“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much”. —Helen Keller
When we act individually we are limited by our weaknesses. No matter how skilled an individual may be, he or she will still exhibit weaknesses. By the same token, we all have strengths, and not everyone’s strengths are equal to one another. In this way, when banding together, weaknesses are minimised and strengths of all are accentuated.
This post is my contributing chapter for the special Connected Educator Month project #edbooknz – an e-book launched by Sonja Van Schaijik. The #CENZ14 event will be held on Friday 31 October 8-9pm (UT + 12 hrs) Click here for details
Nine connected NZ educators have come together to produce this e-book. The idea …. Take away the jargon, get rid of the descriptors and get to the heart of the word in relation to education. Today I will be exploring the term “Digital Collaboration” and digging deep to the meaning of it be removing the prefix ‘Digital’.
What better way to start this off, than with some open questions from Sonja Van Schaijik: “Without connecting with our learners, can we educate effectively? Without connections, can we collaborate effectively? Without collaboration can we share as effectively?”
Let’s dig a little deeper …
I have a unique point of view on this concept as I am a globally connected collaborator living and breathing through the connections I make in the online world. I am an international teacher in Singapore who has experience in both public and private education systems in New Zealand and Singapore. I want to dive into what collaboration is and focus on the ‘constants’, the things that don’t change no matter the context.
1. Collaboration (noun) kəlabəˈreɪʃn/
“the action of working with someone to produce something”
The way we throw around the term ‘digital’ in today’s 21st Century Learning Environments is worrying. It is used to describe how and why things work the way they do. Really, the digital revolution has passed us by. We are now into an age where we look at digital technologies as tools to connect with the world around us. All too often, we forget one of the most important ingredients. Purpose! Without a purpose the meaning is lost.
“The purpose of life is to collaborate for a common cause; the problem is nobody seems to know what it is.” – Gerhard Gschwandtner
This quote points out the importance of setting clear goals and objectives within a collaboration. Without clear goals, everyone’s own idea of what the goal should be will come to the forefront, thus breaking up the collaborative efforts. defined at the outset.
The ‘constants’ of collaboration are:
- People – although collaborations occur within nearly all forms of life on Earth, today we are focussing on the context of education. Without people, collaboration can not occur. It is one of the core elements of an effective collaboration and does not change (one of the 2P’s)
- Common goal – when collaborating on a task or activity all participants must agree to the common goal and work together to achieve it
- Purpose – why we do what we do! Without a purpose there is no point in collaborating (one of the 2P’s)
- Tools – collaborative tools are used to ensure the process is smooth. Some examples of tools include: pen and paper, discussion and digital video tools (e.g. Skype).
These ‘constants’ are the things we see in our daily lives that don’t change. As an educator, it is critical that we always remember the ‘constants’. Digital technologies are amazing, but they are one of many tools available to collaborate and learn with. Learners need the opportunity to collaborate with a clear purpose with clear goals.
I love what Rebecca Sweeney mentions in her blog about collaboration. She states “For learners, the benefits of leaders and teachers continuing the collaboration across schools outweigh the benefits of schools working alone to keep a competitive edge”. This is a good lesson to us all – think outside of ourselves and our own school and think to what really matters. That is, creating a better education for the students in our schools. What does it take? Collaboration. Collaboration with the best in the industry. Collaboration with other schools. Collaboration with experts in the field that we need to improve. Why can’t schools work together to develop their unique strengths rather than work against each other in competition?
I believe that at the heart of collaboration are the 2 P’s. People and Purpose. Without either one of these, collaboration does not exist. They only work when the other is there. Without a purpose it is just 2 or more people talking about a topic or goal and without people there is a goal with no-one to achieve it. In the context of education, we see collaboration occurring in the classroom with a digital influence more often. Unfortunately, all too often in our classrooms, the digital influence takes away from the 2 P’s of collaboration. Teachers see the shiny new tools and the flashy new ‘apps’ to support collaboration and they use them because ‘it makes everything better/easier’.
Use digital tools! But never forget the 2 P’s of collaboration that tie it all together.