A Model For Student Communication and Collaboration

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June 2nd, 2011

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Student PLNs with Liz!


Getting my students to effectively collaborate and work in teams has proven to be a constant challenge.  Of course many of them love working with their friends, sharing the workload, and having a chance to be social…but I would argue that this doesn’t necessarily constitute effective collaboration.  Because of the nature of science labs, group work has always been an integral part of my class.  I’ve tried homogeneous versus heterogeneous grouping in all types of configurations such as gender and ability as well as teacher assigned versus student choice.  There are pros and cons in each situation and, like many of you know, there is no magic equation that guarantees success.  All we can do is provide opportunities for our students to work together and practice with the tools that will help them build this vital 21st century skill.

Below is a copy of standard #2 from the NETS for students taken from the ISTE website (http://www.iste.org/standards/nets-for-students/nets-student-standards-2007.aspx).

Communication and Collaboration

Students use digital media and environments to communicate and work collaboratively, including at a distance, to support individual learning and contribute to the learning of others. Students:

a. interact, collaborate, and publish with peers, experts, or others employing a variety of digital environments and media.

b. communicate information and ideas effectively to multiple audiences using a variety of media and formats.

c. develop cultural understanding and global awareness by engaging with learners of other cultures.

d. contribute to project teams to produce original works or solve problems.

Our students will need to develop these skills both online and face-to-face in order to compete and lead in the 21st century.  By using Edmodo to create a student PLN, I have seen my students take tremendous strides toward meeting and exceeding this standard.  My students have used Edmodo to communicate with one another, share class data and help each other on homework.  The best part of our Edmodo PLN is that it often breaks the face-to-face social boundaries that sometimes hinder effective collaboration.  I have seen students communicate and collaborate with peers that they would not normally interact with or, in some cases, people they never met.  I have also seen an increase in students giving positive feedback, encouragement, and support to one another.

One of my favorite features of Edmodo is the ability to form small groups within your class.  I have used this feature in many different ways to get students to engage with their peers and truly collaborate with one another on projects or ideas.  My class is configured in groups of three or four students.  I try to mix up the groups throughout the year and give students new people to work with so that they get to know everyone in the class.  We work on team building skills and the students are required to work together on inquiry based labs and projects.  The small group feature in Edmodo has allowed my students to have a space to share their ideas, lab data, and continue their discussions beyond the classroom.  It is especially helpful when students are working on group projects and need a place to share documents, answer questions, or discuss a presentation.

Before using Edmodo, my students had to rely on class time to communicate with one another.  When students needed to get in touch with classmates, they typically used email, texting, or other social networking sites.  The advantage of using Edmodo is that it keeps student communication in one place and allows the teacher to be a part of the conversation.  Students also work more efficiently and they are more willing to share their documents and ideas with the whole group.  I knew this tool had really changed the landscape of my classroom when my students would regularly tell each other on the way out of class to “Meet me on Edmodo tonight.”  The best part is that I was able to track their progress and virtually meet with them too when needed.  This interaction often led to greater understanding of content, effective collaboration, and higher quality projects and ideas.

Next week I will be sharing more about how Edmodo has been a key to success in the collaborative process of Challenge Based Learning.

I’d love to hear about how you have been able to use Edmodo to foster communication and collaboration skills with your students.

Until next time…Aloha!


One response to “A Model For Student Communication and Collaboration”

  1. Heather Davis says:

    I agree totally with what you have just said.  The walls seem to come down even if the group that is working together is actually in class together.  It is amazing to see in action.

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