Thanks to Tommy Holt for spotting this and mentioning it on facebook!

Primary pad is an online synchronous editing tool – learners can access and edit the same document at the same time. This is the first tool I’ve come across that allows synchronous editing and as such is quite an exciting development!  It’s free and requires no registration, though “public pads” only last for 30 days, so longer term projects would require a sign up to the “professional” paid for version.

Take a look at it here:

There is a google docs presentation on the site by Simon Haughton, which lists five ways that you can use the tool – synonyms generation / sentence correction & development / online interviewing / task achievement identification / collaborative writing tasks.

I really like the idea of the collaborative writing task as it puts the learners in the positions of writer and reader at the same time, thus hopefully allowing for a peer teaching mode where good ideas are justified and bad ones discarded.  It could also work well with text organisation and structure as ideas would need to be grouped effectively and paragraphed.  I can see this being used with exam preparation classes a lot!

It would also be perfect for use with Grammar Dictation / Dictagloss tasks – if you’re not familiar with these, the basic premise is that the teacher has a short text (which can be littered with examples of the target language structure) that they read to the learners initially for a content reaction, then read again.  On the second reading the learners take notes on what was said.  They then try to recreate the text exactly as it was read out.  A common problem I find with this, is that the learners’ notetaking ability varies, and so different reconstruction pairs achieve the task with differing accuracy.  Bringing all the learners together to recreate the text using primary pad would solve this issue and might lead to a more effective collaboration and reconstruction of the target text!

Also, I like the idea of error correction tasks.  As it is a synchronous tool, learners could work together to correct a set of teacher generated sentences, before challenging each other by adding additional error strewn sentences to challenge each other with.  I really like asking learners to deliberately make errors – after all they have to know what the correct form is before they can make a deliberate error, and it can raise their awareness of incidental errors that creep in!

One further idea is in identifying the main ideas in a reading text.  Useful, again, for exam preparation classes, but with a target text uploaded onto the primary pad, learners can reach a mutual understanding of the text by discussing their ideas below it.

As far as I can work out, the system works with the teacher creating an initial “primary pad” and then simply sharing the URL.  So you just send all the other computers to the same web address and they should be able to simply get on with it!  And if they don’t finish in class, they can still access the primary pad from the comfort of their own home!  (for 30 days!).

Only one word of caution – it’s called “primary pad” – but personally, I think the “primary” is a bit misleading.  I can see chaos ensuing if this was used with a class of 24 six-year-olds…  and I’m not sure whether it’s bright and shiny enough for the younger end of the teaching spectrum!  But teenagers and adults could happily get into it and get a lot out of it.

It’s currently the Easter break with me, so no opportunity to use this with a class at the moment – any feedback from those of you who have tried it, and suggestions on what you did with it are gratefully received!


Other sites that do much the same thing:

A quick look through Larry Ferlazzo’s archive reveals The best online tools for real-time collaboration”:  where he lists primary pad alongside and and  Though pirate pad appears to be exactly the same as primary pad and typewithme.

Not used any of them – so again, any feedback appreciated!