Utilizing Mobile Collaboration Tools

Posted: May 11, 2008 in edushifts, tools

There are many new communication tools that are available for us to utilize in our own lives and in our practice. That is obvious. But what is awesome is that these tools can be accessed on the go and used to collaborate with others.

I had some real first hand experience doing this at the Leading Learning 2008 conference. The tool of choice at this conference appeared to be Google docs. It seemed that everyone I talked to who used Web 2.0 tools were using Google’s tools. If you’ve been following me on this blog, you will be well aware that I am personally not a fan of Google and I prefer to use the services of other companies that offer the same services as Google. Let’s make one thing clear – it’s not the tools that I dislike, it’s the business practices of the company. Nevertheless, for the sake of communication and collaboration, I bit the bullet and I set up an account with Google so that I could collaborate with others that were using it.

And collaborate I did.

During the various keynote and breakout sessions, I worked with several delegates in Google Docs to collaborate on creating notes during each of the session. I really saw first hand the power of being able to collaborate in real time with anyone anywhere around the world. While I have yet to try this one out yet, I have heard that Google docs currently doesn’t work on an iPhone or iPod Touch. I’m not sure it will even work on my Blackberry. Nevertheless, with an ultra-portable laptop, anyone can access the collaborative tools found on the web and work together to create knowledge and create understanding.  Being able, then, to collaborate on the go opens up new possibilities to both teaching professionals and the students they teach.

For Teachers – create shared documents for PD; for students – create shared documents for assignments.

Creating knowledge has always been a collaborative effort.  However, for the sake of individualized assessment and evaluation, students have experienced an education system that has valued individualized knowledge regurgitation. Perhaps it’s time to move the conversation beyond the value of collaborative knowledge creation and the tools that allow this to happen to a conversation about how educators can assess and evaluate this type of learning.  Where do we start?

  1. “Where do we start?”

    Right here! Let’s analyse your experience with using Googledocs to see if it can inform future practice. I think Wiggins and McTighe’s backwards design model would help.

    1. Identify desired outcomes and results. What was the goal of your group of collaborators? What did you want to create? What did you plan to do with the product? In other words what is the performance?
    2. Determine what constitutes acceptable evidence of competency in the outcomes and results. What would success look like? How would you know if you had achieved your goals?
    3. Plan instructional strategies and learning experiences that bring learners to these competency levels. What did you need to know and be able to do to reach the goals of the group? How could you acquire those skills?

    Wouldn’t this be a great way to organize an in-service for teachers? Usually we start with “here’s how to use Googledocs” and then maybe (if there’s time) move on to “how could this be used in your classroom?”. What if we started with the “performance” – ways a group could pool their conference notes to share with colleagues who couldn’t attend, and worked back, ending with “here’s how you use Googledocs”?

    Something to think about!

  2. Thanks for sharing! ‘Learning by doing’ is definitely much more engaging than learning by explaining and planning lessons this way seems to work better when teaching/using modern communication tools.

    I will definitely have to investigate this backwards design model.

  3. Rodd says:

    The trick is not to do a workshop on Google Docs, but to do a workshop on some other topic, and to engage participants in using Google Docs as a tool. The technology has to be the means to an end.

    In context: We wouldn’t have workshops on pencils would we? We’d have sessions on writing, special education, or revised science expectations that would make use of the pencil.

  4. Rodd,

    I completely agree with you. Technology is a tool and tools are to be used to enhance learning and is not to become the subject of learning itself. The medium must not be the message!

    That having been said, we must remember that we have always taught how to use tools in schools, including the pencil! In the primary grades, when writing is taught, we always teach students how to use and manipulate a pencil. When that skill has been mastered, then we move on.

    The same thing happens in automobile training, aircraft training, machine training, training in the use of medical tools, etc.

    In the same way, we must spend some time teaching technology tools to teachers. When some of the basics have been mastered, then we can move on. In the same way we never expect airplane pilots to learn how to fly on their own, we shouldn’t expect teachers to learn the tools of their trade on their own either.

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