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Posts Tagged ‘collaboration’

Yesterday, because of a horrendous nor’easter, I was stranded in a commuter train for six hours, hoping to get home.  It was exhausting and frustrating, and would have been much worse, had I not been traveling with a colleague.  After finding a pen, and using the back of our theater tickets, we talked about lessons and future class plans.  We worked on scenery and staging for our school musical, and even a little choreography (although we did get some strange looks from fellow passengers).  We had to laugh about the absurdity of the situation — we had to be trapped in a commuter train outside of New York to have the time to work together, and collaborate the way we wish we could.  If only planning time was made a priority by schools, so that teachers would have time to exchange ideas, and explore new, inventive ways to teach lessons.  It is amazing how productive we can be when we have the time to bounce ideas off one another — time that we never have during the school day.  I guess we were lucky to have been stranded — it gave use the opportunity to accomplish everything we wanted to.  I have to thank  Mother Nature and New Jersey Transit for that.  Although next time, I’d rather not be tired, hungry, and thirsty to work my best.

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Lately, we’ve talked a lot about the necessity for collaboration between educators.  As a librarian, I’m especially interested in the topic, as I’ve come to realize that this collaboration truly produces the most authentic project based learning.  Many teachers are reticent to embrace such collaboration, seeing a division between information use and subject-specific instruction.  But as we all know, 21st century learning recognizes no such division.  I had come to believe that the combination of the instructor’s age and lack of familiarity with technology was responsible for this resistance, but this week I was proven wrong by my students. 

Eighth graders learned this week how to use GoogleDocs; specifically,  the presentation creation feature.  The idea was this:  as a class, let’s create a slideshow about the Winter Olympics, based on research they’ve already done.  To do this , they had to collaborate with classmates, agreeing on backgrounds that did not clash, similar fonts, the formatting of slides, and in what order to place the information.  Students began to argue about the look of the presentation.  More than one student took it upon himself to change the background of all the slides multiple times, resulting in raising the frustation level of the group.  Once it was decided to put the slides in chronological order, students were surprised to see that classmates had moved their slides, often to the incorrect position.  The results would have been comical, had they not pointed out the difficulty of collaboration, even amongst the young and tech-savvy.  I found that group collaboration is hard, regardless of age and experience level, and that the lesson here was not what I intended — to teach the students to use a new tool — but how to work together.  Our class next week was to spend time looking at our beautiful final product, but instead, we’ll look at the project from a different angle — why is working on it together better than doing it apart?  We’ll spend most of our time discussing the difficulties they had working together, and how we can do better next time.  Because, as all educators know, an intended lesson can often have an unexpected result.  It was no longer about  the use of a new tech tool.  It  became something totally different — that collaboration is difficult, but well-worth the effort.  And this lesson is age and ability blind.

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