As part of my application for the Google Innovator Academy, always looking for new learning experiences and this seems like a great one, I decided to focus on collaboration as the vision component for a problem to solve. I did a lot of thinking last summer as I was trying to determine my goal for the year and the one area that I thought I was seeing as an area of growth, and not just in my school, was collaboration. I am talking about collaboration between students, between students and teachers, and between teachers. Even though we now have tools available to us that can support great collaboration, we are still seeing the problems we have always seen before.
I am not saying this is the case for everyone but it is something that I do see a lot. One issue of course is that we expect students to collaborate but we do not teach them how to and we definitely do not provide feedback throughout their collaboration. The most I see sometimes is the assigning of a grade related to “how well you all worked together” as part of their final score for that project or activity. That score or grade is not going to help them become better collaborators.
Collaboration is one of the 4Cs of 21st century learning and if you are a Google Apps school district, you have great tools to support collaboration all ready for you. What we need to do is to teach our students how to collaborate, provide feedback throughout the collaboration process, and make sure the students have an authentic learning experience that allows them to effectively collaborate instead of working parallel to each other.
Of course, for teachers to be able to help students learn how to collaborate, they must be able to model this themselves. With so many schools adopting PLC programs for their staff, you would think this would be more common but it is not always the case. We also need to develop ways for teachers to connect with other teachers so they can work collaboratively together towards a common goal. By connecting those teachers, teachers who may not be in the same school or state, we can connect those classrooms to allow for the chance for students to collaborate with others who may be very far away from them.
This was the problem I wanted to tackle for the application, and one that I will still work towards whether I am in the program or not. How are you going to improve the collaboration in your learning environment?
Sidenote: For the application, you had to create a 1 minute video that explained your problem and possible solution. This is similar to the 1 minute videos you had to create to apply for the Google Teacher Academy, and I enjoyed the challenge to accomplish that task in a creative way. Granted, it took me about 25 different recordings to get to something I liked which meant I was able to practice the growth mindset. I also had fun finding a way to make this video work, which involved using 10 different movie projects in iMovie to get to the final product. Enjoy.