While the increase in online learning and educational technology certainly has its advantages, many critics say that the prevalence of digital tools and devices, inside and outside the classroom, has had a negative effect our students' development of interpersonal skills (collaboration, constructive criticism, etc.).
Here at Wowzers, we tend to disagree with the notion that today’s kiddos are becoming less interactive with their peers as the number of tablet and computer screens increases. In fact, we feel that the recent advances in educational technology actually provide greater avenues for collaborative skill development within, and outside, the classroom.
“Prove it,” you say? No problem!
Check out the awesome student-friendly tools below the break to learn more about how you can utilize online learning resources to foster the development of important collaboration and group learning skills within your classroom and school.
Improving Student Collaboration Skills in Today's Classroom
Because of the wide availability and usage of smartphones, netbooks, iPads, and similar mobile devices, today’s students are often already accustomed to communicating and learning via digital technology before they even step foot into the classroom.
You can help your students apply their preexisting tech-based skill sets via blended learning activities that enhance collaboration skills and promote positive peer interaction and group learning experiences.
Here are a few of the online educational technology tools that can help you develop these collaborative activities:
Learning Management Systems:
Many of the new wave of learning management systems (LMS), like Blackboard Collaborate or Haiku Learning, provide educators the means to organize assignments across all subjects and learner profiles while also afford students the ability to quickly and easily share information, interact with one another, and collaborate on projects.
Student-centered LMS features, such as peer instant messaging, Android/iOS compatibility, Google Apps integration, voice authoring, and web conferencing are all amazing collaborative classroom tools. Your classroom/school's LMS organizes all of these tools into one portal where students can access them together
Blogs serve as an awesome way for people to share their thoughts, feelings, and expertise about a particular topic or idea in a rapid and easily accessible fashion. That sounds like a great tool for a collaborative classroom, right? We thought so too!
Many of the student blog platforms are easy-to-use and, more importantly, free! Via platforms like Edublogs and Kidblog, educators can help students create their own individual student blogs, develop a "teacher blog" for student and parent news, or even whole classroom blogs that serve as drivers of discussion and responses.
Having students create blog posts both encourages regular writing activities and helps them develop digital media best practices. Additionally, students can also visit a classmate's blogs to read and post comments, which helps instill proper online comment and constructive response etiquette.
Often an available component within learning management systems, discussion forums provide yet another way for students to interact and collaborate online with their peers and their teachers. Where as student blogs often represent the main idea of one person via blog posts, discussion boards offer the ability for multiple students to offer opinions, explanations, and criticism via a running group conversation.
Certified teacher and “Free Technology for Teachers” author Richard Byrne recommends Forums.com as a user-friendly and quick way to set up a private or public classroom discussion forum. As the teacher, you can maintain and administer the discussion groups by designating topics/questions for discussion, assigning homework activities that include addressing a unique subject or real world application situation, as well as having students read and reply to posts by their peers.
According to Professor Jim Lengel from the Boston University College of Communication Combining, video and audio learning tools produce the ultimate means to encourage interaction and collaboration between students and teachers. Dr. Lengel is a staunch believer in the value of live video conferencing within in the classroom, and he encourages teachers (in good reason) to use online audio/visual experiences to enhance learning opportunities.
Through the use of webcams, teachers can set up remote teaching sessions, guest lecturers, virtual field trips, math panel contests, and many other learning opportunities. You can hold video conferences in your classroom via free tools like Skype and Google+ Hangouts.
Tell us about your experiences with collaboration via online learning resources
At Wowzers, we feel it is (obviously) important for your math students to excel, but it's also just as important to enhance their student-to-student and student-to-teacher collaboration skills.
These tools allow you to help students go beyond just "showing their work" Instead, your students can discuss their choices, processes, and what they learned in a group, partner, or even whole class setting. The benefits will go far beyond a scatter plot or equation!