Fostering Meaningful Peer Collaboration with Digital Tools

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It is literally true that you can succeed best and quickest by helping others to succeed. —Napoleon Hill

We believe in students learning from and with each other, but effective collaboration rarely takes place in most schools. Students rarely want to share their work and have peers critique it. They don’t tend to get excited about peer editing or group work.

Outside of school, the scenario is quite different. Everyday, millions share the narratives of their lives through written words, images, music, audio, and video they post on various social networks. They eagerly crave  feedback in the form of likes, retweets, mentions, reblogs, and tags. The trend is to be more social and participatory and the web is evolving swiftly with new technologies, apps, tools, and trends to enhance these experiences. It’s time we tapped into the potential of these developments to engage our students in meaningful collaboration, research, and writing.

Collaboratively Creating eTextbooks

This year, I co-developed the Crafting the ePerfect eTextbook EVO Session. This is a 5 week free course for teachers that is taking place NOW till February 16th. Participants create the beginnings of a digital textbook that meets their students’ needs. They receive feedback, tips, and support from over 400 teachers worldwide as well as our 15 moderators- Lindsay Clandfield, Chuck Sandy, Özge Karaoglu, Jason Levine (Fluency MC), Jennifer Verschoor, Janet Bianchini, Sylvia Guinan, Debora Tebovich, André J. Spang, Jackie Gerstein, Terry Freedman, Jake Duncan, Dave Guymon, and Rubena St. Louis. Find out more by joining the Google Community, This is only the first week so you can still participate and receive a certificate.

Fostering Effective Peer Feedback and Collaboration

We are using Google tools and apps to foster meaningful collaboration and peer feedback. Teachers can use the same process to engage students in meaningful collaboration, research, and writing. The video below demonstrates our peer feedback and collaboration process using Google tools.

Recommended Google Tools and Apps

Google tools and apps are incredibly useful for improving students’ writing, research, and collaboration. These are a few shown in the video.

  • Google Communities- Participants can share videos, images, links, & more. They can edit their posts and include hashtags to organize information. You can create threads to categorize posts.
  • Google HangOuts- Up to 10 can collaborate through voice and video. They can screen share and create/edit documents, presentations, audio, and so much more. If you choose, record the meeting. When you end the broadcast, the video automatically goes to your Youtube channel. Students will love the fun features, such as making themselves into a meme or dressing themselves in virtual hats, ties, crowns, and other accessories. 
  • Google Drive- 15 gb free, create documents, presentations, spreadsheets, and forms. Integrate apps and scripts that allow you to do so much more like grade with a rubric, add voice feedback, draw, or calculate grades quickly.
  • Kaizena app– leave voice feedback
  • Goobric– a script that allows you to grade essays quickly with a rubric.
  • Research- this feature is located in your Google Doc under Tools. Find creative common resources to use, research scholarly articles, and cite in MLA/APA/Chicago style.

Our participants have been separated into peer groups. Each peer group has Peer Group Leaders. They are encouraged to meet up and critique their work weekly through Google HangOuts on Air sessions. This is the document we have provided them.

I invite you to participate in our session and experience the process. Even if you do not want to create a digital textbook, you could learn how to use various powerful tools to engage your learners in meaningful collaboration and peer editing.


Try one of these tools this year to foster peer collaboration and feedback.

If you enjoyed these ideas, you may want to get your copy of The 30 Goals for Teachers or my $5.99 ebook, Learning to Go, which has digital/mobile activities for any device and editable/printable handouts and rubrics. Subscribe for FREE to receive regular updates!

Shelly Terrell

Shelly Sanchez Terrell (@ShellTerrell) is an award winning digital innovator, an international speaker/consultant, and the author of Hacking Digital Learning with EdTech Missions, The 30 Goals Challenge for Teachers, and Learning to Go. She has trained teachers and taught English language learners in over 20 countries as an invited guest expert by organizations, like the US Embassy, UNESCO Bangkok, Cultura Inglesa of Brazil, the British Council in Tel Aviv, IATEFL Slovenia, HUPE Croatia, ISTEK Turkey, and Venezuela TESOL. She has been recognized by several organizations and publications as a leader in the movement of teacher driven professional development as the founder and organizer of various online conferences, Twitter chats, and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Two of the projects she co-organized were shortlisted for ELTons, #ELTChat and the Virtual Round Table Language and Technology online conference. She was named Woman of the Year by the National Association of Professional Women, awarded a Bammy Award as a founder of #Edchat, and named as one of the 10 Most Influential People in EdTech by Tech & Learning. Her greatest joy is being the mother of baby Savannah and Rosco the pug. Shelly has an Honors BA in English with a Minor in Communication and a specialization in Electronic Media from UTSA, a Masters in Curriculum Instruction ESL from the University of Phoenix, and a CELTA from CELT Athens. She regularly shares her tips for effective technology integration via Twitter (@ShellTerrell),, and on her blog,, which has won several awards and recognitions as one of the top ESL, Edtech and Elearning blogs. Find over 400 of her slide presentations at


  1. Hi Shelly, my name is Allison Sells and I am taking EDM510, a graduate level educational media class, at the University of South Alabama. I have read many of your post and watched a webinar that you participated in dealing with using digital tools to communicate with your students and to enhance the classroom. In this class I have been required to blog weekly and to connect globally with other students. I have been reading your blog for the last weeks and I have posted a summary of what I have read to my blog. We have also participated in many collaborative projects with class members. The tool that we use the most is Google Drive. I have found it very easy to use and very effective in allowing a group to add to and edit a project. Our professor is also able to see who did what parts of the project. We had one group meeting on Google Hangouts. This was a trial and error attempt that was only somewhat successful for the whole group and we have not really had time to do it again. I think that communicating with students the way that they are already doing ot after school is a great way to connect with them. I agree with you that using digital tools for student collaboration will help to encourage students to share and enhance their learning experience. While I believe that Google Drive is the best tool for students to use. Our public school system in Mobile COunty does not support Google through the campus internet. What do you think is a tool that is the most comparable to Google Docs that would be best for project collaboration? Thank you so much for sharing all of your ideas. I have gained so much great information that I will take with me into my own classroom after graduation.

  2. Hi Shelly,I really enjoyed reading your post on encouraging peer collaboration with the use of digital tools.You are so right that it is difficult to get students to collaborate on projects or group work mainly because there is that fear that one or two persons may end up doing the bulk of the work while others in the group slacken off which could jeopardize everyone’s grades.So many students do not like collaborations but in my experience when technology is involved all of the students are more eager to participate in these group work and the finishing products are always creative masterpieces.
    By allowing the students to use their creativity and skills to develop History timelines using Prezi,educational videos using Animoto and digital storybooks using MyHistro are just some of the innovative technological tools to help students to collaborate in meaningful ways in the classroom. Also thank you for the recommended Google tools and apps that we can use to enhance learning. I will try the Google HangOuts and Google Communities because I am always looking for new tools that will improve my delivery of information to my students.I learned a lot from your post that I will be trying out this summer before I get back to back.

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