My first assignment for Digital Citizenship in Schools (ETL523) involved working on an online collaborative authoring task creating a Wiki module. This was the first time during my studies of MA Education that I’ve been asked to work collaboratively with others to produce content that would be assessed.
Initially I felt anxious. My mind flew back to my experience during a teachers’ ‘team building’ treasure hunt exercise in the desert a few years ago. When all the teams returned at the end of the day, one group were not talking to each other! I remember glancing over to a sunburnt teacher on the edge of tears… it was a disaster! They had become enemies! Pondering this, suddenly my concerns centred on all the problems I might be likely face. My initial thought was that of impending doom.
However, my experience from the very beginning was extremely positive. I was lucky that I had amazing colleagues to work with – Gillian and Amy. In our first online meeting with our lecturer we used the opportunity to organise our group immediately. A few days later we had our first online meeting. We then continued to communicate via a variety of online collaborative learning tools including Google docs, Padlets and Diigo. These helped us formulate ideas and share theory relevant to our proposal and to come to a consensus on our module structure, presentation and layout.
Throughout the process we also used email, WhatsApp, the Wiki itself and had regular chats in the Adobe Connect chat room. Each chat was minuted and followed up with action points. One member took on the role of leader which helped us all work effectively together and ensured everyone was clear on their roles and responsibilities.
Most importantly there was a sense of mutual respect for an individual’s input. This created a positive learning environment. It also meant that people were receptive to feedback. Creating and producing work alone means you are largely restricted to your own thoughts and sometimes only receive feedback once an assignment is completed for example. In contrast, a significant advantage to collaborative learning is that it’s a far more dynamic and reflective experience. Other peoples’ thoughts, feedback, knowledge and expertise has the potential to be transformative – to change your own formulations and reimagine initial concepts. I began to see the efficacy of online collaborative learning for students because I was experiencing it myself.
I reflected on how lucky I was to have been in such a great team. We didn’t need to set ground rules at the beginning. I didn’t think it was needed. We’re all adults aren’t we? but then I thought back to the team building activity in the desert and the miserable group of teachers at the end of the day! Yes our team was lucky, it was a fluid and positive experience. However, it could easily have not been the case.
With this in mind, in order to leverage the full potential of online collaborative learning tasks, I will ensure I set aside time in discussing with students, the attitudes, dispositions and behaviours of online collaborative learning which are conducive to being successful digital citizens. In the same way we teach behaviour management in the classroom, digital citizenship behaviours should be introduced and regularly revisited according to the varying contexts in which students are faced. This can help students to feel empowered when they think, collaborate, learn, communicate and share.
Below is a link to the digital artefact that I created for this module. I created the video using ‘VideoScribe’, uploaded it to Youtube and embedded it on Linoit.
The video can also be viewed directly below