Colegio Internacional Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela
Is real time collaborative digital learning worth it? This school year I have been trying to promote and incorporate real time collaborative digital learning throughout our school as the benefits I’ve experienced with it in the past are nothing short of exceptional. When implemented, this form of learning can be game changing when it comes to inspiring students, and having them engaged at the highest level of learning on Bloom’s Taxonomy (revised), create, and the second highest, evaluate. By collaborating online in real time students are creating an understanding of content at a pace that exceeds any traditional method, while creating research, and projects at a whole new pace that is widely becoming expected when it comes to 21st century learning. The old saying, “two heads are better than one” has officially shifted to, “twenty heads are better than two.” This doesn’t just impact on learning though, it’s also real world applicable, as the majority of jobs in today’s market, involve the skills that come with this style of learning, being applied directly into their everyday operational lives. This skill, and teaching style doesn’t come easily though, for us as educators operating in South America, as we have several speed bumps to overcome. But it’s certainly worth it, and obtainable. This article will analyze how we can incorporate this learning into our classrooms, and provide resources that you can begin using immediately.
What is real time collaborative digital learning? Real time collaborative digital learning is any type of learning that enables students to interact with others students through a digital platform in real time, with an established purpose and direction. There is a large range of how this can be accomplished. It can be as simple as having students collaborate on a Google Doc, to implementing a school-wide learning system such as blackboard, and everything in between. For some tools check out this site: http://bit.ly/1mxY3bM Another suggestion is to do a Google search on this topic, there are tons of great resources and tools out there. But I’m sure I haven’t sold you all yet on this, so let’s keep digging into this style of learning, and how it applies to our South American schools specifically.
What are these speed bumps, and are they really worth my time? This question is the key to this concept. Before writing this article I sent out an email to staff asking them how incorporating real time digital learning was going for them in their teaching, the responses were mixed. The speed bumps our teachers are hitting will not sound new to you, “Our bandwidth can’t handle it,” “We haven’t been trained in it,” “We don’t have a platform that gives us enough control,” “The time it would take me to train the students to do this efficiently, isn’t worth it.” I hear you, this isn’t a shift in instruction that doesn’t come with leg work. But the last quote is inaccurate. It is worth it. Why? Because it inspires and engages students in a manner that they can relate to, and prepares them for a future where this skill is essential. To back up that statement, do the following. Do a basic Google search for “online collaboration tools,” and you’ll see that the top hits are geared at business. Now I realize that not every student is going into business, but if you give me a career, I can give you an example of how this skill will be applicable in their field. When it comes to bandwidth, check out my article in the last edition of the AASSA newsletter. In terms of being trained for it, or not having a platform for it, it is important to realize that this shift in teaching, for those that are new to it, can be progressive. Establish expectations with your students. http://bit.ly/1jUIoBp is a great place to start. Start by having students collaborate in Google docs on an assignment in pairs. Then go to group work. Know that the first time you attempt this, you will have mixed results, and that you’ll certainly have some wrinkles to iron out. The more you attempt this, the easier, and more effective it will become, and you will see a shift in your students engagement, and learning results that will feel like the metaphorical light has turned on for both you, and them. Additionally the effort you have to put in at the beginning of this process will be made up for by the speed at which you can now instruct, and that the students can learn.
Some other forms of real time collaborative digital learning that I’ve seen working wonders throughout our school this year are sensational. In elementary we have students participating in mystery skype sessions around the world. In middle school we have students participating in international projects, and the students thrive in the online digital environment that’s been created. In high school we have a huge shift to students working on projects that embrace Google apps and their collaborative nature. We are also working on getting Netsupport up in our computer labs as another form of this teaching style, another amazing tool. For our online days we have a shift in practice from the traditional, email or post an assignment, receive the assignment back, send feedback, to real time digital learning. It is key to note that this doesn’t work for every age group, but for those that it does, the results are fantastic. These are only some of the ways our school is moving in this direction this year, and I applaud the efforts of our staff. In conclusion, real time collaborative digital learning is a skill that is essential in practicing 21st century education. Although it doesn’t come easily for any of us at first, once it is established, and practiced in your classroom, the benefits are certainly worth the effort, and a shift in your teaching style will take place that will make you, and your students learn at an amazing pace that is inspirational, and engaging. For more on this, and other topics, visit my session on how utilizing this style of teaching can improve literacy in our schools, I look forward to collaborating with you all at the conference!
Jeff Utecht, thethinkingstick.com