Interaction and collaboration is a vital part of learning. This means being able to communicate with others through different modes and means. As teachers move to online methods of teaching, it can be hard to keep the same level of interaction up as there would normally be in the physical classroom. That’s why it’s important to find ways of allowing students to continue interacting with each other, and even with those beyond the physical or virtual classroom. One way of doing this is through online collaboration tools.
Very often you need to collaborate with colleagues in your working environment in order to exchange views and opinions, share information or even for decision making. Discuss with your peers which of the tools you use every day for collaboration, could be used in the classroom among your students.
Which tools work best for collaboration?
The current tools for online collaboration evolved from standard Internet tools and services. Threaded discussions have been used most often in conjunction with the online instructional delivery or as a place where teams could discuss traditional class content. Sull (2012) lists best practices for using threaded discussions effectively. While these discussions remain an important tool in group learning, they are not, in themselves, collaborative.
Similarly, blogs have played an important role in collaborative learning. Because they are public and editable, they provide an actual or implied audience for student work, especially writing. While teams can easily co-create and co-edit a blog, the medium is not inherently collaborative in that there is usually no history or attribution for individuals or documentation of group ownership of heavily edited work. Much of the collaboration research has been on the use of wikis because they have been widely used in education, especially higher education.
Wikis can be considered collaborative because they allow co-ownership of a document, they retain a history of changes, and they can often provide attribution for the author of both original material and edits. While they usually lack WYSWIG editing, they often provide basic formatting options.
Cloud-based productivity applications provide an environment where true collaboration can occur across disciplines. They usually have a word processing application that has the history and attribution features of a wiki, but allow students to work in a familiar WYSWIG environment. Editing tools are usually a robust subset of those found in stand-alone applications, and documents are often transportable between offline and online applications. In addition to word processors, cloud-based tool collections usually include a spreadsheet and a presentation development tool. They will often include collaborative drawing space and a form generator. These are also similar to their stand-alone counterparts (Clarity Innovations, 2013).
The concept of the team workspace application is shifting from a bundle of simple, lightweight document, chat and task management tools into extensible platforms with a focus on a specific use case.
Have you ever tried the following collaboration tools?
Collaboration tool makes digital sharing easy
Bottom line: This handy tool encourages collaboration and creative expression, and it makes sharing assignments and giving feedback a snap for teachers.
Physical and digital puzzle games epitomize collaborative learning
Bottom line: Students will reap multiple benefits if teachers invest the time in preparing Breakout EDU games.
Multifaceted interactive whiteboard promotes collaboration
Bottom line: MURAL facilitates lesson presentation and group project collaboration from anywhere by making idea sharing a simple, visual process.
Nifty tool for collaboratively editing and syncing files across devices
Bottom line: Google Drive is a smart choice for budget-conscious schools, with its free productivity tools and file syncing.
Online collaborative tools
Online collaborative tools can be organized into eight main categories.
Tips for easy online collaboration:
1) avoid the fragmentation of platforms and applications required for teaching
2) a single flow of communication
3) coordinate the didactic activities among you teachers
4) define boundaries of space and time even in the digital world (no burnout digital)
5) adapt the single lesson to the digital medium
6) reduce human error from the ground up
Now try to use Google Docs in your class the assign a task to your students to edit a document as a common task.
Discuss on the possibilities for digital tools use in adjusting teaching strategies for adult learners. What are the benefits and/or constraints observed?
Read the following article from Cambridge University Press to understand the importance of choosing effective collaboration tools.
This topic focused on the characteristics of collaboration among learners during learning activities. There was a significant presentation of methods and tools of interaction and collaboration but also a critical view on the meaning of sharing of information and team working that meets the needs of the learners.