collaboration |kəˌlabəˈrā sh ən|
1 the action of working with someone to produce or create something
As a distance learning teacher I have had classes from different schools collaborate during a class period. I’ve used a number of different tools, Scribblar, Today’s Meet, and others. This semester I took an opportunity to see how well students could collaborate, not just across geographical barriers, but also across time barriers.
I teach ESU 10’s TECHS course. I have four class periods for the online sections. Using digital music downloading as a support issue, I divided the whole class into two groups. Group one’s stance was that digital music should be free. Group two’s stance was that there should be a price for music. Side note: whether good or bad, sometimes I throw the students in the deep end to see if they can swim. The guidelines were simple, as a group you need to produce a Google doc and Google presentation concerning your side of the issue. Each group had a Scribblar white board to do work on, a Google doc, and presentation that I hosted for them. They had a total of 5 days to work on it (including the weekend). Below are the presentations.
1. Group work. Just like a regular classroom, some students did more work than others (8 out 49 students reported that they barely worked on the document or presentation). Just like a regular classroom, I had to refocus the groups at times. The interesting point was that working this way was seen as a positive and a negative. Some quotes from the students.
“We could chat to other people in your group and talk about the assignment.”
“Well, it was hard for everyone in the groups to get on the right page. They were kind of all over the place, but in the end we did good.”
2. Quality: I feel for the open-ended way that I handled the assignment the students did a solid job. I understand that the class is in a unique situation, a teacher they see only on the TV. My first year teaching only from the TV, combined with my somewhat nontraditional way of teaching, probably made the students frustrated. A student response, “It really didn’t have anything to do with what I thought this class was about.”
3. The Power of Technology. From a student, “It’s cool how we could all work together as a group and share our ideas and opinions with each other.” During class I would be having discussions with the students on the whiteboard (they talk more to me in text form then verbally). I remember one discussion that centered around the cost of a song verses the cost of a bottle of pop. When on task, the students did a great job researching and holding interesting discussions with each other and me during the class period. But there is always the negative side of this type of communication, “While working on the website with other schools it was hard to add info because so many people tried adding something to it at once.” And the personal differences; a response from one student to the question about what negative aspect of the assignment they noticed, “the fighting.”
Final thoughts: As in any classroom, some students jumped into the assignment, others complained, some worked through the frustration, others just gave up. The funny thing about the assignment was how much it felt just like a regular classroom. I had the same frustrations as a teacher. Student apathy, “why do we have to do this” attitude, and honestly, in this case, the technology only seemed to enhance the negative for me. But I think showing how technology can connect us to opportunities to collaborate was worth the time. When we truly connect who knows what we can create…