Collaboration is being open to each other's ideas and benefiting from each other's perspectives in an open way”. - Alan Menken
Preparing our students for the future means that we need to continue to learn more about the types of jobs that are in demand and create opportunities for our students to develop a variety of skills that are transferable to many types of work. As we have experienced over the past few years, being able to collaborate whether in person or remote, was critical. We all faced challenges in our practice, especially in being able to connect with our students and create learning experiences that fostered the building of relationships and collaborative skills.
For our own professional learning, being able to facilitate instruction with students, and working with colleagues in the absence of being together in the physical space, we had to explore and learn what worked the best. By leveraging the right digital tools and spaces, whether in-person or virtual, we kept learning going and continued to build our own professional skills.
There is tremendous power in collaboration and if we want to best prepare our students with the essential skills they need, being able to collaborate and work as part of a team are two of the top skills required by employers. There are a variety of ways that we can foster collaboration in our classrooms which are beneficial to our own learning and growth, but more importantly, for our students.
Benefits of Collaboration
When we collaborate, it not only impacts our growth as educators, it amplifies the learning potential of our students. In an article by Lily Jones, “The Power of Teacher Collaboration”, research showed that teacher collaboration helps to raise student achievement. They found that when teachers had more conversations that focused on the content area, it helped to provide more for students. By modeling collaboration, students will see and experience the benefits of collaborating with classmates and even beyond our own classroom and school. Building relationships is important for social-emotional learning (SEL) and future preparedness, especially for having a system of support in place. Finding methods and tools that foster collaboration between students and teachers in the same school or school district as well as on a global scale, will provide many benefits.
When educators collaborate, it enables us to stay relevant and current with teaching methods and digital tools, and we have access to more feedback that helps with our professional growth. For our students, collaboration needs to be a priority so that we can provide the most beneficial learning experiences for them. When students work together on a common goal and share responsibility for creating a product of that learning, there are many benefits beyond just learning the content.
As students collaborate, they are building relationships and their own learning networks. They can bounce ideas off of each other, provide peer feedback, work through learning challenges together and build SEL skills throughout. Through collaboration, students build their comfort and confidence in the classroom.
Here are three ideas to explore for promoting more collaboration:
- Brainstorming spaces: Using a variety of digital tools, we promote collaboration beyond our classroom space. Whether through Google Jamboard, sharing ideas in a Wakelet collection, or posting on a Padlet board, everyone can contribute from wherever they are. With some of these options, audio or video can be added, which enhances the learning experience by feeling more connected to classmates and teachers. When students need to work together, they often need a way to collaborate beyond the school space. These options create that space for students to work as a team and feel more connected whenever they cannot be in the classroom working together.
- Methods: When we bring in methods like project based-learning, we provide many benefits for students. They can work together to solve a problem being faced in the world, for example, by learning about the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). PBL is also a good method that will help students to develop SEL skills, especially in self-management and decision-making. Checking out some options like Tract can provide students with some ideas to explore and then come up with a focus together! Game-based learning is always a good choice to not only build content area skills but also for promoting collaboration and boosting student engagement. Through the digital tools available, students can collaborate on teams and build teamwork skills while using the games to become self-aware of their growth and set new goals for learning. Some of my students’ favorites are Gimkit and Quizizz.
- Feedback and reflection tools: Just as educators need feedback and opportunities to engage in conversations and collaborate, students also need to learn how to track their growth over time. Being able to identify strengths and also areas where they may want to focus on improving is important. Having a small group to collaborate and reflect with can help students to not only become more self-aware, but also develop supportive relationships in the classroom. Some ideas for collaborating to help each other grow are to write a collaborative blog, launch a podcast, or even use collaborative spaces where students can share their progress and provide feedback. With Flip, students can record videos to reflect on their learning experiences and share these videos with the teacher or collaborate with classmates to reflect and give feedback to each other. Sharing a blogging space, even using Microsoft or Google tools, where students can write and collaborate would be beneficial. We also use Spaces EDU which offers individual, class and group spaces, all great for collaboration at different levels. For teacher to student, the individual space helps students to build confidence in sharing their learning with teachers, and the group spaces for working together on activities like a scavenger hunt, discussion, or PBL for example. In using formats like blogs, podcasts, or even portfolios, students will not only develop skills for collaborating but also skills of self-awareness and self-management which are vital for now and the future.
Any of these options would make a positive impact for teachers and students when it comes to collaboration. Knowing how to ask for help, to work as part of a team, are skills that transfer to any area of work and life. Whether through methods or the use of different digital tools, we will foster collaboration and many other essential skills needed for future careers.
About the Author:
Rachelle Dené is a Spanish and STEAM: What’s nExT in Emerging Technology Teacher at Riverview High School in Oakmont, PA. Rachelle is also an attorney with a Juris Doctor degree from Duquesne University School of Law and a Master’s in Instructional Technology. Rachelle is an ISTE Certified Educator and serves as the past president of the ISTE Teacher Education Network. She was named one of 30 K-12 IT Influencers to follow in 2021.
She is the author of seven books including ‘In Other Words: Quotes That Push Our Thinking,” “Unconventional Ways to Thrive in EDU”, “The Future is Now: Looking Back to Move Ahead,” “Chart A New Course: A Guide to Teaching Essential Skills for Tomorrow’s World, “True Story: Lessons That One Kid Taught Us” and her newest book “Things I Wish […] Knew” is now available at bit.ly/thingsiwishedu.
Follow Rachelle on Twitter @Rdene915 and on Instagram @Rdene915. Rachelle has a podcast, ThriveinEDU available at https://anchor.fm/rdene915