Collaborative Projects: the pleasure and the pain

It was with great relief, and a sense of achievement, that I submitted my first assignment for ETL523 – Digital Citizenship in Schools – a collaboratively developed learning module published using wikispaces.

Our lecturer, @julielindsay, offered us words of advice around the need for empathy, communication, collaboration, leadership and compromise, to facilitate successful collaboration on this group assignment.

 

My partners – Helen and Karen – and I “met” with each other often throughout the course of this assignment, which helped us to build empathy for each other.  Each of us faced difficulties in our daily lives that impacted on the development of this project (such as major flooding, power outages, sick children, etc.), and it was important for each of us to be aware of this as we worked together on completing our assignment.  Most of our meetings took place in Facebook Messenger through chats and texts on a regular basis, and our conversations were both professional and personal in nature.  We had quite a few mammoth meetings to walk through our learning modules together, in addition to daily texts that went to and fro between our scheduled chats.  Facebook Messenger was a great tool to facilitate this.

 

We communicated regularly throughout the project in different spaces – Facebook Messenger, shared google docs and the Discussion feature on wikispaces.  We agreed to meeting for a chat once a week throughout the project, negotiating a time that suited all of us, however sent texts to each other whenever we needed to.   I found it much easier communicating with my partners through talking than texting, although I loved the speed and immediacy of texting about particular ideas/issues.    We had some “tense” moments throughout the project where our expectations differed, or suggestions made impacted more heavily on one team member than others, and I found it hard to communicate empathy and support through texts.  I worried about some of our written correspondence around these “tense” moments, whereas these fears were alleviated when we actually spoke with each other.  I felt that I dominated some of our communication, and was concerned that I was being too bossy.

 

The project was definitely a joint effort, with each of us collaborating on and contributing to the design and content of our learning modules.  We tried and discussed different design and formatting features, feeling the “…pain and discomfort of virtual collaboration” at times (Lindsay, 2017 ETL523 Week 6 Announcement).  We brainstormed together once our team was formed, then went off and started work on the area we had taken responsibility for.  I quickly realised that I had bitten off way more than I could incorporate into a 500 word learning module, and dominated our first formal Facebook Messenger chat talking through my concerns.  Our conversation helped me work through my concerns, and I was then able to tackle my section with greater confidence and direction.  The chat also helped us all recognise that we had been overly ambitious about the content for another section;  while our initial ideas for our final section were realistic and achievable.

 

I freely admit to struggling with leadership and compromise while working on this collaborative project.  I did need to “park my pride” (Lindsay, 2017 ETL523 Week 6 Announcement) throughout this project to work within our group’s flow,  but I don’t feel I did this very successfully.   I strongly believe in open and honest communication, yet recognise that context and tone is often lost in non face-to-face communication.  As a real-life/tech-life balance strategy, I have deliberately not enabled notifications from Facebook, and so would often contribute to conversations asynchronously.  I did feel domineering and bossy in some of my communications throughout this project, and spent quite a long time composing some of my texts to try to achieve a softer tone.  I much preferred communicating via talking to justify in greater detail why I had made particular suggestions, or to reach a compromise.    Our final chat saw us walk through each of our learning modules, to edit and proofread each other’s work, and make suggestions about content or design.   I respect the professionalism of my team mates and readily share joint ownership of the learning modules created for Team 5.1. I am proud of what we have achieved together.

 

I appreciated the opportunity to create an individual artefact within this collaborative assignment.  I also appreciated my team mates’ feedback on the artefacts I submitted for the assignment.  I created much of the multimedia content I included in the module I was responsible for, and thought long and hard about which artefact to include for Part B of the assignment.

I preferred my Storify, created to help people develop a Twitter account to connect with people and places online:

 

My team mates preferred my Thinglink, created to suggest some innovative people and places that people could visit and connect with face to face:

In the end I submitted both, to reflect how a digital leader’s PLN needs to blend connections with people and places, in both online and face-to-face domains.

……………………………………………………………

P.S.  I could recognise elements of  Sonya Van Schaijik‘s (Lindsay, 2016, p.101) “disruptive friend” in the many questions and suggestions I made throughout our project as I pushed for our project to be completed at a high standard.    It’s challenging and at times uncomfortable striving for your version of “the best”, while still working within the group flow and accepting that each group member has their own versions of “the best”.    I prefer the term “disruptive friend” to “bossy”, and the notion that a disruptive friend adds depth and value to the learning that happens in collaborative projects.

 

REFERENCES

Lindsay, J. (2016). The global educator: Leveraging technology for collaborative learning and teaching. Eugene, Oregon/Arlington, VA: International Society for Technology in Education.

2 thoughts on “Collaborative Projects: the pleasure and the pain

  1. Those digital artefacts are bloody magnificent! I appreciated reading your honest account of the wikispaces collaboration as it asked a lot of me too, to try and compromise on how to best achieve a good outcome. It was one of the most difficult assignments I’ve done to date – the content of the work was not the obstacle!

    • Thanks for your positive response to my artefacts Lisa, and the smile that your frank comment brought to my face. Group work is such an integral part of learning in the classes I teach today. I think it was good for us to walk in the shoes of our students for a while as we worked on this collaborative project. It gives us a more empathic appreciation of what they may be going through.

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