As a teacher collaboration is a term that is often used to describe when teachers meet together. However, collaboration isn’t necessarily the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about relationships between teachers and their students. When looking at ISTE Educator Standard 4 “Educators dedicate time to collaborate with both colleagues and students to improve practice, discover and share resources and ideas, and solve problems.” I wondered how can digital tools be used to foster collaboration between primary students and teachers? Can these tools also be used to engage in collaboration among other primary classrooms?
With these questions in mind I wanted to find out what digital tools other schools were using as collaboration between staff and students. In my own school we have started using Microsoft’s OneNote to exchange artifacts, assign projects, and to give feedback. While this is something available to all of the students and staff in our district, it is hardly used.
Why Collaboration is Important
Creating a collaborative educational environment can build a community of caring individuals who are all working toward one common goal: increasing the students’ positive outcomes. Whether you are collaborating with another educator to team-teach, working hand in hand with other adults such as the school’s administration or parents, or are encouraging the students themselves to learn together, collaboration in education can benefit everyone who has a stake in the school setting. With collaboration students and teachers can connect to Google Drive, Skype and other cloud-based platforms that enable them to communicate, share their work with each other, and prepare projects together. It makes the interactivity last throughout the school day and beyond it.
Digital Tools to Help Collaboration
To help answer my questions I found an article by Heather B. Hayes “Advances in Technology Foster Collaboration Between Teachers and Students” In this article Hayes talks about Edmond’s School District in Lynnwood, WA using Google Doc and other Google applications for students “to collaborate on group project plans or to peer review each other’s papers. In one class, a group of seventh-graders teams up to create a podcast using a variety of cloud-based tools. Each student is assigned a different task, including researching the content online, writing and recording the script, editing and revising the audio, determining sequencing and providing sound effects and music. And kindergarteners and first-graders rely on a secure online learning journal and digital portfolio to post their daily work and comment on each other’s work; produce videos and other creative content; and share online with the class, their teacher and even their parents and grandparents”.
Why Schools are using Google Classroom
After reading Haye’s article it seemed like most school tend to use Google applications for staff and students. I wanted to know how these applications were being used to make them so beneficial. In article Allhands: Why use Google Classroom? Here’s what you need to know by Joanna Allhand, she states that 68% of district nationwide use Google Classroom. Some of the advantages to using this application include, Teachers can customize assignments based on students’ needs and interests. Multiple students can work on an assignment at once, and teachers can watch remotely as students collaborate – making them more like guides for where to find information than the ultimate sources of it. Hayes also mentions that using programs such as Google Classroom are beneficial because “Students are absorbing critical soft skills — teamwork, leadership, networking and critical thinking — that will take them far in life. But they’re so engaged that they probably don’t even realize it. This is about implementing good teaching practices for core subjects, of course, but it’s also about preparing our students for the future.
Benefits of Using Google to Collaborate
Google has also made collaborative learning easier. Teachers can share content with their peers in one way — such as through a document that can be edited — and then share a different version with students — a document without editing functions. My classmate Lauren Borrero wrote a fabulous blog about using Google Classoom for teacher collaboration. Google can also be used for discussions in the classroom. Which become more easily facilitated by a student response system that allows teachers to start question-driven discussions on their class’s virtual page. The Share to Classroom extension lets educators send a website or other content for a lesson to all their students at once.
Although my district doesn’t use Google for collaboration I feel like it is a great free program for teachers and staff to use. With all that is has to offer for collaboration, I recommend that everyone gives it a try.