Classic ‘instructional’ models for the classroom have tended to concentrate on individual processes of learning, but in the interests of readying students for the world of work, collaboration is playing an increasing role in education.
After all, there are many more careers that require team-work than there are solitary professions, and – crucially – there’s strength in numbers. But collaboration is more than just co-operation; it can be used in the entire learning process, from the teacher teaching the class to the students educating one another. At its core is the need for every student in the class to be given the opportunity to contribute and play an active role in the project.
The collaborative setting is an ideal environment for constructing knowledge and learning. By giving students the time and the environment to discuss what they have learned and complete tasks that apply the skills or knowledge, they will develop a deeper understanding of their work and are more likely to take an active interest. Put simply, they use it so they don’t lose it.
I believe that collaborative learning has the potential to unlock a new era in education. By students directly contributing and working together to learn, education could be redefined. It’s about supporting, guiding and strengthening the impact of the learning journey, rather than simply determining its path.
One of the best examples I’ve seen of using software to support this has been with MoviePlus. Making a video naturally encourages students to collaborate; one will direct, one will be the cameraman, one will edit, etc. and the teacher simply needs to facilitate the natural order for the students.
The tools should take on a background role in this sort of scenario rather than becoming part of the learning curve for students (if the software is challenging to use then we risk collaboration taking a back seat while students get to grips with the technology). Software is always at its best when it’s accessible and digitally rich, enabling students to create something together without asking the teacher for help each step of the way.
Ultimately, in this scenario, the students have a body of work presented in a format that resonates with them: high-definition film footage. Their feedback is instant and self-assessment is easy – if it’s not a good effort then the digital generation will be the first to spot it!
Serif’s free online teacher resources cover a wide range of cross-curricular topics and provide fresh new ideas on collaborative projects. Visit http://educationresources.serif.com for more information. Cover image courtesy of Becker College