Collaboration in Technology Integration

I have said many times technology integration, whether in a 1:1 environment or with shared devices should never be 100% 1:1, a student in the screen all the time. I have referred before to this notion of 1:world when you are thinking about technology integration. The idea that what a 1:1 device program does is it opens the student to a world of opportunities. But even with a world of opportunities if we aren’t providing the student with authentic collaborative learning opportunities with their peers and other adults then we truly have missed our mark.

More recently I have seen some promising references to this point in technology integration resources. I’m seeing more reference to ‘co-use’ of technology, most notably having students collaborate in teams during inquiry projects while engaging on technology platforms. More and more teachers are seeing the importance of incorporating the Design Process into lessons or designing lessons and projects around student inquiry. When students engage in authentic learning experiences the technology truly becomes just another supporting tool of the learning not a stand-alone curriculum that is dull and regimented.

Caitlin Tucker, blended learning enthusiast and author, recently addressed some of the issues with what is happening in schools and the backlash that is the result in her blog post, ‘Using Computers in the Classroom: Shifting from Consumption to Creation.’

Caitlin outlines three issues with what is happening in schools:

  • #1 Technology is often used to isolate learners.
  • #2 There is a lack of balance between online and offline work.
  • #3 Too often computers relegate students to a passive, consumptive role instead of encouraging playful learning and creation.

I couldn’t agree more. If we use technology to simply replace textbooks and traditional workflow with a digital workflow we isolate students and only give them opportunities to consume. Learning Management Systems are great to have a place to house digital learning, but if all a teacher does is move their existing learning environment to a digital platform that doesn’t mean students learn more. If this is the case, students may become even more isolated; focused on a screen in the middle of a room full of potential learning collaborators in a classroom.

The solution is to think about the goal of learning and incorporate ‘co-use’ or ‘co-engagement’ in your lessons. We know that children (all ages) thrive on social interaction. Just because students have technology doesn’t mean we should forget about integrating opportunities for students to discuss their ideas, reflect with pairs on how they would solve a problem, unpack their learning with others verbally, or problem-solve issues together to come up with solutions (to either how they navigate a digital platform or to a real-life problem). Is it important to teach students how to navigate and interact in an online digital environment? Absolutely! But don’t forget that it is also just as important to have them practice navigating and interacting in their ‘face-to-face’ world as well.

Teamwork, collaboration with others and other ‘soft skills’ are valued more when going out into the world and getting a job, therefore being successful in society. Just because you have the technology in front of you don’t forget about these important skills and incorporate them into your lessons to help students improve them and see the importance.

Want to learn more about ‘co-use’ and technology integration that puts ‘Learning First, Technology Second’? Check out Liz Kolb’s book  Learning First, Technology Second: The Educator’s Guide to Designing Authentic Lessons.

In 2013 I wrote A Vision: one-to-world, fast forward 6 years… to me the learning is still the most important component. We know what good teaching and learning look like, let’s not forget it as we move ever more forward with integrating technology into our classrooms.


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