A pressing concern that has developed around EdTech is that, by working independently from the physical classroom, it might risk isolating people and removing the collaborative aspect of learning. Luckily there have been several success stories proving that not only technology won’t harm collaboration, but it might even improve it.
Collaborating through EduTech is simpler than most people think, it doesn’t require expensive equipment or exceptional skills. A North Carolina school proved that even middle schoolers are able to use EduTech to start a successful collaboration…with a school on the other side of the world. Rockingham County Middle School worked on a science project with a school from Sweden, using a combination of free tools such as Skype, Wiki, and Crocodoc (the software no longer exists but it is similar to Google Docs). Thanks to these simple and easily accessible tools the students were able to interact and work together.
In New Jersey a High School district manages to take care of all internal communication relying exclusively on Google platforms like Google Drive, containing costs and maximizing their results. A High School in Florida created the Classroom of the Future, set up to allow anyone to connect with it from anywhere, including visiting instructors that no longer need to travel to the school to give a lecture. These examples are all around us and have been for years. Facebook groups dedicated to classes or subjects keep being one of the best ways for students to stay in touch and work together outside of the classroom, students also use WhatsApp groups to exchange information whether or not the school is involved in creating them.
Students have already integrated digital communication and collaboration in their personal lives, they have been for the past several decades. Extending this form of communication to their school life just seems like the natural next step to take. Allowing students to work with a media they are already familiar with, be it Twitter, Youtube or Skype, will boost their confidence and make them feel more at ease even when dealing with tasks they are new to. Establishing working relationships with their classmates will come easier if they can communicate in the same way they otherwise would to establish a friendship.
Furthermore, thanks to EduTech it will be easier for each student working on a project to have a clear task within their team. It will also be easier for their teacher to track how much each of them contributed to the final product.
The success stories we talked about are the perfect example of how technology is not going to replace human work and human interaction, it is only going to transform them. Teamwork is considered a fundamental skill to develop in order to survive the constant changes in the modern workplace, and EduTech can have a significant impact on how students acquire it.
Now that we know what aspects of technology can promote collaboration, we can learn what steps teachers can take to turn this into a reality.
The first steps to take are the simpler ones, with the tools already at our disposal, like Google Drive or Facebook groups.
Personalizing the learning process of each individual student does not mean suppressing teamwork, and it is up to the teacher to make sure collaboration is a priority.
This is why it is vital for schools to provide educators with the right tool, making sure they are informed about new technologies, or partnering up with IT specialists so teachers can be assisted in understanding new tools and how to use them to their advantage.
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