Peers become important in middle childhood and...
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When I work with students on the ‘Students as Learning Designers’ project we work together on a continuum of participation.  Sometime the students creating things that just ask each other questions at other times they might ask each other to add a new piece of information to a wiki as a part of a collaborative activity.  I believe this exponentially increases the students skills in areas that are of interest or benefit to them.  For example a student my learn how to ask another student how to do something by being asked by another student to join in creating a wiki.

The article below from teachstreet summarises some of the elements of being a good online teacher including:

  • Being knowledge
  • Writing processes
  • Asking and giving feedback
  • Setting deadlines
  • Being an ‘architect’
  • Facilitation
  • Sense of humour
  • Technical know how

Aren’t these the types of skills that prepare students for knowledge work and life in general?  Aren’t these the skills we want for students.

Hargreaves in Cultures of Teaching and Educational Change talks about the complexity of encouraging collaboration amongst teachers.  He says that teachers may

‘perform brilliantly in some areas of collaborative work and poorly in others.  Great team problem-solvers may be poor emotional supporters.  Teachers who may be excellent in nuturing junior colleagues, may flinch when having to face conflicts with equals or superiors.  It is impossible to capture these complexities and distinctions in a single scale of collaborativeness.’

I believe the quote applies equally to students, the complexity of their abilities and weaknesses in working collaboratively are evident in this project.  Each student gets different things out of it but by providing very different ways of working collaboratively, both within a single project and across projects it is possible for students to identify areas they would like to improve.  As student find role models within their peer group that demonstrate different skills they are need to improve on, they then try these ideas out.  Sometimes with success, sometimes to be left to the next collaborative activity.

I think it is important for students to have a variety of opportunities to collaborate within a classroom both online and offline.  Consider giving your student the opportunity to design collaboration tomorrow. Let them design online learning spaces, courses to share with their peers and to manage and facilitate forums and chats.  You will be surprised what they can achieve with each other.

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