Thursday, September 25, 2014

Reflective Teacher Day 25: Student collaboration

     To get your students to collaborate, you first have to set the environment up to make that happen. While this is true of any collaboration, it is especially true for students in a learning environment. They are not used to this type of process in a school. Sure sure. They are used to group work where maybe two people do all the work and the others do nothing and everyone gets the same grade. No, true collaboration is a shared process where everyone comes together to share ideas and to solve a problem. So, what does this look like in a classroom? Here are my thoughts...
     First how you arrange the room is a simple start. I also think it sends a message to students. Traditional rows and rows of desks, while practical, tells students that the teacher is the only one that is delivering the material and talking to their peers is frowned upon. When you simply arrange them in such a manner that it makes it easier for students to talk to one another, (groups of four or five) then they get the idea that it is not only okay to talk to each other, but that perhaps this will be the focus of the class in general.
     Collaboration not only requires a face to face approach, but I also think the addition of technology can make a huge difference in collaboration. Having students all have a device makes life easier. I love that our district is headed towards becoming a one to one school with students all having the same device that they can take home. It's great to have a set of Chromebooks to work with, but when they can take it home and it's theirs to use, that makes a huge difference. There are so many digital tools for students to collaborate together that they don't even have to be in the same room while they are doing it!
     For example, Google Drive is a great way for students to continue the process of collaboration while they are at home or after school. I love Google by the way so if I gush, please forgive my company crush. If you don't know Google allows the students to work on the same document at the same time even when they are not together in school. They can see each other editing the document and can even chat on the side while working. I have seen them do this in class and it was great to see the collaboration back and forth. I have seen them divide tasks, share ideas and make changes as a group. In an ideal world, you would see more of this but with more student-motivated desire rather than a compliance with teacher assignments.
     In an ideal situation, students would want to take the collaboration beyond the classroom and be motivated to use other means of collaboration like Twitter, Facebook, and other social media like they do when making plans for the weekend. They would even begin to collaborate with people in the outside world to get feedback and help on whatever they are working on. Think about when you collaborate with your colleagues and how that makes you want to do more of that. Can you imagine having students want this as well? The would be awesome....

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