Monday, December 19, 2011

21st Century Skills: Collaboration

Collaboration is not a new concept in the workforce. People work in teams in every profession yet most of the work done in schools is focused on individual productivity. And while that is an important skill, employers have been pointing out that we need to do more in education to produce an individual who can be self-sufficient but who can also work as part of a team. And bare in mind that the team might never meet in the same country, let alone in the same room.

In the 21st Century, we need students to be able to:

• Work effectively and efficiently with diverse teams on a common goal.

• Be flexible and willing to compromise

• Share responsibility for collaborative work and respect others' work in the project.

I spent 15 years as a classroom teacher and I know the immediate "red flag" that pops up when we start talking about "group work" is the concern of one person shouldering all of the responsibility and doing all the work. This is a real and reasonable concern. Technology can help facilitate collaboration and lessen this concern more than ever before. Web 2.0 applications are being developed to specifically meet collaborative needs, and within most of these applications is the ability to see a revision history. This allows the teacher to see who did what parts of the final product. This isn't "a silver bullet" (as the blog title says) in that you can't be 100% certain that a student didn't just login and have his older brother do the work. We can't guarantee that with any homework we assign, however.

So what technology is out there to help facilitate collaboration? Here is a short, yet powerful, list:

Technology Tools To Support Collaboration

Google Apps - Google is synonymous with collaboration. Everything one can create in Google Apps (documents, spreadsheets, presentation, drawings, forms, etc.) were meant to be shared and collaborated on easily.

Prezi - An engaging presentation tool that makes PowerPoint look archaic. Multiple users can work on the same "prezi."

Skype - Video communication where many classes have begun to share and work together.

Evernote - Online note-taking application that allows one to share notes.

• Wikis  - These can be created in many applications. I use either Google Docs or Wikispaces

Wall Wisher  - online "Sticky Note" application great for brainstorming.

Lino  - online "Sticky Note" application great for brainstorming.

Instructional Strategies To Support Collaboration

• Cooperative Learning
• Jigsawing
• Discussion Boards
• Partners: Think/Pair/Share, Tell/ReTell

Remember, we need not replace the individual work with group work, but find places within the curriculum to utilize collaboration. Don't reinvent the wheel...find existing projects and modify them slightly to be more collaborative. It is easier than you might think!

Have a happy day!

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