Sunday, February 2, 2014

Stop Collaborate and Listen!

This week's conversation is all about collaboration. As Matthew said, "We are collaborating in a 21st C way on defining collaboration". This week I have hosted everyone's contributions below, so take a look, and read some very interesting thoughts regarding Collaboration in Education in the 21st Century.

Here is what the team came up with this week (Again, I've left mine own until the end):

Debbie Axiak

@DebbieAxiak - 

Bloom’s Taxonomy and Maslow’s Hierarchy came to mind when I was thinking about this part of our 6 C’s Project because there are varying levels of collaboration. At a basic level,  teachers and/or students might be working side by side on the same project, or collaborating for the sake of collaborating (when it is mandated) - which is almost an individual pursuit. At the next level, when there is some camaraderie and care, collaborators begin to share ideas, strategies and materials as they work toward a common goal.

Many times, the goal of a collaborative task is to finish the project. Students and parents want to know how we will mark a collaborative project - they want it to be fair, they want the person who did the most work to get the best mark. Our society is still quite individualistic and competitive. We each want our voice to be heard, and some people are better at demanding that their voice is heard, while others prefer to give in to the stronger voice rather than face a confrontation. Many of us want to be congratulated on our strengths & are not very comfortable with critique because we take it personally - unless we have a trusting relationship with that person.

Successful collaboration requires  1) a common goal, 2) trust and support, 3) ongoing communication, 4) a growth mindset (the belief that everyone can learn, change & grow), 5) an openness to give and take feedback and 6) the ability to make it about the learning/task/project rather than about the people involved.

Collaboration = Working Together Toward a Common Goal

Matthew Oldridge

@matthewoldridge - 

The deep dark secret behind many schoolhouse doors is how difficult collaboration is.  We all have strong visions of what, and how, we like to teach, informed by our own biases, beliefs about education, learning styles, and even the things happening in our lives.  

It’s hard to find the time, we might say, and retreat back to our own room.  I’ve been guilty of this many times.  I fall back on the comfortable ways of thinking, comfortable lesson ideas, and assignments.  

When I’m at my best, though, I’m talking, thinking, working with others.  “Isolation is the enemy of improvement,” I once heard.  And it’s true-divided we stand, and together we fall. Technology has been one great force pushing collaboration.  We have examples like this document- several voices uniting in one Google Doc, collaborating on collaboration.  We have Twitter chats, where ideas are batted back and forth, in real time.  Conversations that happen in hallways, before and after school.  Finally, the larger structures like grade or school-wide inquiry work that is starting to take root across school systems.  We begin to speak as one voice, to create a coherent “one” from “many.”

There’s hope, there always is.  The struggles our own students experience in group work are mirrored by our own. Sometimes it just “clicks”, though- and the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts.  A project that 4 students that work on that transcends the criteria and learning goals.  A summative task put together by a grade team that comes together like lightning, illuminating the curriculum and all our classroom work.  A conversation with a colleague that spurs a series of activities that really make a math concept fun and engaging.   

With practice, we improve.  It would be fine to say everyone is born able to collaborate in meaningful ways, but when we say that, we probably mean cooperation.  Everyone is born able to cooperate, but collaboration, now that is hard work!

Collaboration = Making One Voice From Many

Tina Zita

@tina_zita - 

I did a collaborative writing activity this week using Office 365 with a grade 7 class. I was pretty excited hoping it would become that piece I was looking for for this post. I used the new iPad air ad from apple as a minds on, collected a variety of ideas about winter through padlet and then on to Word in Office 365 where each class member added a line to our shared poem. Sounds impressive. The activity was ok.

The poem had some powerful sections but my lesson about collaboration came from an individual in the room.

I’m constantly amazed when I take the time to step back and #lookclosely.

We were having some technical difficulties (happens to all of us, even if technology is in your job title) so the teacher and myself were busy trouble shooting around the room when I looked over to see a vision of collaboration. There stood my ‘friend’ peering over a class members’ shoulder discussing word choice in the statement on the screen. We may say she had was the ‘leader type’ but what was amazing was the words I heard. It wasn’t bossy or challenging. There was no judgement. It was two individuals in pursuit of the best work. You heard the back and forth of the conversation, options, ideas. They used each of their strengths to compose the best line, which lead to the best verse and then to a better poem.

Sometimes I think as adults so much gets in the way of true collaboration. Such a wonderful reminder of what I would love to see in all 21st century learners.

Collaboration = A Back And Forth Creating Process

And now my own...

So I worked with some people once in a group; it was a horrible experience. No one knew what to do, some people never completed their parts, and I ended up never talking to those people again. It’s a story told by most, and unfortunately occurs far too often. This is what I call ‘Anti-Collaboration’.

It's easy to define what Collaboration is not, because many of us have found ourselves in groups where everyone is working on their own, and little communication occurs.  We often like to think that when we are in a group, we are a part of a team. However, a team does not automatically suggest that collaboration occurs, as there can be many individual components, all of whom never really interact and share with the rest of the team.

Being part of a team, requires EACH & EVERY individual to contribute, to identify their roles & responsibilities, and support each other; so that as a team we can reach a goal. That in my mind is truly collaboration.

Being a ‘collaborator’ requires greater effort, and commitment, than any 'team-player' can give. It requires you to look at the bigger picture, the team's goals, and sacrifice those individual objectives, so that you can support the team, and allow it to succeed. 

It also requires you to provide feedback and criticism, and in turn receive the same. Only when each individual provides an input, and each group member provide feedback, does collaboration exist. Such feedback, allows 'Collaborators' to revisit their work, and look to improve it, so that the team can achieve a higher level of success.

Therefore, true collaboration occurs when EVERY person contributes something to the group; and EVERY group member provide the necessary feedback, so that as a whole, the group continues to achieve their goals. When we witness such collaboration, the results can be incredible.

Collaboration = Meaningful Contributions From Every Team Player

No comments:

Post a Comment