Work continues with my group as we near the end of the semester and the end of our project. This week we spent time testing our project with peers in the field. I was out most of the week, as my school hosted a graduation and 8th grade promotion ceremony in the LA area and San Diego area at the start of the week. I did, however, share our concept with a peer to get her feedback. She has been in education for over 20 years and at many different levels. She was very positive with her feedback of our work, sharing some great suggestions which I passed along to the team.
Some of the collaboration process we are going through is similar to what research says it not collaboration. Tasking and working individually, and reporting out to the group is not necessarily collaboration. However I do believe that if the team is on the same page, working through a solution, and knows they have folks to call on, perhaps it is not a bad thing. It is a way to maximize time when time is so limited. And it is a way to ensure everyone can work with their strengths to support the team and project.
There are some different takes on what it means to collaborate. One of the questions I came up with this week was on collaboration, along with technology. My colleague also shared a few questions, based on our reading and resources for the week. Here they are, along with our take and understanding:
Question 1: In many classrooms, educators get caught up in using the latest and greatest technology and ignore that they should be used for more than just a tool. How can technology be used to value the process, rather than just the deliverable?
“In the end, it's the message, not the tool.” Jester (2002) goes into depth about an experience that he had with his students and how using presentation software in classrooms shifted work at a computer from emphasizing the acquisition or integration of technology skills to involvement in group and project-based learning. In his experience, he sees computers as a catalyst for learning rather than just a tool to produce a deliverable. Jester (2002) suggests that if there was no requirement for students to produce a polished final presentation, teachers could explore the characteristics of multimedia that focus the student on universal concepts of language. This could allow students to fully divulge into design thinking and appreciate the process. Of course, students may have to be shown basic functions of the tools given, but after awhile students would have the confidence to explore on their own through trial and error.
Question 2: Jester (2002) says that technology tools can give support for students to delve into writing and develop their skills. How can tools be used to encourage students to broaden their understanding of what they are learning?
Even though technology tools are not a replacement for instruction, they certainly can help a student demonstrate what they know better. Technology is something that is necessary to understand and learn in order to be a successful 21st century citizen. These tools must be used in conjunction with habits of mind in order to fulfill 21st century thinking (Zmuda & Kallick, 2017). For example, multimedia such as Prezis, YouTube videos, and Flipgrid responses can provide natural divisions that help students organize ideas more clearly. Multimedia can engage students and keep their attention better than traditional media (Jester, 2002). Through technology, subjects that involve writing and explaining the student’s thinking process can become more workable for revision and editing. Using multimedia allows students to differentiate between important words and ideas through the use of color, text size and font, and position on the page (Jester, 2002). They can use customization to convey their understanding and divulge deeper meanings of what they learned.
Question 3: Collaboration is a current buzzword, but what does true collaboration look like within an organization?
Collaboration has been a big buzzword at Compass Charter Schools, so much so that it turned into a negative. This turn occurred, not because collaboration was seen as a negative, rather, there was not true collaboration taking place. Dr. Doug Fisher shared in a short video titled “Effective Collaborative Conversations” published by McGraw Hill Education that effective collaboration cannot occur in groups over five. If groups were to grow in size, there ends up being subgroups and side groups and not everyone is truly involved and engaged. Dr. Fisher also shared the task has to be complex to ensure there is a collaborative conversation. Otherwise, groups turn into tasking as opposed to working as a group. The problem at Compass was the size of the group. A recent LCAP Planning Meeting included 10 staff, with several active participants and two or three who were bystanders. While collaborative conversation was occurring in this meeting, there was not 100% participation. To ensure effective collaboration can occur, the topic needs to be complex enough to ensure the team works together and the team is organized with appropriate players. Moving forward, Compass leadership will invite staff to participate in various small groups, ensure they have the tools to answer the question and share what the anticipated end result should be. We will not provide the map for them, merely the destination and the resources they need to make their way to that destination.
Question 4: What can technology replace in the classroom setting? What is its role in learning and comprehension?
For many, technology is seen as something in addition to, rather a replacement of, tools for students in and outside the classroom. In an English class, for example, students may have used index cards and posters to jot notes and form thoughts. Through technology, these notes and thoughts can be placed into a word processor or other software. In the pen and paper era, there may have been a fear to have corrections on the piece of paper. “Because students can change wording so quickly and effortlessly, they may take more chances without the fear of "messing up" the project” (Jester, 2002). A key frame of mind in using technology, however, is a good assignment will always be seen as a good assignment. “A word of warning may be in order here, though. Just like the poster, multimedia can look good without being good. Just because the "tool" is capable of great tasks does not mean it will accomplish them. Tools are effective when used by masters of the trade. Students must learn not only the "hows" of deleting, adding, and rewriting, but the "whys" and "whens" that will lead to constructive change in their writing. As of yet, with all our spell checkers, grammar checkers, and syntax analyzers, there is no computer program that can record our thoughts without us first expressing them adequately” (Jester, 2002). The idea that technology can replace learning would be inaccurate; it can merely replace the delivery of our understanding of the subject matter at hand.
Jester, R. (2002). If I had a hammer: Technology in the language arts classroom. The English Journal, 91(4), 85-88.
Kallick, B., & Zmuda, A. (2017). Students at the Center: Personalized Learning with Habits of Mind. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.