Canvases are online collaborative spaces built on the metaphor of a large canvas or or pinboards where participants can write text, post images, video and other graphical materials. These canvases usually allow participants to brainstorm by adding all sorts of media into the same space, or to participate in structured discussions where ideas are gathered and sorted afterwards or participants post answer to a number of specific questions. These questions can be structured in ways to help the group analyse a specific topic or problem. A SWOT analysis is one of the better known forms for such a structured discussion.
On this page we present a few such tools. Starting with Padlet which is probably the easiest to use, especially because it does not require log-in to edit. The others, Mural and Tuzzit require log-in from all users but offer a wider array of possibilities. Finally there are links to some collaborative drawing tools.
Padlet lets you create a digital noticeboard where you and your colleagues can write notes and upload documents, photos, slideshows, podcasts, films or links. Just drag and drop files on to the workspace. You can create lots of different spaces and share them with whoever you want, even publically.
- Collecting ideas, brainstorming
- Planning an activity or event
- Collecting everyone’s lecture or field work notes on one page
- Gathering the results of group work in a webinar and even including the webinar recording link, slideshow etc
The greatest benefit of using Padlet during a webinar is that participants do not need to log into the service. The meeting host only needs to post the link to the canvas to be used during the event and all participants can begin to use the canvas without any formalities.
We have often used Padlet to get groups in a room and online to post group work results on the canvas, together with posting links to useful material, thus creating a record of the event with participant input, presentations, slides, recordings of the event and links to further material.
Here’s a video showing how to use the main functions in Padlet:
Mural is another canvassing software which will not be specially treated here because it is only accessible through subscription, and all participants who participate need to login in order to participate in the work. However it merits a mention, because for small groups which work often together it has the benefits of functionality which is not available in the free tools. One of these is the possibility of answering structured questions on “post-it” notes or “Moderationskarten” (DE) and voting and ranking. Also a great number of structured canvasses which can ease the work for structured discussions.
More info on Mural
- Mural blog: Many interesting articles on ways to use Mural to collaborate with remote participants
- Tutorials: A few articles show you howt to…
- Mural Youtube Channel Introductions, tutorials and webinar recordings
- Tutorials etc on Youtube
Lino is another canvas for working with “sticky notes” online. Here is a blog post comparing Lino and Padlet
Drawing, sketching and whiteboarding tools
On a simmilar note as the canvassing tools mentioned above there are also tools which function on the metaphor of Whiteboards or sketchblocks
- Online Whiteboard and Collaboration – Scribblar.com
Seems to be a rather versatile sketching app, but it costs .
- Cacoo – Your ideas. Our canvas.
Free versatile sketching app, you can share diagrammes with a link. The free account allows collaboration with 15 not registered users.
- FlockDraw – Free Online Drawing Tool – Collaborative Group Whiteboard
This free app allows a group of people to draw together in real time. No need to sign up or sign in.
- Team WhiteBoarding with Twiddla – Painless Team Collaboration for the Web
Probably the most versatile tool in this list. It is free and offers various possibilities of writing and drawing together in real time over the net. No need to sign up or sign in.
More on collaboration
- Collaborative tools “Plain vanilla” On the collaborative tools built into most web conferencing systems
- Collaboration on documents Learn how to get participants to write together
- Collaboration on canvases Use canvases to offer totally unstructured or very structured collaboration
- Collaborative mind mapping Mindmaps can help participants structure their discussions on the run and give them a better overview of their ideas