Sunday, December 12, 2010

Online Collaborative Learning

As a 35 year old woman, I appear ancient to middle school students. Until high school I wrote all of my papers
by hand, and then I had a Brother word processor. My video game was an Atari. I wore jeans that went all the way up to my belly button. In college I still did not own a computer.
I used one in a computer lab, and I saved my work on a floppy disk.

The decision to take online courses at this time was a huge self-challenge for me. But how can I teach in an environment I don't understand? I needed an update. But would I succeed? What if I didn't figure out how to post an assignment correctly? What if my work was lost somewhere in cyberspace? Well, I just jumped in, and I am figuring it all out as I go. Also, I got a new computer and some new jeans with my student loan money.

Now, one thing I have learned is the value of networking and collaborating. This is something I want my students to experience as they study literature together. These are skills used in the real world of work. This is how life is lived in the 21st century.

If you would like an example of online collaboration and the ability to use new tools through trial and error, take a look at an elementary school room mother preparing to embark on a Christmas shopping expedition. Suddenly, it becomes clear that social networking is a great way to share coupon discounts. Everyone figures out how to forward email coupons, search for store coupons through a variety of websites, using multiple search engines, obtain coupon codes, and attach them to messages sent to friends. The woman who never sent an email in her life posts links to her friends' facebook profiles, helping them donate a percentage of all their purchases to charity. The room mother Googles the target locations and proficiently forwards maps and driving directions to her shopping cohorts. It is truly an exercise in online collaboration spurred by motivation.

Now my primary goal is to find a motivation for my students that is as exciting to them as shopping is to me. I really think that could be digital storytelling, if I develop a great hook for my next lesson plan!


  1. Well Sherrie:
    This week was challenging for me...grade due and everything else in between. I was not able to collaborate in a way that I know I am capable of, which only led me to believe that students would need a lot of monitoring in class to do collaborative work, at least at first.

  2. Yes, I had the same problem this week. With three small children, there are so many activities every night this time of year. I know I should have done more online collaboration for our class. I think we have to "press reset" and just promise to do better next week.

    As you say, doing this type of work with students will require a lot of monitoring. I think they should keep work logs, sort of like they keep reading logs. This will help them monitor themselves and the amount of time they put in to online work, and it will help us hold them accountable. Sometimes the output doesn't accurately reflect the time spent, so a participation log will allow me to give students credit for time spent investigating, etc.

    This is one thing I really like about the wiki. A log is kept that shows every single edit made and every item added, the time it was done, and the student who did it. I think when students see this record, it encourages them to do their fair share. It is clear to everyone that the amount of work they do is visible and that it is part of the team's grade and their own individual grade.


Dream Theme

American Literature students are exploring the theme of dreams in poetry this month. We are reading A Dream Within a Dream by Edgar Allan P...