Note: these are my reflections on the amazing discussions going on in the Day 1 forums of an Authentic Global Collaboration Moodle Meet that I have organised. I find Moodle discussion forums can facilitate amazing discussions, but that after a while I start to lose track of them all. My plan is to blog my reflections and learning each day of the course and quote some of the discussions that caught my attention. I will also link back to these discussions in the Moodle (if you want to see them you can register for the course here).
One of the discussion questions that I asked was “Are Global Collaborative Projects really worth the time and effort?”. I asked this rather tongue in cheek, but thought that it was important to remind ourselves why it is worth taking on the extra challenge of trying to connect out students and the world. Some of the responses took my breath away they were so passionate and honest. I wanted to share a few of them here:
Yes! Global (and all) collaboration is right on so many levels. First, our students are growing up in a different world. They will be competing for jobs with people from around the globe. The more familiar they are with other cultures and people, the better off they will be. Second, the ability to work well with others is consistently rated in the top 10 skills that employers want. We must teach students how to talk AND listen, how to respect other’s views and values, and how to maximize the skills of others. And the third, and best, in my opinion, reason that I LOVE Global Collaboration is that my students LOVE Global Collaboration. Whatever project we are working on, my students will come in and ask, did I get an email? Are we working with Russia (China, Romania, Brazil etc.) today? What is our topic, what are we doing? An attentive student is a student who is learning.
… most importantly I think is that the students taking part in these, as said by others, take ownership of their learning, of their global citizenship, of their web presence….they feel empowered, they feel listened to and respected..they are confident to have a voice and not be scared to share, right or wrong, they share and grow from it….they do not feel that the walls of their school, nor the borders of their city, province or country limit thinking and ideas…they become open to different approaches and cultural considerations.
They feel that their learning is alive…that it grows…that collaboration is one of the essential nutrients.
Another conversation in the Introductions forum really got me thinking. Eddie DeBeer (http://www.insync21.com/) described an amazing project where Vancouver students “design and write curriculum, make and produce resources/materials, and send them off to Afghanistan.” He then goes on to suggest that:
Clearly, real learning partnerships are possible; but, strangely, most often it seems that such collaboration happens best where “less” is the norm …
I replied, but the reply that I loved belongs to Pauline Roberts:
A teacher I worked with recently likened collaborative projects to making a jigsaw: each student is given an element of a task and they connect the pieces together to produce a complete picture. I had to disagree. This to me describes co-operation, not collaboration.
Collaboration is more like bread making. The individual ingredients are blended, kneaded and pummeled, flattened, stretched, rolled and ultimately transformed into something warm and nourishing that smells and tastes good. Unlike a jigsaw, the original ingredients are unrecognizable and cannot return to the way they were. In learning to collaborate effectively with my colleagues at BCS I have often felt pummeled, stretched, challenged and transformed into a better teacher and learner.
When we ask our students to collaborate they should feel the same way. They should be able to take their individual thoughts and ideas, stretch them , reshape them and synthesize them to produce creations of meaning and consequence. The process should transform them as learners and take them one step closer to becoming more effective collaborators.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg. There were lots of other conversations going on that I just wasn’t able to give the time I would have liked. Hopefully some other participants will blog there reflections and we can share some of the great conversations we are having.