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February 1, 2023
Vol. 80
No. 5
Ask Our EdTech Expert

Working Better Together Online

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ASCD author Monica Burns responds to educators' tech dilemmas.

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Instructional StrategiesTechnology
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Credit: ASCD
Q: What are some ways students can collaborate in digital spaces? Can you recommend some tools that encourage collaboration?
In Search of Greater Group Work
A: Collaboration is a practice that can take place inside and outside digital spaces. We know that collaboration is more than just sitting side-by-side or opening up a shared Google Doc at the same time. It involves a shared task or goal students are working toward in pairs, a small group, or even an entire class.
Students can collaborate in many ways, and there are tools that encourage each of them. Here are some tips to support collaboration in digital spaces.
  1. Share a clear task. Make sure that students know exactly what to do when entering a collaborative space. It can help everyone stay focused on the task at hand if the task is clear and easy to understand.
  2. Set expectations. Let students know what it will look for them to work together in a shared digital space. You might discuss what happens when students are both working on a collaborative document at the same time, such as the cursor moving a particular way. You might also discuss what to do if something "goes wrong," like if one student accidentally moves or deletes something another group member has contributed.
  3. Use examples. Share examples of what students are asked to do that goes beyond the steps of a project or assignment and connects directly to the collaborative aspect of their task. Show them what it looks like to add comments to a document to ask a fellow group member a question or to give advice. Or share examples of how a group successfully navigated a collaborative space in a past project.
  4. Take time to reflect. Give students an opportunity to share what is working and what is not working well in collaborative spaces. You might provide discussion prompts for them to use to make sharing feelings and feedback more productive. This time to reflect could take part on the individual level, from one group member to another, or from a student to a teacher.

Tools that Encourage Collaboration

Many tools that fall into the category of "classroom technology" include collaborative features. If there is a tool already in your tool belt, see if there are collaboration elements within it. Some popular tools that have a collaborative feature built into them include Google Slides for presentations, Canva for posters and graphic design, Book Creator for ebooks, and Microsoft Teams for shared conversations and whiteboard access, just to name a few.
As you set up students in collaborative spaces this year, you are helping them build skills that will transfer to many parts of their life. They can apply these skills regularly in learning experiences in different subject areas and later, in the workforce, they can take these skills into industry-specific tools that will help them thrive as colleagues and community members.

EdTech Essentials

In a world awash in technology, what edtech skills and strategies should educators focus on to ensure they are making the best use of online spaces for classroom learning?

EdTech Essentials

Have an edtech dilemma?

 Submit a question for Monica.

Dr. Monica Burns is a curriculum and EdTech consultant, Apple Distinguished Educator, and founder of ClassTechTips.com. As a classroom teacher, Monica used digital tools to create an engaging, differentiated learning experience to meet the needs of her students. Monica started her blog, ClassTechTips.com, in 2012 and launched the Easy EdTech Podcast and her membership site, the Easy EdTech Club, to support educators who want to streamline technology integration. She leads workshops and provides keynote presentations to teachers, instructional coaches, administrators, and tech enthusiasts at numerous national and international conferences, including SXSW EDU, ISTE, FETC, and EduTECH. Monica is the author of Tasks Before Apps and four ASCD quick reference guides, among other publications.

 

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