Collaborative learning – teaching children to use the tools they need for their future.

Don’t get me wrong – I love my job! But sometimes I don’t quite get the point of why we are doing everything we are supposed to do.

Most schemes, plans, other stuff I find – are all about achieving an objective by expending knowledge. I am new, I struggle constantly, but I try my hardest every day to put every learning objective into a context that has relevance to the children I teach. Even if it is giving my own adult perspective of how I’ve used whatever we happen to be learning about.  In my view, stuff needs a point. No point – children switch off!

So that got me thinking.

I am obviously new to life as a teacher, but not education. My past life includes managing the design department of a large educational publisher and running my own businesses (forays into gaming and IT). In other words the real world – a lot of which, as grown ups we know, is tough and much, much more than just what you know! This resonates with me when I am thinking of what, as a teacher I am preparing my pupils for.

When I employed staff, graduates, or otherwise what was I looking for? Almost over and above the skills for the job I wanted self confidence, good communication skills, intuitiveness, the ability to work as part of a team, solve problems and at times, to think outside the box. Whilst crystal balls are hard to come by, it was also very useful if they would stay abreast of changes in the industry.

If these are the people I once wanted to employ – shouldn’t these be the people I now want to help create?

What would I like my pupils and my own children to emerge from formal education with? A lot of the above but add in resilience, an ability to self regulate, goal set, know what achievement feels like and a knowledge of how to transfer skills  – research, teamwork, collaboration are done in most industries! I can create a game without ever ‘meeting’ another person working on the project, I can create a fully illustrated picture book in exactly the same way. I get my CDP online via live streaming and twitter. Our world, means we now communicate in different ways, surely this is also what we need to teach our children to do. Not just rely on a terms ICT lessons on sending emails and their early experiences of face book and other social media doing it for us.

So it comes back to – what is the point of what I am doing…

And then @xannov tweeted this.

  • I often read tweets from teachers on here, and wonder what an amzing learning experience children would get  if we worked in the same school … We’d all be trying new tech and encouraging children to try (and sometimes fail) new stuff and learn from it.

The combination of my own personal feeling that education has to be far more than crashing through a curriculum to tick boxes as well as my frustrations with my current position and their unwillingness to embrace modern technology resonated strongly in that tweet from @xannov yesterday.

What a dream it would be to work with so many enthusiastic individuals, who seem to be constantly striving to find the balance between engaging learners in ways that both make the most of opportunities here now, and give children skills for lifelong learning in this future we can’t comprehend. Selfishly – I want to be the best teacher I can be, so why not learn alongside people I aspire to be like. Unselfishly – we need to teach children to use the tools of their world to become successful citizens.

So when the discussion between @xannov and @chrismayoh and I developed further into using technology for pupil to pupil learning – I got excited because it felt like that might be the hook on which I could hang my original quandary…. how to create learning that has a point – as well as gives children valuable skillsets for their future.

I continued to mull how this pupil to pupil learning might look and read @xannov’s blog post on pupil to pupil learning with interest. I can see the huge value in sharing learning and of a pupil meet where children are given a platform to share their own classes successes and learning with peers from around the country/world. But I can also sense the fidgety bottoms of my less engaged pupils at having to listen for 30 minutes even if it was on an ipad!

What I could really see was 21st century children using tech to work collaboratively and then celebrating their combined successes with other children. Children’s own version of viral marketing!

My vision of pupil to pupil learning looked more like innovative project design for a global enterprise. One where roles and parts are done in different places, where collaboration is required from all for the outcome to be successful, where there may be one objective but many possible routes to meet it. Or where there was no overall objective, but opportunities to add even more value to an existing collaboration are seized when they arise?

Why can’t a lesson or a unit be treated like this? Why couldn’t with good streaming (restrictions noted) two classes in different places share one input, then work independently to create possible solutions and then collaborate to meet one end.

Why can’t children communicate thoughts and progress via blogs and skype?

Why can’t children’s artwork from one place be used and embedded into online e-books and written about by students in another year group in another school? Why can’t draft poems be uploaded, phrases magpied by another children, edited, improved and shared in recorded presentations of these merged ideas?

Why can’t we take the Mantle of the Expert principle and go virtual?

My early experience of such possibilities were when my class used one of @deputymitchell’s Year 6s students writing as part of a literacy unit we were doing. In many ways despite the success, I can’t help but feeling we all just brushed the tip of an amazing possibility that may have magnified the learning even further. What if Binyameen had written the opening of another story that the children in my class had continued (we were only focussing on the build up and climax)? What if … we had given him some of our stories to check and edit? What if … he had fancied continuing one through to its resolution and ending? What if … another class looking at manipulating imaging software had decided to create some images for the emerging story. What if … the list becomes endless.

I accept that this couldn’t happen for all of the curriculum, and the pressures we face as teachers mean that in many ways it may just add more! But the possibility I sensed last night felt as if, even if we did it once in a year –  we could give children a early experience and a glimpse of the world that we are preparing them for. It would help to maximise all the amazing tools online and give tech a point in its own right

I think the Epic Citadell Challenge is moving learning in that direction. There are probably others that I don’t know of. I am very interested to know of any collaborative learning projects.

So, as for setting up a new school, putting the best in the business all in one place – great idea! But why not think outside the box and allow pupils to experience this super school virtually? Rather than being a lone school held up as a shining example, we become innovative teachers that lead by example and guide others in the best interest of all children.

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