Collaboration and school work.
Tom Whitby feels that collaboration is relevant in education. I agree to an extent. In school, when you collaborate, you have to assume a basic fact. That is that every student in that classroom has bought into whatever is the task. For a variety of reasons this is not the case. Some students don’t have an interest in the project, some students don’t have ideas, some students don’t care, some student are lazy and some students are just not in a place that they want to participate. In the workplace, this is not always the case. Therefore comparing the workplace with collaboration by students is not an equal comparison.
In my class we do many projects. Almost all projects have a component of collaboration. In order for this to work I have done many things to help with the problems above. Certainly technology has been very helpful and I agree with that premise, however, the best luck I have had with collaboration comes from a rubric that includes personal responsibility.
In the work place, ( I used to work in a lab as a chemist), everyone did come together to create a product. Each person had their piece of the puzzle. In my class each person is given a task to complete the project. I also employ a project manager of the group who is responsible for the end product. The project manager must volunteer as he is the only person in the group whose grade is dependent on another person’s work. Everyone else has a rubric that is specific to their task and is tailored to the job they hold in the group. For example, one project was to create a commercial about pollution and plastic water bottles. In the group there is a videographer, script writer, artist and project manager. Each person has a list of responsibilities. Each person can choose their job and is responsible for a piece of the puzzle. The project manager then takes each piece of the puzzle and presents it. If the manager has done a good job his work is simple, if he has not he must make up for one of his employees. Each person gets an individual grade. If the script is great but the video is poorly cut one person may receive an A and another a C. This is how I deal with collaboration in my class. It has worked very well but it is a pain to grade. It is not a perfect system. I still have students who ride the coattails of hard workers but it has levelled the playing field and parents seem very happy about this. I had one reflection from a boy who said that he didn’t trust my system at first. He would redo everyone’s work so that he would not suffer. He said in time he did trust me and was so relieved in a group project not to have to do everyone’s job. For this reason he loved this class.
Using the SAMR model, technology has been helpful in my collaborative class as I discussed above. The surface pro’s kids use at school help significantly with research. This is the case of substitution. I have substituted a surface pro for a trip to the library. It is very helpful, they can take online tutorials and research a new tool very effectively. It augments learning with the tutorials. Students can watch repeatedly how to do something they have never done before. Also I can assign a new technology that I have not mastered and let the students work through learning a new skill. The modification has been that the classroom is not teach led. I am more of a coach. I get students going on a track and let them find out new things and let them think critically. They have to figure it out for themselves because I don’t know all of the answers. Finally technology has let us do projects that were never possible before. We have so much information at our fingertips that students can research many things without taking the time to find it in books.
I like the 3-D printer. It can make math come alive. I always tell students that math is pictures through numbers. This can be experienced using the printer. This printer can make the abstract, concrete. It can take ideas and turn them into reality. I have to imagine it will change the world the way pictures changed the world in the 1800’s. Supposing you break your glasses. All you need do is place them in the scanner and create a new pair. Or simply replace the part that is broken. This is very similar to a replicater in Star Trek.
Making this connection for students is very exciting for mathematics and for science. We can create projects from our ideas. My son is having surgery on his jaw in December. The doctor is creating a mock up of his skull in 3-D using such a scanner. He will then practice the surgery in advance of my son being in the hospital. He will then use the mock up to show him what he will look like. Using this technology will help in so many ways I don’t think we can imagine all of the hands-on opportunities it will give to our students.
We have every student at Marist with their own device. It is really great. I didn’t think it would be this way when we started, now I can’t imagine going back. All of my assignments are handed in electronically. I only use paper when I print up math tests. Students in the upper school use one note to take notes. All of the students have styluses and can use them to take notes on their devices. We use so much less paper than other schools it is amazing. Students have learned how to use most of the google apps but this year I will teach them more about some of these other programs I have learned this year. Here are the advantages:
- Typing class is easy
- No paper
- Test taking online
- They can watch videos for instruction
- Many math teachers use flip classroom
- Science teachers are using virtual experiments
- We have lanschool so we can monitor each device in class.
- Student playing video games lose their device for an entire week.
- Papers cannot get lost. They have a digital record of all work submitted and it is so easy to find.
Disadvantages and how we deal with them
- Forgotten devices (detention)
- Broken devices ( insurance) and it happens almost every week
- Parents don’t understand the system (occasional education)
- Lost devices (eventually they turn up)
- Cheating (Lanschool)
- Video games (loss of device)
I like the system. It is easy to monitor, it is easy to grade and I don’t have so much paper around. I get a satisfaction from ticking off the numbers in the Haiku program that shows what is left to grade. Finally parents are coming around but that was a bit of a struggle.