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Collaborative Learning

“Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” – Vince Lombardi

At its heart, traditional collaboration is about grouping individuals to work on a common task so that their fates are intertwined. The strengths of one benefit all in the group, and through having our fates intertwined we learn to work together and capitalize upon our individual abilities. In the largest, most general sense, this is true in every case. However, technology is a prism that separates collaboration into various hues.

Collaboration can now involve communication tools like E-mail or Instant Messaging. Online discussion boards become a place for ideas to be born, evolve, mature or dissapear.

Collaboration can be done in “real time” despite geography. Free video conferencing tools like Skype or iChat allow for people in different places to converse face-to-face.

Document repositories like Student DocuShare allow for organization and order to be made of the various digital resources created when everyone is working different aspects of the same project.

There are online tools like Diigo and NoodleBib that allow for shared annotation and bookmarking of websites, that can flow neatly into bibliographies at the bottom of a Google Doc with sharing turned on so that many can contribute to a single document – editing and revising as the document is being written, whether the students are sitting beside each other in a classroom, or in separate living rooms across town.

Tools like “Wikis” allow all members of a group equal ownership of a single published document, each person contributing a smaller piece of a larger puzzle.

Publishing work on the web opens the door to continued learning after the “final draft” of a piece of work through the comments left by peers or the general public. The idea of collaboration is never purer than when strangers expand each other’s ideas in this way.

Without technology present, collaboration might look like partners or small groups working together on an assignment. With technology present you have to ask yourself the question – what will the gadgets we have access to allow students to do that they would be unable to do without them?

In this internet age, collaboration with technology should introduce the ability for students to interact with people outside of their circle of acquaintance. Beyond the classroom, across grade levels, outside of the building if possible. (via Nicole Badgely, Arnold, NE)

When assessing the impact of collaboration you should hold the completed work to the same rigor you would if it were done by an individual. However, collaborative skills as described by the Parntnership for 21st Century Skills show that students:

  • Demonstrate ability to work effectively and respectfully with diverse teams
  • Exercise flexibility and willingness to be helpful in making necessary compromises to accomplish a common goal
  • Assume shared responsibility for collaborative work, and value the individual contributions made by each team member

Posted in My Thoughts.


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