Technology breaks down physical boundaries—connecting teachers with their peers to implement best practices and helping students learn important lessons about group work.
Flattening the Classroom Walls
Online tools allow educators to teach the collaborative skills students need as part of a global community. Teachers also find opportunities, inspiration and support online to continue to improve their classrooms.
Technology makes both types of collaboration faster and easier. And, with many different platforms available, online tools enhance the ever-expanding collaborative opportunities.
Student Growth Through Online Collaboration
Online collaboration dramatically changes our modes of teaching. Teachers become facilitators in a problem-based learning environment. They support students as they build leadership skills, find and fulfill their role in a group, and develop career-ready skills.
Students are more engaged as they provide peer feedback, which requires critical thinking about the subject while also learning important social skills and digital etiquette. And, students who may be shy in the classroom “come alive” in the digital world. They find their voice and can connect with a local and global audience.
Teachers have reported increased literacy skills as students are connected to learners around the world. Students are excited to write and share their work, even when it isn’t assigned by the teacher. And this practice leads to skill improvement.
Today’s workforce must be able to work in collaborative environments—and do so in a manner that respects the values, perspectives and discourse styles of other cultures. By learning how to collaborate in the K-12 classroom and beyond the classroom walls, students are better prepared to succeed in today’s and future jobs.
York County Schools, part of the League of Innovative Schools, lives up to its role by employing many types of devices to encourage collaboration among students. From corresponding with a classroom in Hawaii or communicating with students in other district schools, York students are making connections and growing important life skills.
Teacher Dale Gerard of Centennial High School in Idaho shares how he’s using technology to enable students to learn from and collaborate with people and places across the world. His students are learning to correspond in Japanese, preparing them to travel and conduct business with people in Japan. As part of the lesson, students demonstrate how to communicate when going to the doctor, and share this on YouTube. Their Japanese counterparts view the video, and share direct feedback. These insights help Centennial High School students to communicate with real people, not just a book.
Connecting Teachers with Other Experts
Teachers are building relationships online with other busy educators in their districts—and educators around the globe. With Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and other social media, teachers participate in online conversations for advice, reflections, and ideas. They report an increased sense of enthusiasm when searching for new ideas and are inspired by other exceptional educators. Together, they collaboratively solve classroom problems.
Busy schedules can interfere with teachers’ ability to collaborate in-person. Because of this, savvy teachers are finding digital ways reach out. York County teachers discuss how they collaborate with their fellow district teachers as well as find inspiration and ideas from educators everywhere.
Recommendations: Facilitating Online Collaboration
- Teach students online etiquette and digital citizenship as critical skills for effective collaborative learning
- Give students opportunities to guide the collaboration—they are excited to bring new ideas into the classroom
- There are a myriad of websites providing teachers with information about the latest web tools for collaboration.
Supported by Educational Theory
Although 21st century educational practices are different from more traditional educational practices, these newer methods match with educational theories from both the 20th and 21st centuries, such as Bandura’s social learning theory, Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory and cognitive load theory. Combining these theories with newer discoveries in neuroscience and cognitive science—and with new technologies (including email, message boards, chat rooms and text messaging)—allows for the creation of vastly different, and extremely powerful new learning models.