Exploring the concept of a Wall being either a barrier to collaboration or a series of building blocks in a wall for collaboration.Playing with the theme of the music from Pink Floyd, “The Wall”
“The Wall” was an anthem for me and my mates during my teenage years in Secondary School in Dublin.“we don’t need no education” was a war-cry that I am using here as a symbol for the industrial image of teaching as presented by sir Ken Robinson in his inspirational talk on “Changing Paradigms”We don’t need this style of teaching as it is based on the rows and walls being a barrier to collaboration.
The Wall here is the one used in Social Media.1 – Facebook, used by all our studentsSome of my SDD students invited me to brainstorm challenges in the 2010 NCSS Challenge (run by the University of Sydney). We worked on this late on a Sunday evening in order to complete the challenge tasks for that week.Each student and their parents reckoned that this activity on Facebook was one of the most engaging and inspirational educational experiences they had ever encountered.2 – Edmodo is an educational social network that I use with all my students and more recently with other schools in my #ccGlobal Connected Classrooms inititaive. The Edmodo wall is the fromtline of some wonderful collaboration.
One of the challenges for Educators is striking the balance between a “safe and secure” environment for students and preventing them from having access or publishing content which fits in nicely with the lyrics “we don’t need no thought control”
To overcome the fear of “thought control”, I believe we should open up our learning environments for our students. Yes, they will make mistakes but shouldn’t we allow them to learn from their mistakes. By opening up the learning environment for them, they should be able to see their teachers as role models in the 21st model of Digital Citizenship.
The lyric “No dark Sarcasm in the Classroom” reminds me of the image of Professor Umbridge in Harry Potter and her particular style of industrial dictatorial non-collaborative teaching. Was she really a “Sage” on stage?I believe we should adapt the mentoring “Guide on the side” style of Professor Dumbledore instead who facilitated the student-centred collaborative learning exploration followed so successfully by Harry Potter and his close friends.
Moving on from the Umbridge style of Industrial teaching, I want to highlight the style of education delivered in universities. We all survived this style of teaching but wouldn’t want to deliver it to our students. How did I survive? Well I collaborated with my friends to share the burden of creating summary notes and examination preparation. If I hadn't done this, I may not have survived the experience.
The idea of collaborative learning was one I chose to explore for my IPT HSC class of 2008. Their HSC Trial examination responses, while displaying some understanding of the content, showed very poor use of syllabus literacy which would have had a negative impact on their ability to succeed in the HSC.I developed this wiki to help them quickly create a comprehensive set of revision notes explaining the terminology used in the syllabus. Each student took ownership for a separate section of the syllabus and they successfully improved their overall standard as a result. Collaboration was the key to this success story.Subsequent classes chose to stamp their brand of ownership of the content by enriching the content, moderating and upgrading the content. Its popularity has extended beyond St Augustine's College to many other schools around NSW. The students have embraced collaborative learning in a very positive and natural way.
“Hey! Teachers! Leave them kids alone” was another war-cry from Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”. Here however I am putting a positive spin on it by suggesting that teachers can facilitate C21 learning by allowing the students to control the content via wikis, blogs and podcasts in a powerful student-centred learning model. Once the students collaborate and own the content, the learning becomes an authentic enriched experience for them.
… and so the challenge from this presentation is to examine our concept of “The Wall”. Is it a negative barrier to collaborative learning? This is depicted with the image of the rabbit next to the Great Wall of China, as in the famous Telstra ad .. Or is it the image of the wall allowing the people on it to travel from A to BI suggest that walls may be extended by the use of IdeaPaint (as used at NBCS) to allow the walls to become a medium for collaboration.
I extend my walls into the cloud by getting students to save their work in cloud apps such as box.net or dropbox. They plan projects using TomsPlannergantt chart scheduling. They collaborate using PrimaryPad, GoogleDocs and social bookmarking such as Delicious.com or Diigo.Their project based learning is supported very efficiently by extending their wall of collaboration into the clouds.
I also extend my walls by creating game-based collaborative learning experiences.My preferred approach with these apps is to allow the students to create the quizzes to test each other providing excellent formative and summative assessment including revision for exams .From my experience, students engage in a very powerful way with these apps. Once their ‘games’ are created, the collaboration can be extended beyond their own classroom by publishing them for others to use.
My students regularly collect data or feedback from a global audience via surveys such as surveyMonkey or Google Forms.I also use mobile Student response apps such as Socrative or pollEverywhere to get instant feedback on various topics of interest.We usually start projects or create surveys by using the online brainstorming app, mindmeister.These apps allow easy collaborative practices to occur between the students and also beyond to a global audience further enriching their authentic learning experience.
From a teacher to teacher collaborative perspective, I have used Twitter to great effect this year and as a result I have built a very powerful and influential PLN.We share resources in a very powerful form of personal professional learning.We connect our classrooms to allow the collaboration to occur at all levels.
In recent months, my twitter PLN has started to explore the enormous potential of Google plus. I have built a circle for my #ccGlobal friends. A great bunch of innovative educators from the USA, Ireland, UK and Australia meet regularly to havewonderful discussions about how we can extend collaborative learning.
This slide shows my own blog that I use to write about connected classrooms.I get my students to publish via blogs for most of the projects that they work on. We have changed from the concept of “the work needs to be handed in ….” to the concept of assuming that their work needs to be published for their peers in their class and around the world to see, read and evaluate. Collaborative publication and feedback encourages the students to engage in this style of authentic learning.
I facilitated a wonderful asynchronous/synchronous project for our Primary school earlier this year with the Van Meter school in Iowa, USA.Our students were creating ads showcasing Australia as part of an “Australian Identity” project. Once they realised that their US friends would be evaluating their work. The engaged with the work a higher than normal level. The asynchronous part of the collaboration occurred via voiceThread. The students video ads were uploaded to voiceThread and the students at van Meter provided some fantastic evaluation of their work from peers who had never been to Australia but wanted to find out as much as they could about it.The synchronous follow-up occurred via a live Skype chat about the evaluations.
The concept of the classroom wall extending to locations around the world is capturing excellently with this image of another collaborative project that I facilitated. This time for a Year 7 Chinese class. The school may have been just up the road in Sydney but it could well have any location around the world.Student on both side of this ‘wall’ really engage with the concept of collaborative learning.
These collaborative learning projects were noticed by other innovative educators on Twitter and so the “Connected Classrooms” project was born.We have a group of fantastic educators assembled from all over the world collaborating in exciting ways using a variety of innovative tools to create an exciting learning environment for students all over the world.
.. And so the story finishes with the final war-cry from Pink Floyd: “All in all, you’re just another brick in the wall” The wall in my final slide shows some of the tools that I use in my building block of collaboration.. The simple concept here is build collaborative techniques and extend your wall of collaboration as a result.