Finding the Why Series-Part Two: Collaboration


What does collaboration look like in a 21st Century classroom? Why is it important?

Coming together is a beginning.
Keeping together is progress.

Working together is success. (Henry Ford)

This week we will focus on one of the 4Cs we learned about in part one of this series: Collaboration.

According to proponents of collaborative learning, the fact that students are actively exchanging, debating and negotiating ideas within their groups increases students’ interest in learning. Importantly, by engaging in discussion and taking responsibility for their learning, students are encouraged to become critical thinkers (Totten, Sills, Digby & Russ, 1989). Many researchers have reported that students working in small groups tend to learn more of what is being taught. Moreover, they retain the information longer and also appear more satisfied with their classes (Beckman, 1990; Chickering & Gamson, 1991; Goodsell, et al , 1992).

What is collaborative learning?

Collaborative learning is based on the view that knowledge is a social construct. Collaborative activities are most often based on four principles:

  • The learner or student is the primary focus of instruction.
  • Interaction and “doing” are of primary importance
  • Working in groups is an important mode of learning.
  • Structured approaches to developing solutions to real-world problems should be incorporated into learning. published a great article on How Colllaborative Learning Leads to Student Success.  Here is an excerpt: (You can find a link to the entire article at the bottom of this post.)

Establishing a culture of collaboration isn’t resource-intensive. It doesn’t take hours of professional development, or technology, or even technical know-how. And assessing collaborative work is usually simple and straightforward. But you do need open minds and the willingness to trust students with their learning. You need a culture that values every student’s strengths and a school community that believes everyone can learn from each other. In other words, it requires the very things that nearly every school strives for. So why not give it a try?

Edutopia also has a great article on going a little deeper to make this learning model a little easier to replicate in your classroom. (You can find a link to the entire article-with step by steps examples and guidance at the bottom of this post.)

What’s ideal when it comes to collaboration in our classrooms? Here’s one coveted scenario: several children gathered at a table engaged in a high-level task, discussing, possibly debating an issue, making shared decisions, and designing a product that demonstrates all this deeper learning.

As teachers, we’d love to see this right out the gate, but this sort of sophisticated teamwork takes scaffolding. It won’t just happen by placing students together with a piece of provocative text or an engaging task. (Heck, this deeper learning collaboration is challenging for most adults!)

In preparing our students for college and careers, 21st century skills call on us to develop highly collaborative citizens — it’s one of the 4 Cs, after all.

Most of our HCS are Leader in Me schools with one habit being to SYNERGIZE! What a great example of synergy in action when students are collaborating to build and scaffold their learning, thinking critically, while Sharpening the Saw all at the same time!

What is the impact of collaborative learning or group work? 

Research shows that educational experiences that are active, social, contextual, engaging, and student-owned lead to deeper learning. The benefits of collaborative learning include:

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


Here is a great article with resources from Global Digital Citizen.  It was so great I couldn’t just summarize-so I brought the entire article over to share with all of you!

7 Resources for Student Collaboration

7 Resources for Student CollaborationVia eClassroom News

Collaboration is increasingly emerging as one of today’s top skills. Part of the 4Cs, it is needed in K-12 classrooms, in higher education, and in the workforce. Students who leverage technology to build collaboration skills are building strong college- and career-ready skills.

More and more classrooms are going mobile, whether that is through school-issued laptops or tablets, or via BYOD initiatives that allow students to bring and use their personal mobile devices in school.

However collaboration is accomplished, it’s evident that mobile collaboration tools are as important as ever.

Here, we’ve listed a number of free and fee-based collaborative tools and apps, along with developer-provided descriptions, for students to use as they develop collaboration skills in and out of school. This is just a small sample of collaborative tools, and if you have a favorite that is not listed, please let us know in the comments section below.

Scoodle Jam
Challenge curious minds with an engaging, collaborative, Common Core-aligned product for school and home. Scoodle Jam marries powerful creation tools with imaginative content that supports critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity, turning your iPad into a flexible learning environment.

Drawp for School
This creativity tool offers built-in sharing, cloud storage, and workflow management. The tool also features a family edition, which educators could use to strengthen home-school connections.

Mind42 allows you to manage all your ideas, whether alone, twosome or working together with the whole world. Mind42 runs in your browser, so no installation necessary for the ultimate hassle-free mind mapping experience. Just open your browser and launch the application whenever and wherever needed.

Scribble Press
Scribble Press is a multimedia creativity platform for creating, sharing, and publishing stories. Students can access the tool online or on iPads and can work together to create stories supporting classroom topics or lessons.

Whiteboard Lite
This app lets students collaborate on the same whiteboard, whether for brainstorming, art projects, or visualizing concepts.

ThinkBinder uses a simple, focused set of tools to allow users to collaborate and work more efficiently. This features chat, sharing, whiteboard collaboration, and more. Tools are designed around seamless communication and collaboration. Sign on and ask a question about calculus homework, work through a physics problem on the collaborative whiteboard, or video chat with a Spanish partner, all in one place.

Dweeber is a social website that connects students and helps them get homework done faster by working with their peers online.

This article appeared on eClassroom News on September 19 2014 and was written by the staff of eSchool News.

Resources on Collaboration


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