Encouraging student collaboration – Nour Alkhalidy

Collaboration, Communication, Creativity and Critical Thinking in Action.

Living in digital complex communities requires us to handle a lot of information that is beyond what we can manage alone. Therefore working in teams becomes crucial to accomplish many complex tasks in less time and with more effectiveness.  For a 21st century classroom, UNESCO  has named  learning to live together as one of the 4 Pillars of education along with Communication, Creativity and Critical thinking. These are the 4CS

Our goal of preparing our students for a better future becomes more achievable by teaching these skills and enhancing them in the classroom work we do.

Because collaboration is a student choice, it’s the teacher role to make students feel more passionate about it, and this can be done by creating a positive climate in the classroom, where learners feel more comfortable and willing to collaborate. To do this teachers can:

Build Team skills
Build your groups’ skills once a week, through ice-breakers or cooperative games which emphasize having fun more than competition, while improving communication and collaboration skills , and sometimes enhance some academic ones as well.

Celebrate Diversity
M. Scott Peck advises us to “share our similarities (and) celebrate our differences.”  Perhaps one of the most things we need to do is to respect the differences among members of the same team, thinking of these differences as gifts as they are in multiple intelligences theory.  Everyone has a gift to share with others and should be encouraged to do so. Thus, no one is left behind, all students work together, and everyone is passionate and motivated.

Have One Clear Goal
The definition of collaboration is “working together to achieve a goal“. Teamwork must be directed toward one real goal, where each member ‘s task depends on other tasks — not divided but integrated.  Each task must be a challenging one, where all group members have to think together, and each member needs other team members to accomplish their work. Try strategies from the two PBLs:  Problem Based Learning, and Project Based Learning ” to achieve this goal, or you can try activities like ” Jigsaw“.

Encourage Commitment
Commitment comes from responsibility.  That’s why it’s important to let students be responsible for their own work. Have them assess their teamwork, let them write their own work rules, and have them share their work in and even outside the classroom. I believe that having students do global projects with others around the world makes learning more fun and gets students working harder and more willing to share with others.

Emphasize the idea that We are all Winners and If you win I win
It’s not about competition but is more focused on contributions where there are no winners or losers, but only successful relationships, enhanced skills and group outputs. Keep this in mind when choosing  and assessing activities.

Assess Appropriately
Value each member and the group work.  Focus on the output but also on  how students work together to achieve their goal. How did they communicate?  Were they feeling happy with their work in the group?

Use Technology
Technology offers a virtual and a real place for groups.  It facilitates communication in and outside the classroom and allows students to save and share their work. Rather than suggest  a technology  tool or a device to your students, let them choose what they are familiar with. They are our digital savvy heroes! Let them play that role.  Still, may I tell you about some of my favorite simple web 2.0 tools for collaboration? Here they are:

GoogleDocs, Stixy,  Popplet, Zoho, Twiddla, TypeWithMeWallWisherVoicethread, and the social bookmarking tool Diigo. BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) can also be great to help students feel more comfortable, independent and responsible for their learning as they work with their own tools – but don’t just take my word for it.  Embrace the 4Cs and try these ideas out in your own way in your own classes and then tell us about it. That’s Collaboration, Communication, Creativity, and Critical Thinking in action.

About Nour Alkhalidy

Nour Alkhalidy is a Jordanian computer teacher, studied CIS &ICT in education, passionate about new technologies in the classroom, believes that the 21C learning & teaching must take place in every classroom, to finally prepare our digital natives children to live, learn and work in this rapid race of digital communities. She wants every kid to have a better education & life, by spreading knowledge to educators all over the world. Nour is also known on Twitter as @MissNoor28.