This is a unique position; I’m looking at education from the simultaneous perspective of a teacher and a student.  There are many advantages to this dual perspective; one in particular is that, as a teacher, I can imagine the challenge of a student trying to balance the many tasks that he or she has.  When it comes to collaboration in education, I believe that the teacher’s perspective is quite different from that of the student.  Teachers are often quite considerate of the variables that can affect collaboration negatively, so they carefully plan the tasks to avoid the pitfalls as much as possible.  During this process the teachers become invested in the expected outcomes and, if like me, begin to form fairytale images of how it all plays out.  However, many students groan at the though of collaboration, but after the student becomes invested (usually motivated by a grade), they get to encounter all of the unforeseen problems that even the teacher did not anticipate.  So, what to do now?  As a teacher, I try to offer support, but as a student, I try to solve the problem.  The maturity level of the student also plays a big part.

Fortunately, as an EdTech student, I have worked collaboratively with some very mature and capable students. These experiences have all been online and it served my professional skills to participate in these collaborative tasks.  As a K-12 teacher, many of my collaboration fairy tales have not come true, yet, it has been the challenges that help me to plan and facilitate more effectively.

  • Do you see value in Web-based collaborative tools?

I have experienced first hand the value of collaborative tools both as a teacher and a student.  My “student” benefit is more obvious.  If it weren’t for the web-based collaboration tools, I would not be able to study this program and collaborate with my peers, while living in Saudi Arabia.  As a teacher, I have also been able to use web based tools, even though I teach in a traditional classroom setting.  Web based tools have helped me communicate better with my students by creating an online network, sending detailed instructions, and recording information multimedia.  Additionally, some of these tools have helped me track accountability, especially in the collaboration tasks.

  • What are potential pitfalls in implementing collaborative activities using Web-based tools?

As a teacher, the pitfall has been the digital inequality of my students.  Even though all of my students have access to most of the latest technology, not all of them are accustomed to using it in the way that I require, or they just don’t know how to navigate through web-based tools.  Many of the issues have been related to maturity level.  Students don’t remember their password, or they prefer to be spoon-fed the instructions rather than trying to be problem solvers.  Also, when students have the opportunity to be sneaky, they always seem to find the capacity.  Some web-based tools are not set with accountability measures so it is hard to track fraudulent identities or other undesirable activities.

Advertisements