Six Online Tools to Help You Foster Collaborative Learning in Your Classroom

6 months ago

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Collaborative Learning isn't a new learning strategy. Throughout the history of education, teachers have been pairing or grouping students to encourage them to work together in order to enhance their understanding of the material. Studies including math models of the Intertops Casino Red to Aristotle's works and Shakespeare's plays can be adapted to Collaborative Learning Models.


Online educational tools offer the best and easiest ways to facilitate a collaborative learning environment. These tools give students the ability to work with their peers as they become independent learners while, at the same time, successfully mastering challenging skills and knowledge. 

What is Collaborative Learning

 

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Collaborative Learning is based on the belief that knowledge is a social construct. There are four guiding principles of collaborative learning:

  • The student is the primary focus of instruction.
  • Interaction is of primary importance.
  • Working together in pairs or in groups is, in and of itself, an important mode of learning.
  • Curriculum designers should incorporate a structured approach to developing solutions to real-world problems into each lesson.

Collaborative learning can occur in pairs or in larger groups. In peer-to-peer instruction, students work in pairs or small groups to find solutions to problems or discuss concepts.
After students are introduced to course material (lecture, readings or videos) they team up to create projects that will reinforce that material. 

 

Benefits of Collaborative Learning

Creating a collaborative learning environment can be stressful for some teachers. It involves relinquishing some control over the classroom as students talk together and move ahead, each team at its own pace.
Why would a teacher want his/her students to work collaboratively?
According to research, educational experiences that are active, engaging, social, contextual and student-owned lead to deeper learning. The benefits of collaborative learning include:

  • Development of higher-level, oral communication, thinking, leadership and self-management skills.
  • Promotion of student-faculty interaction.
  • Increase in student responsibility, retention and self-esteem.
  • An increase in and exposure to understanding of diverse perspectives.
  • Preparation for real life situations including those in social and employment settings.

 

How Do You Create a Collaborative Classroom?

 

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The more you assign collaborative work, the more your classroom will become a collaborative environment. This type of culture will feed on itself as students become more accustomed to working in teams. Students will learn how to avoid distractions and focus on the task at hand, how to become more respectful of their team members' ideas and work and how to bring their own ideas and work into acceptance by their team.

That means that, even if the first collaborative assignment that you give makes your class seem noisy and unruly, your students will become accustomed to the process over time and will become more productive as the semester progresses.

Some points that may help you to get the process started:

  1. Clarify the goals and objectives of the assignments so that the students know what is expected of them.
  2. Have established rules and routines to help the students stay on task.
  3. Provide frequent feedback and monitor what each team is doing frequently.
  4. Provide incentives, in the form of positive feedback, frequently, to help the students feel that they are progressing.
  5. Facilitate team cohesion through various team-building activities. You can use icebreakers, games or group challenges to help the students interact with each other informally so that it will be easier for them to collaborate once they start working on their project.

 

Online Tools for Collaboration


Online tools make it easy for pairs or teams to collaborate. Students can work simultaneously with each student's contributions appearing  on the work instantaneously, in real time. Some of the best online tools for collaborative learning include: 


ReCap


Recap is a discussion tool. Students work together by posting questions and answers using text, imagers or video. Students can also create “Journeys”  using other external links for extra learning opportunities.


FlipGrid


FlipGrid offers an interactive video discussion platform where the teacher can create a sharing space by building an online classroom. Teachers create the topic for discussion. Once the classroom code is shared with the students the students can  participate in the discussion by submitting a short video.  Everyone who has the code can view and comment on these videos to develop an interactive learning experience. One popular use of this tool involves student debates.


ClassCraft


Classcraft turns  an entire classroom into a gaming experience. There's a built-in Learning Management System (LMS) that the teacher can use to archive materials and resources. ClassCraft's game creation tools can be adapted to almost any age group and curriculum.


Google Classroom


Google Classroom is a learning management system (LMS) which uses the shared Google platforms (Docs, Slides, Sheets, forms, etc) to archive content. By making content easy to save and share, students can easily interact and collaborate while teachers have easy access in order to create assignments and provide feedback.
The Google Classroom can be easily set up and accessed via a general Google account.

Emodo


Edmodo is a Learning Management System (LMS) where students can engage in collaborative and interactive learning. In addition to easy access of pre-made learning materials, students and teachers can create their own materials. The platform is mobile-enabled which allows students, parents and teachers to view and participate via their mobile devices.

Today's Meet


Today's Meet is a simple, collaborative discussion forum. There's no need to sign into the platform – the teacher shares the URL of the Today's Meet where s/he has entered a question or topic and each student adds his or her answer or thought.
The answers appear immediately, in real time, so all of the students can view all of the answers at the same moment that they appear.
 

 

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