Collaboration is more than just working with others. Today’s jobs often require people to work together on projects that are too complex for any one individual. People need to be able to discuss issues, solve problems, and create products by combining individual skills and working productively as a team.
For students to be successful, they need to learn these skills in school. Fortunately, there are many Web 2.0 tools that can help students learn how to collaborate effectively. It can be difficult to narrow the field of choices, but Microsoft Partners in Learning has published a rubric for determining the quality of web-based collaboration tools.
The rubric focuses not just on group work, but also on whether students have shared responsibility for their work, and if the groups is required to make substantive decisions together. “These features help students learn the important collaboration skills of negotiation, conflict resolution, agreement on what must be done, distribution of tasks, listening to the ideas of others, and integration of ideas into a coherent whole. The strongest learning activities are designed so that student work is interdependent, requiring all students to contribute in order for the team to succeed.” (Microsoft, n.d.) Here is the rubric:
In this learning activity,
- Students are NOT required to work together in pairs or groups.
- Students DO work together BUT they DO NOT have shared responsibility.
- Students DO have shared responsibility BUT they ARE NOT required to make substantive decisions together.
- Students DO have shared responsibility AND they DO make substantive decisions together about the content, process, or product of their work BUT their work is not interdependent.
- Students DO have shared responsibility AND they DO make substantive decisions together about the content, process, or product of their work AND their work is interdependent.
All teachers, myself included, need to be open to new tools that help prepare our students with the 21st century skills they will need to succeed. Finding tools is often not a problem, but finding appropriate and effective tools can be a challenge. To narrow the search for collaboration tools, I started with Lutz’s 60 in 60 Minutes 2015 list of Web 2.0 Tools and selected five collaboration tools from that list. I evaluated these tools using the Microsoft rubric to determine the quality of the interactions involved and to see if any of these would be worth adding to my arsenal of teaching tools this coming fall.
Rubric Score: 2 +
NoteApp for education doesn’t score higher on the rubric because the site is not set up to scaffold the higher levels of the rubric. The potential is there, but the quality of the collaboration will depend on the assignment and teacher supervision. In addition, the free version of the software is very limited, and while the pricing plans are modest, compared to the business pricing plans, it can be difficult for teachers to justify paying for a service that can be replicated elsewhere, albeit not in exactly the same format, for free.
Rubric Score: 3+
SimplyCircle seems to work like a more organized version of Google+. Teachers can set up circles to engage and collaborate with parents and other teachers, and teachers can set up circles for student collaboration. The circle members can send messages, share files, set task lists and deadlines, and organize shared information- even the free version. The level of collaboration will still depend on the assignment and some teacher supervision, but the scaffolding is there to allow students to reach the higher order skills in the rubric once they are familiar with the tools available.
SimplyCircle looks promising, and I could see using it this fall with my Middle School students in particular. I like the organization tools and believe the interface is intuitive enough that students will find this program easy to learn and to use to make a positive difference in their collaboration skills.
Rubric Score: 2+
Dweeber is a collaboration tool that has been designed to look and act like a social networking site to give it broader appeal to students. Students can log in to Dweeber for homework help and to work with others on projects. The coolest feature of Dweeber is a collaborative whiteboard that students can use to hash out ideas and share notes. The potential for learning collaborative skills is very high, but without additional guidance and supervision, reaching the higher levels of the rubric is left to chance. On the plus side, Dweeber is completely free and it has a tool that allows students to track their skill areas and understand their study habits. Dweeber also has a strict 13+ age restriction, which makes it less useful to me, though I may mention it to my 8th graders as a homework tool they might like to try.
4. Flash Meeting
Rubric Score: 2+
Flash meeting is a great way for groups to work together when they can’t meet in person. This can be particularly helpful when groups need to work on projects outside of school hours. One person sets up the meeting and shares the URL and password with the other group members. Once in the meeting, users can talk, type in the chat, message each other, and use the whiteboard. There are no organization tools or scaffolding to help students reach the higher order levels of the rubric, but one key feature of Flash Meeting is that a recording of the meeting is available to those who attended. I don’t see this program as being a stand-alone collaborative tool, but it can be a powerful way to continue collaboration outside of school, or used in a project that requires collaboration with students in another school, city, or even country.
Rubric Score: 5 (if used to create collaborative product)
TouchCast is more than just a video creation tool. Students work together to plan, organize, revise, document, and present their project. TouchCast is free for teachers and students. Students must work together to research, plan, write, act, direct, and edit their video creation. Collaboration can be in school, or can be done over TouchCast outside of school using a web interface that turns their device into a whiteboard even as they share documents, web pages, and even videos. The process of creating a collaborative video project includes the higher level skills on the rubric, and planning sessions can be saved and reviewed later.
This past school year I had students working individually and collaboratively to produce slideshow videos using Animoto, which was well received and helped to increase students’ collaborative skills, but TouchCast will allow me to take this learning to the next level. Live video is not only more exciting, it also requires more collaboration skills to produce the final product. In addition, TouchCast provides how-to videos, lesson ideas, and a complete Educator’s Guide to make using this product effectively with students even easier.
Collaboration image retrieved from https://khoovercom.files.wordpress.com/2017/06/14baa-collaboration.jpg
ITL Research. (n.d.). 21CLD Learning Activity Rubrics [PDF]. Microsoft Partners in Learning.
Snyder, S., & Lutz, B. (2015, June 28). 60in60: Web Tools! Cheat Sheet 2015 Version [Docx]. Retrieved from https://www.smore.com/p1jc8