More and more of our teachers are starting to dive into the collaboration method of teaching, doing PBL and having students work together on projects. There are a lot of skills developed when kids work collaboratively: Responsibility, Time Management; Cooperation with others and Trust. All of the skills learned through tools like this are needed in the workforce, not just in schools. There is a plethora of free web based tools that can be used to make collaboration work for schools.
One tool I came across that works very well for class collaboration is called Conceptboard. Concept board allows for internal chat, drag and drop of items and scribbling. There is the capabilities of brainstorming, collaborating and creating. I was thinking of using it as a PBL based project for my French classes. Students will divide into groups of two or three and do some virtual tours, do a vocabulary project or a historical project. I often get to a point when I am teaching where I am lost for ideas, but using something like this can make a very nice collaborative project. The great component, as a teacher, I can see all of the collaboration that happens. Who is involved the most, who is helping, who isn't doing anything. It will make grading easier.
I saw a teacher using this program in his History class to do projects about war. Each group researched wars, events leading to wars and also things that resulted from the wars. The outcome? The students were very well versed in the wars and learned more from their research than they would have from a lecture. Lecturing kids today isn't the best way they learn, letting them drive the learning impacts them much more. Something like conceptboard is a great way to do it.