Ideas for group work and collaboration
Many teachers and institutions are struggling to move their entire courses and programs online in an effort to minimize the effects of COVID-19. However, while many teachers think synchronous meetings with their learners using one of the freely available apps to do group video calls (Skype, Hangouts, Zoom, Whatsapp, Houseparty, Facetime) is the answer to all their problems, video calls with students might not be very easy. There may be connectivity problems because several people in the same household might be running calls simultaneously relying on the same wifi connection or there might be a shortage of devices to use in the case of young learners. Also, these video calls tend to be very teacher-centered, a teaching approach we moved past a long time ago.
One alternative is to have them engage in collaborative projects. Here are three examples:
- Working collaboratively on a digital story. Learners can practice oral and written skills as well as team work, effective communication, decision making and digital skills. All of these skills are highly regarded as very important soft skills for the 21st Century.
- Writing an essay in collaboration after having researched a topic. Learners divide up the work of looking for sources of information, share that information and create their own text. Teach them how to cite their sources though! after having duly cited their sources.
- Holding a group call or a text chat to discuss different approaches to a topic and/or to make decisions on the next steps for a project.
All these processes should be well documented so that the teacher has enough evidence of the group or collaborative work which has taken place as well as the processes which lead to the final product. In this way, the teacher can provide formative feedback as the process unfolds.
Some tools which can facilitate the the drafting process of documents or providing evidence of communication along the way are:
- Shared documents with features which allow you to track down changes (Google Drive, Microsoft Teams)
- Exported text chats from WhatsApp, Telegram or Hangouts to monitor both the communication between group members and the decision making process
In a follow-up post I will provide some ideas on how to give timely feedback on group work in a way that’s manageable for the teacher.
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