipedia articles
  • Prezi/Many Eyes presentations
  • Having your students visually present (ie. graph) their research
  • Blogs

I would love to know your thoughts as to which of these tools were successful and why. Also, I am always interested in new tools and in new ways to use the tools already provided. In general, I just want to create the most enriched classroom environment possible.



Hi, Zoe--Turns out this Friday Duke will host a forum on the Annotator for Comics that would be a great classroom tool: 

Visualization Friday Forum
Friday, February 24th noon-1pm in D106 LSRC
     Lunch will be served

Timeline Annotator for Comics

Lena Merhej, VisComX, Jacobs University, Bremen Germany

In the course of research on comics’ analysis, designing software that enables viewing and annotating comics proves to be efficient for accessing discreet and global aspects of narration in comics.  This presentation proposes a timeline annotator for comics. Its basic features are the annotation of a layered timeline and the multiple views of the same data. These features adjust to the structure of comics:  the frame, the page, the double page, and the network. The data is comics pages cut down to panels horizontally distributed on a timeline, constituted by customizable layers that one can annotate. Clustering of elements on the different layers is enabled to distinguish and reveal patterns and transformations. Again, several modes of viewing and annotating the data is proposed. The single panel reveals its elements, such as characters, comic bubbles and background, on individual layers. The page or the strip reveals the spatial configuration and the specific location of the panels, and the network reveals all the panels and the clustering in the timeline, allowing the analysis of the narration, the  focalization and the structure of the comics' stories.  An image of Lena's interface is attached.
The Visualization seminar series is a forum for faculty, staff and
students from across the university to share their research involving
the development and/or application of visualization methodologies.  Our
goal is to build an interdisciplinary community of visualization experts
whose combined knowledge can facilitate research and promote innovation.

The Friday Forum Spring 2012 Schedule is available at


This is, needless to say, incredibly interesting. 


Unfortunately, clicking on the link for the image of the interface we get a no authorized message. Is this closed access or is it a temporary error?


Hi Ernesto - I emailed the Visual Studies people and they fixed it. Lena Merhej's comic timeline image is here and more info on the Visualization Friday series is here.


Hi Fiona! Thanks a lot. Very interesting. :)


I just learned about this cool online tool, there is an edu version, but it costs money :( However, I'm sure the free version could still be useful for teaching:

And one of many online mind mapping tools:

I've use this really simple tool as a way for students to post their ideas and responses to a reading. I find it useful when I'm not necessarily looking to facilitate a centralized, online discussion, but rather an online brainstorm: