Etherpad – collaborative note taking

EtherPad logo

Etherpad is a real-time, collaborative note taking tool.   It requires no sign-in or installation.
It’s a good example of less is more:  using your browser, you create a simple, temporary web page and send the link to your students.  They then join in writing.

In my experience, this can be a great time saver.  I recently attended an hour-long training session were we wasted fifteen minutes getting everybody logged into Google Docs.

Regarding the less: formatting is minimal, inactive pages are quickly deleted and there is no security.

The security issue is worth considering.  It is possible that a stranger could vandalize your lesson.  If you create a cryptic URL, it’s not likely, I think.  I used Etherpad for a study group in graduate school and, even after a 12 weeks, no outsider found our discussion.  If you create a page for a lesson or short unit, I think it is extremely unlikely that anyone would bother you.   Just be aware that this could happen.

If one of your own students vandalizes the page, there is a time slider to restore past versions.

Etherpad has the standard export options if you need a record of the class/session.   An inactive page gets deleted fairly quickly. (a good feature, IMHO.)  If you are creating a permanent on-line document, Google Docs or a wiki is a better tool.

Etherpad was acquired by Google and then released as open-source (thank you!), so there are a number of sites which offer it by other names and variations. The history is here.

Here are a few free sites using Etherpad software:

The source code is here although I’m not sure why a librairy would want to install their own – inside an intranet, maybe?

Tool: Etherpad
Description: on-the-fly, collaborative note taking
License: free and open-source.
Alternatives: Google Docs, wikis
Rating: very useful

5 comments on “Etherpad – collaborative note taking

  1. Pingback:Writer — non-hassle word processor in the cloud « Craig Hallman's Open Libraries Blog

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  3. Craig_H

    Unfortunately, OpenEtherPad seems to be defunct.

    is working very nicely.

    Knowning Mozilla, it should stay supported for a long time.

    BTW, I have explored a lot of collaborative note-taking software programs and services since this original post and EtherPad is still my #1 recommendation for collaberative note taking.

    It sets-up in a flash and just works.

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