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Week 3 – Technology and Collaboration

October 17, 2010

As the world becomes more and more connected, the need for students to be more fluent with the tools and skills for collaboration grows exponentially. Students stepping from the classroom into the “real-world” should not step blindly into a world of internet-based collaboration; they should be able to wade in having had some exposure to these technologies. If our goal for students is to prepare them for the “real-world”, then we (as educators) need to be aware that the “real-world” is a truly global, and those technologies that allow businesses and governments to communicate on a global scale can be used in the classroom as well.

Component 1.2 of ELAR 1 dictates that students “Communicate and collaborate to learn with others.” Students are meant to use a variety of formats, such as blogging, creating and editing documents online, using wikis, and creating websites. I can image that some students may argue that they communicate on a daily basis, through social networking technology like facebook, twitter, texting and other such sites. I agree, these types of things count as communication, and they are technologies that these students are doubtlessly fluent in, but social networking lacks the second part of the ELAR component “…collaborate to learn with others.” That is where technologies like google docs, epals, wikis and blogging come in. By integrating technology like this into the classroom, teachers can allow students to use the technological prowess that they already possess to work towards a set goal.

For example, consider that students are assigned to analyze and edit a text for English class. Using google docs, they could enter that text, and then collaboratively pick it apart, edit it and analyze it, all online. Now consider that the students assigned to the project are from different schools. They could complete the assignment by collaborating effectively  and communicating, all without ever having met eachother in person. This idea is encapsulated in Terry Freedman’s introduction to Wiki’s: “What a wiki enables you to do is share ideas in much the same way as you might capture points from a discussion on an electronic whiteboard or on a flipchart – with the added benefits that it can be accessed from anywhere in the world if you want it to be, and you can track changes, and who made them.”

As I was working through the material this week, I was reminded constantly of the work that my wife is engaged in, and how these technologies apply to her. She is a communication consultant, working remotely for a small firm based in San Francisco. While she works from home most of the time, she is constantly in communication and collaboration with groups and companies from all over the world. She runs podcasts, has meetings and edits documents for and with individuals from places like Germany, Australia, China, London and all across the US, and she does all of this from her home-office in Renton, WA. Knowing all this, I asked her what she would think if some of this technology was integrated into the classroom. She replied that she thinks it would be a great idea, especially to get local students in touch with students from other places. She cautions that this kind of connectivity assumes a certain level of technological proficiency on my (the teachers) part, which she jokes that I tend not to have very much of.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Andrea Freeman permalink
    October 19, 2010 2:35 am

    I really liked your suggestion about using a wiki to discuss text. I think this would be a great way for me to make all of my classes one class. It is also a way to connect English classes across the district, the nation and the world. I also liked the distinction between social network communication and the communication that is used during collaboration. You make an excellent point!

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