What does it mean to be a collaborator? According to Google, a collaborator is “a person who works jointly on an activity or project” – strictly speaking, a person who works with one or more people (a collaborative enterprise) to achieve completion of a pursuit or particular aim.
For teachers and students alike, the definition stays unaltered. Teachers and students are engaged in constant collaboration throughout the school year as well as students among students and teachers among teachers. However, with the increasing development of technological influence in the 21st century, it is important to understand how technology can serve as a tool to aid in collaboration, especially for those who take part in the educational sphere.
The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) considers the role of collaborator to be a prime contributor in helping students become empowered learners in an increasingly diverse and complex world. Below is the ISTE’s collaborator standards for educators. Peruse these briefly to have a better grasp on what the rest of this blog post will be discussing.
Collaboration, as one of the 21st Century Learners Skills, is becoming increasingly more important every day. According to Sarah Jackson in an article on Student Collaboration, “today’s employers say the capacity to collaborate to solve problems is going to be even more important for tomorrow’s workers than content knowledge.” In other words, the job market of today cares more about one’s ability to work in a team than one’s overall knowledge of a given area.
So perhaps educators should be focusing more on student-to-student collaboration (as well as student-to-community and student-to-teacher) than the regular curriculum. Alan November, in his article “Inviting Global Perspectives into the Classroom” also advocates for collaboration as he explains how it is perhaps this day and age’s most valuable skill. November puts it in plain words: “As we accelerate the speed of moving data and communications around the world, one strategic skill emerges that we traditionally have not taught: global empathy.” Well what is global empathy?
In short, global empathy is collaboration. According to November, “‘Global empathy… is the ability to understand and respect different points of view’” – to respectively and thoughtfully engage with others by listening, understanding their point of view, asking questions, and reflecting on and giving out critical yet considerate feedback. But, as Alan November points out, “the boundaries of relationships prescribed by our traditional classrooms typically limit students to conversations with peers sitting next to them.” So how then can we allow for students to interact with individuals outside of the classroom – allowing them to engage in global collaboration and empathy?
With the internet of course!
In a professional learning network (PLN) I have been using for the past few weeks, a post titled “5 Great Web Tools to Enhance Collaboration in Class” came in handy --- recommending a set of very useful sources to expand students’ collaborative reach outside the classroom. Similarly, in the article by Carpenter, Trust, and Krutka (2016), the PLN is discussed in depth, and from a survey, “educators listed 54 unique websites, online communities, and social media platforms, the popular being Twitter, Edmodo, blogs, Google Plus, Facebook, and the Discovery Educator Network” (Emphasis Added, p.25). Both the PLN and the article recommended Edmodo, an entirely free learning management tool that can perform a variety of functions and meet a variety of tasks. I decided to take a look and see what it is all about.
I started by creating a profile, connecting it with a school district, and performing three or four more simple clicks… Voila! A profile was created almost instantly:
After a short amount of time of exploration, I found the platform to be quite useful – except for the ads… They are annoying. The whole interface slightly reminds me of Facebook, but in a sort-of classroom form. Teachers can create a variety of content – quizzes, polls, surveys, assignments, reminders, notes, folders full of printable assignments, and much more – and can invite whole classes of students, parents, and even other teachers. There also seems to be a way to share documents or files between platforms like Google, Dropbox, and Microsoft Office (I can see the icons in the corner but didn’t test them out). The thing that gets me the most though, is that the students have the ability to ask a question at any time whether it be directed at the teacher or the class as a whole, anyone who is a part of the group can answer. It’s kind of like a forum.
Speaking of forums, within Edmodo, the PLN feature is pretty unreal. There is a group tab where you can either join or invite people to collaborate on the practice of teaching. You can even join the district you teach in, see who else is using the program, and interact with them. As far as collaboration goes, and the free-ness of the program, Edmodo seems like something that I might try to use in the classroom one day.
"People within such spaces often work toward continuous improvement, contributing their unique talents and skills, and taking collective responsibility for success. By overcoming typical geographic constraints, many teachers explored diverse perspectives, found new partners for collaboration, and received candid feedback via professional learning networks."
Although I haven’t seen anything on allowing students to communicate with other classrooms/students around the globe, I imagine that if it were set up properly by the educators, it would be entirely possible. I mean, it looks as if the group feature on the website can allow for anything of the sort.
Carpenter, J. P., Trust, T., & Krutka, D. G. (2016). The Virtual Workroom: Using Social Media, Teachers Reach beyond School Walls to Learn and Grow. Journal of Staff Development, 37(4), 24–28.