Thursday, September 25, 2014

Now - That's What I Call Collaboration!


Today’s 30 Day TeachThought blog ask us to consider the ideal collaboration between students and what it would look like. 

I would change one word in that prompt and it would be to remove "between students" and replace it to  ‘between learners” -  because the ideal collaboration between learners would be inclusive of many types of learners, not just the type of learner we label as students.   It could include the learner we sometimes label “the teacher”.  It could include community members, experts in their field,  students who don’t ‘physically attend your school”, or perhaps mentors from unexpected places.    


Today’s technology removes the barriers to this type of collaboration.  Google tools allow synchronous and asynchronous collaboration on a documents, slides, drawings,  spreadsheets in all types of ways.  It does not matter that you are physically present in the same room or available at the same time.  But if you are all physically present, the technology allows everyone's voice to be included because ALL can hold and use  the pencil “a,k.a. edit rights” and add comments on the side or ideas directly in the document.   Today’s technology removes the barrier of having to be available at the same time.   If a learners  has valuable contributions s/he can include them at a different time.  Sometimes a learner can collaborate at the same time, but not in the same location.  Today’s technology allows this to happen also through a text chat right in the document or through  video conferencing platforms like Google Video Chat or Google Hangouts.

Today’s technology expands the opportunities for collaboration and makes truly authentic collaboration available such as the story of the Firetruck stories at St. Albans City School. 

In this story of collaboration,  the 3rd and 4th grade teachers leveraged a community event (the fact that the city was getting a new fire truck) to create a writing prompt for their  3rd and 4th graders.  

Let’s name the city's new firetruck and write a story of how the firetruck might have gotten this new name.  

Students were asked to take on the role of author or illustrator and were given an 8th grade mentor.  There were also several adult writing mentors assigned from throughout the school.   Using the collaboration features of Google presentation, each member of the team was able to play a different role that  contributed to the process of authoring, illustrating, and publishing a fun story booklet describing how the fire truck might be named.  The Google Presentations were then downloaded as a PDF and easily printed using the booklet format feature that is a printing options through Adobe PDF reader. 

The booklets were delivered to the firehouse in town where the city firefighters read each story and selected a name for the new firetruck.  A few weeks later,  the whole school walked out to the celebratory music of their school band and greeted the fire chief as he ceremoniously named the city’s new firetruck.





Using the import slides feature of Google presentations, each story was imported into one book then uploaded to an e-publishing program called ISSU to create a collaborative book called “How the St. Albans Fire Truck Got It’s Name”.  The collaborative ebook not only include the stories of the new fire truck’s name, it also included a whole section called “Other names the firetruck almost got” making it a truly inclusive collaborative product that anyone in the community could read online or offline.



This story of collaboration is one of my favorite to tell.  Check it out for yourself by reading the whole book,  examining the individual stories in Google presentation form, or watching the proud authors and illustrators as the fire chief names their new city firetruck.




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