I’m a massive fan of Etherpad. Out of all the new tools that I have discovered and played with this year, none has had the impact of Etherpad when I have shown it to a group of teachers. Give them 5 minutes to play with the amazing collaborative writing space and you can see little light bulbs pop above their heads when they start to think about ways that it could be used with their class.
The greatest thing about it was that it was totally open. No need to registers, get passwords, share with other users etc. All of which can make using web2.0 tools with a class tricky. With Etherpad you could create a pad, and have users writing on it, within 60 seconds.
So it wasa great shock to read that Google had acquired Etherpad, and that they were going to close it down. The Etherpad tech was going to be incorporated into Google Wav, but Etherpad itself would be no more from next March.
This prompted a massive disturbance in the Force (ie Twitter) as if a million voices cried out in horror. Well OK. Not quite. But it did get a lot of edtech fans up in arms, and they all made their feelings known on the Etherpad blog.
I think Google were shocked by the response, and in a very fast turnaround announced that they will keep Etherpad as it is for now, and to try and make it open-source. So good news. For now. Let’s hope Etherpad, or something very similar, can continue.
I guess what this does highlight is the transient nature of teaching with Web 2.0 tools. Do not plan your lessons on a web tool that’s available now and rely on it always being available. Or being available for free. Make sure anything you create on these tools is backed up elsewhere and that you have a Plan B for those moments when that site you want to use is down. Or gone.