We all know that collaboration is key to student learning, this is why the standard classroom with desks in rows facing the front of the room is becoming extremely outdated and tiresome. However, we need to look past the classroom and consider how our students can collaborate when they are not in the same room as one another. Is it possible for our students to learn from one another when they live in a different country? Yes, of course it is! With the advances in the Internet nearly anything is possible!
The most well known online collaboration tool is Google. You can write papers, make presentations, engage in video conversations, etc. all with the use of Google. Google Drive is an extremely common tool used to make presentations and papers by students of any grade. It is extremely convenient that the entire group can be in a different location and yet still working on one document together. In this class, we have recently used Google Hangout as a way to engage in video conversation with each other. Google Hangout allows up to 10 people to engage in a video conversation and up to 100 in text conversation. This really expands the possibilities of collaboration. Why shouldn’t my SCI 10 or CHEM 20 class engage in conversation with another class in the city, province, country, continent, world?! Take a moment to consider the experience we could provide our students by allowing them to work with students from another school on a project, or at the very least engage in conversation with them about a topic being taught in class. This provides an exciting learning experience for students using technology.
Google is a fantastic resource that provides endless possibilities to collaboration outside the classroom, but there must be more, right?
Of course there is. Backchannelling is another resource that could be used in the classroom. I have never personally used this in my classroom, but I have been a part of professional learning sessions where it was used. Greg Miller and Crystal Lothian used a backchannelling forum called TodaysMeet in the session they held at SWATCA 2013. They had two reasons for using this tool 1) To show us teachers its uses so we could decide if it was a tool we would use in the future and 2) To allow participants to ask questions at any point, which they would respond to at a time they deemed appropriate. This worked well because they had two presenters, while one was talking the other could be reviewing the questions posted. Crystal also discussed the uses of this tool while she showed her class a video. Each student would have a laptop and while the movie was being played, students would answer various questions on the stream. This made students learning visible and opened it up for discussion after the movie, it also cuts back on the use of paper. The teacher, to ensure students are remaining on task, can monitor the feed throughout the movie.
I have used the web-based tool Polleverywhere before in my classes and have experienced a lot of success. Students are engaged in the questions that I am asking them and they love the fact that they get to use their cellphones to text in their answers. In this module we looked at Socrative as another teaching tool. Although I feel Polleverywhere and Socrative are very similar, Socrative provides a few additional tools to engage students. This includes the Space Race, where students are randomly assigned to teams and as they answer questions, their spaceship moves towards the finish line. This is a great tool for upper elementary and perhaps lower junior high grades, however I am not sure it would be all that well received at the high school level. Perhaps one of the most useful options in Socrative is its ability to track student’s answers. It is possible for the teacher to know which students answered which questions correctly. This allows the teacher to provide more effective feedback to students and can be used to guide instruction to differentiate learning to help meet each students needs. Below is a short clip that shows how easy this is for teachers (Socrative, 2011).
A final tool worth mentioning is Dropbox, which allows students to share files in the cloud. Goodwill Community Foundation (2013) defines the cloud as the Internet; it is nothing more than a network of servers. Basically, it allows you to access your files using the Internet from anywhere. Dropbox is a common storage tool used that is based in the cloud. However, Copy is a new competitor that offers more ten times more storage than Dropbox when you sign up. This offers students more flexibility in what they share with one another; it is far easier to share large video or picture files via Copy than Dropbox. We know that in the 21st century it is all about convenience, which is provided by Copy over Dropbox in this case. If in your classroom you want students to collaborate with one another on large files, then Copy might be better than Dropbox! However, the drawback to both of these tools is that only one person may edit the piece of work at one time, eaily. Dropbox will create a “conflicted copy” so that no work is lost (Dropbox, n.d.). This becomes a much greater headache than just using something as simple as Google Docs.
The point? You need to evaluate the purposes of using these technologies in your classroom and determine which will meet your students needs the best.
Dropbox. (n.d.). What’s a conflicted copy? Retrieved July 15, 2013 from https://www.dropbox.com/help/36/en
Goodwill Community Foundation. (2013). What is the cloud? Retrieved on July 15, 2013 from http://www.gcflearnfree.org/computerbasics/extra/82
Socrative. (2011). Socrative video introduction. Retrieved July 15, 2013 from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XYURj1QU0Ls