One of our Grade 5 teachers tried something new a couple of weeks ago. It turned out fabulous, but not without a few hiccups. Her class is studying the environment, so she wanted to have her class collaboratively answer a debatable question regarding farming salmon. With the help of our Teacher-Librarian, she and another Grade 5 class were going to explore the question together (from separate classrooms) – collaboratively answering the question in groups of 4, crowding around laptops. With some frustration, they tried to connect the kids into a Chatzy group.
It didn’t work the way they wanted it to. Many of the students had difficulty copying down the special code they needed to get into the chat. This collaboration can be so powerful, meaningful, and motivating to everyone, but especially students. The teacher continued her goal of having the students involved with the collaboration, until the bell rang for recess. Even though the bell went for recess, and the students didn’t get much time to explore the question in their groups, you could hear the buzz and excitement in the air. They were beyond excited and engaged in their learning. Off the students went outside for recess.
While on supervision, the students were still a buzz with excitement. One after another, they came to me outside while I was on supervision, talking about how excited they were about their class and the experience they had just before recess. No one seemed to care that they didn’t get a chance to actually use Chatzy to its full extent. This excitement was passed on to students in other classes as well. Students who I teach in my prep classes were asking if we could also try to use Chatzy.
Again, after recess, the teacher worked with the students and explored Chatzy, and their question. While they eventually got all the groups of students logged in and into the collaboration board. As it turned out, Chatzy limited the number of groups (user names) to 10 who could collaborate together. This was frustrating because this teacher really wanted to bring this collaboration outside of her own classroom, with another class. 10 user names were not enough. This teacher was not dissuaded by this, but energized by the enthusiasm and engagement of the students.
After lunch, this teacher continued her exploration with PrimaryPad. This time it worked. The students worked in their groups, collaborating together and with the other Grade 5 class, even helping their teacher figure out this new tool and how to make the chat feature work the way they wanted. They worked together, focused and engaged in their learning and the question with which they were presented. The teacher was in awe. The kids were excited. Learning was alive. It was so alive that their gym time came and went with a small mention from one child. The teacher said that she would owe them a gym time and the students continued to work and learn together.
This was real learning. enthusiastic learning. Engaged learning. Powerful learning.
This teacher could have just as well given up on the activity when the first tool didn’t work out the way she had expected. She persisted though. She didn’t give up, but rather, continued her effort throughout the day. When all was said and done, everyone was excited, passionate about learning and, most of all, engaged in their learning. Collaborative learning.
The teacher is looking forward to planning another lesson like this for her students again in the near future. In addition, we have also talked about having the students use this collaborative tool with another grade 5 class in another school in our district. We all look forward to watching this collaborative learning continue.
It is this teacher’s persistence, dedication and willingness to learn that will make the difference with students and their learning in the 21st Century. It is my hope that teachers realize that they are not expected to have all the answers. A willingness to try something new and persevere are imperative for lead learners, our teachers.
What collaborative tools have you seen used in your schools?
What kind of effects have you noticed?
What are some other characteristics necessary for today’s teachers?