As we prepare for spring, it is always good to have some new ideas to promote student engagement and foster more collaboration in the classroom. Whether we are in virtual, hybrid, or in-person learning, it is important to have a variety of tools that help us transition between these spaces and expand the when and where learning happens.
Although many of us are entering the last quarter of our school year, it's still a good opportunity to keep on learning and also to be prepared to transition as we move forward through the remainder of this year and into the next.
How do we prepare?
We start by having a few options that we know will be beneficial regardless of learning space, and that will enable us to stay connected and learn together during what may become a challenging year.
4 Ways to promote collaboration in digital spaces
Some of the questions I continue to ask myself throughout the school year as I seek new ideas and tools are:
- What will benefit students regardless of where learning takes place?
- In what ways can I use digital tools to design more active learning experiences for my students?
- What are some tools/strategies that will promote more communication and collaboration?
- What are some big ideas that I can bring into my classroom and then find the right tools to promote more choices in learning?
Here are four ideas to promote collaboration:
I love blogging because it creates a space for students to build writing skills and then share ideas with their teachers and peers and connect globally with classrooms from around the world. Blogging is useful for more than simply developing writing skills; students build digital citizenship skills as they learn to collaborate in the online space.
Blogging also fosters more communication between students and teachers as students can use it as a digital portfolio to track learning over time. We have used Kidblog as well as Edublogs in our classroom. Blogging helps students to also build relationships in the classroom as well as promote peer networking.
If you are using Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, or Zoom, allow students to collaborate in breakout rooms. We can use game-based learning and have students play on teams or create games for students to participate in these breakout room spaces.
One of my favorites is to have students work on a project and use breakout rooms to interact and ask questions, share their screens, and feel more closely connected to their classmates. It also gives me the chance to move into each of the breakout rooms and have those conversations with each group and with each student, similar to what I would do if we were all together in the physical classroom.
Especially in this school year, with working mostly in the virtual learning environment, it has been essential to find opportunities for students to work together. In my Spanish classes, students often write stories, and I encourage them to work with classmates. I have used several tools that promote collaboration.
For anyone looking for an innovative idea, perhaps explore Augmented and Virtual Reality through CoSpacesEDU, a great option that can be used for any grade level or content area. Students can read a book, create a book summary, use it for STEM projects, create an interactive story, and more. Students can be placed together in a group to work in the same collaborative space, similar to what you can do with Google Slides. And if you are using Microsoft Teams or Zoom, place students in breakout rooms so they brainstorm ideas while they're creating at the same time.
Another collaborative storytelling option is Book Creator, which can be used to create digital books. Students can work together and create their own book to share what they are learning. Books include text, images, audio, and video, and students have fun adding their own stories to the class book. Some ideas include creating a class About Me yearbook, retelling a story, making a travel journal, or any idea that involves multimedia creation.
There are several collaborative whiteboard-type tools available to choose from, within Teams or Zoom, for example. However, there are more options available to educators that provide even more possibilities for greater collaboration.
One tool that is like a sticky note service is Lino. It is similar to using Padlet or a Trello board in that it offers a collaborative space to brainstorm ideas, curate class resources, and promote better workflow and organization. Using Padlet, students can post questions, comments, videos, images, and more. A favorite was creating a scavenger hunt by posting the list on a Padlet and using breakout rooms for the groups to plan their tasks to gather the items and then post to the Padlet.
Regardless of where we are, these options enable us to feel more connected to our classrooms and learning.
Read more: Classroom collaboration: Learning together
All in all
An essential skill for now and the future is collaboration. When we create opportunities for students to collaborate with classmates, whether in person or connect asynchronously, we help them to build skills that will benefit them in the future, regardless of the work that they’ll do.
These are just a few quick ideas to explore if you are looking for more ways to promote cooperation in and out of your classroom. I suggest exploring one of the ideas as a start to find the right one that works with your grade level or perhaps that has access to your school network.
Think about what your classroom experience might be missing if you are not all together in person. Is it the ability to have conversations more often? Then start with the breakout room or a collaborative board. Do you want students to work together on a project? Then explore the blogging or digital storytelling in Virtual Reality perhaps, and leverage some of these other tools for students to work together.