Voices from the field
How ed-tech can enhance collaborative learning
Ever since the classroom was invented educators have been using the latest technologies to enhance the learning process and support students in achieving the best academic outcomes. If at first classroom technology consisted of pens and paper and the blackboard, the most recent ed-tech now includes interactive whiteboards, classroom projectors, laptops or tablets and even VR headsets.
Educators today can’t really complain about not having enough options in terms of classroom technologies. What they can complain about though is the challenge they face when deciding upon which ed-tech is the right ed-tech for their classroom or school. It’s so easy to overlook important pedagogical aspects and go with the flow when implementing new technology, only to realize too late that another way would have been better.
On the other hand, not implementing educational technology in the classroom is no longer an option. Today’s students truly are digital natives; not only did they learn to use technology from a young age — they were born surrounded by it. When they’ll become adults the world they’ll live in will have even more (and more advanced) technology than we can imagine. It is therefore natural for students and parents alike to expect ed-tech to be used in the classroom.
How ed-tech enhances collaborative learning
One aspect that will forever be a part of the learning process of student is collaboration. Since we’re all social beings, we also learn when we’re surrounded by others, discussing the same topics. Collaborative learning supports this innate needs of students of getting feedback regarding their progress and having their questions answered — by their teachers or by their peers.
Even though collaboration is deeply human, education technology can support and enhance it. Here are a few examples of ed-tech that teachers can use in their instruction to do just that:
Chat tools. Exchanging ideas is the basis of collaboration. Whether students are allowed to use chat tools they’re already familiar with from other aspects of their lives (like Facebook Messenger or Skype, for example) or the chat tool integrated within the school LMS (which is easier to control by faculty and comes with a better degree of online safety) they’ll express their ideas online and engage in debates regarding one learning subject or another.
Online collaboration tools. Padlet, TalkBoard, GoSoapBox, Recap, Google Apps for Education — these are all examples of websites and apps that help students collaborate during a lesson, contribute their own ideas and answer their peers’ questions, under the complete supervision and guidance of the teacher.
Groups, blogs and wikis. These can each be a stand-alone solution or integrated within the school LMS as well. Students can work together on assignments, receive feedback for their work and develop their skills of offering complete and considerate feedback to other colleagues’ work. Teachers can moderate discussions and encourage participation from all students, even from those that are not very engaged in face-to-face learning activities.
The above examples of education technology that teachers can use in their instruction only scratched the surface of ed-tech for collaborative learning. It may take time to check each example and find out how it can enhance student learning, but once a few of these tools prove their potential all is worth it.