Illinois Computing Educators Conference 2013

Communication and collaboration are two of the 4Cs of 21st century learning. The 4Cs include critical thinking, communication, creativity, and collaboration.

Collaboration is the act of working together on a common goal. Not only is collaboration an important life skill, it can have a positive influence on student engagement.

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

  • 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

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
  • Positive Attitude
  • Focused
  • Social Awareness

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."

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

Digital Tools

  • PollEverywhere for polls and surveys
  • and for making word clouds on PCs.
  • for making word clouds on a tablet.
  • Edmodo is a teacher-controlled social network for schools. Group Code: 4xb34y
  • TinyURL for shortening web addresses
  • Linoit for collaborative stick note canvases.
  • Google Drive
    • Share any document by click the Share button and choosing Anyone with this link and checking Allow anyone to edit (no sign-in required). Then give the link to others, perhaps shortening with
    • List of Interesting Ways Google Presentations collaborative slideshows
    • Work with Google Drive just like on a PC using the Appser iPad app (free)
  • Lucidchart for online flowcharts and diagrams. Copy the link and share with others to work on one chart simultaneously.
  • Skype for communicating outside the classroom.
  • to find other classrooms
  • #mysteryskype hashtag on Twitter to make surprise connections
  • Visuals are powerful communication tools
  • to create simple and instant web pages without an account
  • Blogs are great for repeated posts
  • #comments4kids hashtag on Twitter to solicit comments on posts
  • Record up to 30 seconds of audio at Copy the link and paste into blogs, Google document, or Edmodo.