Six years ago I was one of three people (two coordinators and the HoD) responsible for drafting weekly class tests for each module on English language training, across different levels. For uniformity purposes collaboration was vital. They contained speaking activities, listening activities, reading extracts, images, clip-art, and questions of varying format. However, collaboration was a nightmare. First, our time was taken up with different tasks in the normal day-to-day running of the ESL department. Second, when we could, we would work on our local PCs, back up on the flash drives, and then go into the local network’s shared drive to back up again and create a master copy. If one worked at home, the documents would be copied from a flash drive to the work PC, overwriting a previous copy, and then again placed on the shared drive, overwriting the master copy. When we all worked on these tests over the weekend, there we would be, on the first day of the week, trying to retrieve and edit the same master documents, but in turn, as only one person could access a particular master copy at a time.
Needless to say, the entire process was a mental battle, trying to establish which was the latest and final edit! In the end each task often ended up with multiple copies, and all three of us at a loss as to which was the actual copy to use. Not only would we have to ensure that the copy on the shared drive is the correct one, but all our local backups needed overwriting, as well as the documents of the flash drives. We realised that our collaboration was a shambles! As far as drafting final tests were concerned, it was all best left to one person, we decided. The downside was that that person was sent multiple emails (leading to new stress) with questions and suggestions for additions, and telephonic debates on the side. The whole process was stressful and was repeated weekly. Somehow we managed to get the tests issued on time every week, but only after many private hours spent by one person, at the weekend.
Has the above story rung a bell, or revived old unpleasant memories? Made you confused and exhausted? Good! Because it drives home my point on just how wonderful it is to have Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, Dropbox, OneNote and all the other programmes that allow effortless collaboration. Microsoft’s SkyDrive (now OneDrive) was available from about 2008, but cloud computing was a mystery to most of us, and those who were not techie-minded were adamant – they were not going that route.
Even our IT department was suspicious of the cloud, and consistently avoided any queries.
Dropbox was around soon after, but again, not widely used. Google Drive was only created in 2012, long after I left the ELT department. Had we have had those programmes and their current features, oh, our lives would have been made so much easier.
So averse was I to creating backups of backups of backups, that as soon as I began my course in 2010, I immediately turned to SkyDrive and Amazon Drive. When Google Drive arrived, it quickly became the popular choice. Today, documents can be created within these drives, shared, commented on, and collaborated on. No constant backing up and transporting of flash drives. It is safe…in the cloud. 😀 (Indeed, the onus is on the creator of the document to keep a back-up of his/her documents on site, but at least the documents and files on the cloud are not on a device that may drop, become damaged, corrupted, be mislaid, or anything else.) Truly wonderful. And now I can just about hear all those questions and comments regarding security and the cloud?! Haha, well after 6 years of using it privately, I would never, ever, NOT EVER, look back!
Earlier this year, as an intern in the school library, I was tasked with designing reading badges. These were digital images created with an online badge maker. To share them with the librarian would have resulted in countless emails containing rather large image files. Instead, I stored them on Google Drive, and shared each grade’s folder with her, automatically sharing the documents within. All she needed to do was to click on the link, open the folder, edit and/or save the file on her computer for printing. No pain. No flash drives. No back and forth emailing. The folders were downloaded onto her PC, organised according to grades, all ready to go.
Today, in the library where I volunteer, no-one seems to be using collaboration tools. It may be that their needs are different, but I have on multiple occasions wished I could give someone access to a document or form that I have created for the library, instead of having to email it as an attachment.
My favourite is Microsoft’s OneNote, which I use to take notes for both professional and private use, and create documents with to share with friends or family. It is user friendly, has multiple features, available on all devices, also allowing collaboration between different users. The writer of Rudai 23 Thing 16 has provided a super explanation of Google Drive and Doodle as collaboration tools. (I have made my entry into Thing 16’s Google Drive document, by the way. )
Cloud computing. Cloud collaboration. My personal thanks to the founders and developers of these software.
Thing 17 will be a reflective practice blog entry. Until then…cheers. 😀
Images: Featured image: collaboration by Laura Billings on Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0) Gifs from giphy.com; clipart from wpclipart.com. Image of Google docs by Steven Combs on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)