Collaboration in the Classroom

We all want our students to collaborate. We want to promote social interactions between them and we want them to be able to work together effectively; that’s part of what it means to be a 21st century learner, right?

I think that when it comes to technology, though, we should walk a fine line on how we present it. The website Todays Meet is basically an anonymous online IM (Instant Messaging) software, which is fine for chatting, but without anything else going for it, I don’t really see many applications for it in the classroom. A teacher isn’t going to (or probably shouldn’t) type out all of their lecture notes for a class in batches of 140 characters or less, and wouldn’t it ultimately be easier for students to simply ask a question out loud than take the time to type it out? (Especially if that student takes a while to type: by the time the question is asked, you could be on to an entirely new topic.) If it were being used as a means to teach an online class, then maybe there would be more applications, but as it is simply a basic IM program, I feel like it’s better used for social activities rather than any form of social learning.

Then there’s the ever-classic, Google Drive. Students can work on papers and assignments together, at the same time, from two computer, ANYWHERE? What’s not to love, really?

I hadn’t heard of Socrative before, but I’m thoroughly impressed and intrigued by what I’ve seen now. Unlike Todays Meet, it’s more than just an IM software. There are options for quiz questions of varying types and it gives immediate feedback to the students upon answering. A teacher can lecture or be presenting a lesson and give students questions for them to answer anonymously and immediately. This is something that I’ve been wanting to make use of ever since having clickers be introduced to me in university courses. The principle is the same: everyone has something that can allow them to respond to a digital question that’s been presented at the front of the room and once everyone has answered or time is up, then a graphic is presented that shows the number of people that answered in certain ways. I love this idea and it’s something I’m going to give a try in my PSIII.

Another one that I really like is the idea of video games in the classroom. One of my favourites is Minecraft because of the ultimate power in terms of creativity. It’s called a sandbox game because you can build pretty much whatever you want in it to suit your needs. I’d recommend checking out http://www.minecraftedu.com if you’re interested in more, but having students work together to solve problems and overcome challenges in a video game? They already do that at home. Why not take advantage of that interest at school too?

I don’t feel like I have much more to say on this, honestly. Like I said, we want students to collaborate, but I think we should be wary of forcing collaboration online when it would be just as, or even more usefully done in real life, with voices and hands, etc. There may be more out-of-classroom application in some ways than there are for in-classroom ones, using online courses as an example.

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