November 16, 2015

Notes from September 14, 2015

Notes from September 14, 2015

Collaboration is the act of working together for a common goal. The Partnership for 21st Century Skills says that mastering collaboration skills requires the ability to work effectively with diverse teams. It also requires the ability to "be helpful and make necessary compromises to accomplish a common goal."

Time for productive collaboration is a must in today's classrooms.

  • Phillip Schletchy identifies qualities of the work teachers give students that affect engagement. Affiliation, that is, opportunities to work with others, can be a positive influence on student engagement.
  • A study on cooperative learning found that "subjects who worked cooperatively spent more time working on practice exercises and reported greater satisfaction than those who worked individually."
  • "Studies have shown that groups outperform individuals on learning tasks, and further that individuals who work in groups do better on later individuals assignments as well (Barron, 2000b, 2003; O'Donnell & Danserau, 1992)." Powerful Learning by Linda Darling-Hammond, page 19.
  • Having the capacity to collaborate is an important component in project-based learning and an essential personal and professional skill.
  • The Partnership for 21st Century Skills, a national organization formed by government, corporations, associations, and individuals, has developed a framework that fuses the 3 Rs with the 4Cs. The 4Cs are:
    • critical thinking and problem solving
    • communication
    • creativity and innovation 
    • collaboration

Iowa Core 21st Century Tech Literacy Essential Concept and/or Skill
Use digital media and environments to communicate and work collaboratively, including at a distance, to support individual learning and contribute to the learning of others.

2a. Interact, collaborate, and publish with peers, experts, or others employing a variety of digital environments and media.

2b. Communicate information and ideas effectively to multiple audiences using a variety of media and formats.

2c. Develop cultural understanding and global awareness by engaging with learners of other cultures.

2d. Contribute to project teams to produce original works or solve problems.

We want students to be able to answer these Clarity questions:

  1. How often do your teachers ask you to use online documents, like Google Docs?
  2. How often do your teachers ask you to work online with classmates?
  3. How often do your teachers ask you to show your work to students IN class?
  4. How often do your teachers ask you to show your work to someone ONLINE?
  5. How often do your teachers ask you to talk to someone online (video or chat)?
  6. How often do your teachers ask you to post your schoolwork online?

Working effectively with others is an extremely complex endeavor. Collaboration skills are complicated to learn because they are actually people skills. Learning these skills takes guided practice and quality feedback. Teacher's shouldn't expect their students to work together effectively without explicitly teaching and modeling collaboration skills. These skills include:

  • Active listening
  • Respect
  • Manners
  • Positive Attitude
  • Focused
  • Social Awareness

Simply telling students to work together won't lead to productive collaboration. Teachers need to develop activities and projects where students have reasons to collaborate. We must teach students how to be good group members through modeling, role playing, discussion, and facilitating. Collaboration can be taught and learned by

  • Assigning clear responsibilities
  • Showing students examples
  • Assigning a leader
  • Encouraging self-direction
  • Charting progress
  • Conducting group and self evaluations
  • Designing rubric to measure the process and product

Web-Based Tools

Students contribute to class polls and surveys. Their contributions show up on the teacher's screen for the whole class to see. After logging in, click Settings and pick a username. Students will enter this web address to access your current poll. Example:

Create a collaborative wall where students can post text, images, videos, and links. Remember that you probably want to change some settings, including the Layout to Grid and Privacy > Moderation to on.

Start a new drawing by opening your Google Drive, clicking New and selecting Drawings. Clicking the blue Share button allows teachers and students work collaboratively on the drawing canvas.

Create mind maps that can be shared among students.

Create a wiki, which is a website that accepts contributions from multiple users.


iPad Apps

Students can make any image talk by adding a mouth and recording audio. Audio is limited to 30 seconds. The end product is a video that can be saved to the camera roll.

Make an image interactive by adding targets. Targets can be text, images, and videos. The end product is a webpage and is a great way for student to contribute to a group project.

Students can work in small groups to write, direct, and star in their own TV show. Each student can star in a different segment, and the end product is a video that can be saved to the camera roll.

Students can capture and organize ideas into a mind map. They can include words, photos, and drawings. The end product is an image that can be saved to the camera roll.


Collaborative Group Google Drawings from a Template

We used this for our Venn Diagram activity. But there are plenty of other graphic organizers this process would work with. See more examples.

  1. Go to and create a Google Drawings document for students to copy and complete.
  2. Click the blue Share button and then click Get Shareable Link.
  3. Copy the provided link.
  4. Paste the link into and make a customized link.
  5. Copy your customized link.
  6. One student per group will go to the link and choose Make a Copy from Google Drawings’ File menu.
  7. That student can then click Share and add the other group members.
  8. When done, one group member will click Google Drawings’ File menu and choose Download as > PNG image. That image can then be uploaded in a post on a Padlet wall.  

More Collaboration Tools

There are many more tools that are being used in classrooms everyday that are made for collaboration.

  • Tricider lets you collect ideas and vote.
  • Create multipage collaborative whiteboards with Stoodle. You can type, draw, and import images.
  • Create collaborative checklists with Flask.
  • Students can make websites with Weebly, which has support for multiple authors.
  • Explore Common Sense's list of Best Student Collaboration Tools