I have often wondered whether to use Office Live, or not! I tried it a couple of years ago with my Yr10 pupils and it just didn’t work for them. They would not upload stuff on the share workspace and some complained they couldn’t access the resources I uploaded, or could not log in. So, I gave up for a season, until a few months ago when I created a PowerPoint Template for my Yr 12 Students to use to create a massive mind map on various aspects of Quantum Phenomena and EM Radiation. I designed the template using PPTplex, a PowerPoint plug-in that allows you to view your slides as if they were part of a canvas. You can then use the buttons and scroll on your mouse to zoom in and out of each slide (see my previous blog about it)
The result was that each pupil in yr 12 was assigned a topic and turn that into a mind map on a single slide. Thanks to the zooming features of PPTplex there was no concern about the font size and students could, therefore, fit as much information as they wanted in their mind map. Each slide was a new central concept within a much larger mind map whose template I designed in the background view to include all the pupils’ slides and show how each topic linked with each other! This way they could all work at the same mind map presentation and that saved the hassle to have to collect all their work and paste it in a single presentation afterwards. In addition, it allowed the students to use the amazing features of Office 2007, like smart arts and PPTplex and create really nice and visual mind maps!
So, did it all work so smoothly? Well, we live in the real work! I already knew about the problem of not being able to work simultaneously on the same file. If someone is currently working on one file another user can only open it as a read only. This takes away all the collaborative nature of sharing documents online, doesn’t it? No doubt, tools like Google Docs and Google Wave allow a much superior real time collaboration, but the tools provided by Google Presentations are quite limited compared to the range of features of PowerPoint 2007, which allows the user to create much more versatile and professional looking presentations, as example of which is PPTplex. Some students could not download the Presentation and work on it and one pupil experienced the frustration of not being able to edit the presentation because another student was working on it at the same time. Thankfully, he was quick enough to think of saving it with another name, make his changes and then cut and paste onto the Office Live shared presentation later.
So, is Office Live a useless online collaborative environment? I believe it’s far from that, because of the reasons I explained above. If they could merge the awesome features of Office 2007 with the collaborative power of Google Docs, or even better, Google Wave, that would come close to perfection. But we live in the real world where live can sometimes mean “wait a minute I am rebooting” and collaboration sometimes means “Well you both wrote on the same spot, so I won’t show any of it at all!”
What so you think? Please, leave a comment!