Someone submitted this fantastic question after our recent Technology Summit.
I think it really speaks to a core piece of 21st Century Learning. When we talk about "Collaboration" this is the hard stuff. I don't think we have the perfect answer, but I listed some of the stuff we're doing below. I'd love to hear what's working for others.
Prioritize developing group work and collaboration skills – We’ve always worked on this, but as we introduced more opportunities for collaborative work this year we realized we needed to focus on the skill development more, particularly with our Middle Schoolers.
Scaffold! The fact of the matter is some kids really struggle with group work and I don’t want the fact that they’re shutting down to lead to them missing content. We noticed this early on in 21 CLC when we had groups of 3-5 sharing a SMARTboard. In that room I had us install a desktop computer with a touchscreen monitor. Whatever the rest of the class was doing on the SMARTboard, I had the struggling student do on their own on the desktop. The next class I’d add one more student to share the desktop with them. After that when smoothly for a class, I’d introduce a third. After that when smoothly, I transferred the group of 3 to the SMARTboard (the new environment sometimes presented challenges, so I’d go very slowly growing the group and would invest the student that shut down with one specific responsibility) In similar ways my other teachers have slowly grown group size for students and also taken the group with the struggling student and put them in a quieter or less distracting spot in the room.
Teach and Reteach
•1. We use the philosophy from an organization called Playworks as part of our recess and physical education program. It focuses on building conflict resolution skills and promoting group play. We reinforce some of the conflict resolution techniques in the classroom at the early onset of a disagreement: http://www.playworks.org/
•2. We encourage journaling and self and group assessment evaluations using rubrics to help build awareness around group skills.
•3. We work to develop positive vocabulary and language, for example when hearing both sides of a conflict having the students restate things using “I statements”
I then have students rotate roles over a period of time and reflect on what went well/didn’t go well for them in each role, what kind of roles they feel more comfortable in and after the experience was over, what happened to the group when different roles weren’t filled well.
Team Building - if I’m noticing Group Work break down across the class I stop and do a Team Building exercise. It interrupts the lesson, but they’re so much more productive afterwards (go slow to go fast). I actually keep a set of hula hoops in 21 CLC, turn off all the technology, have them clear a space and then use the hula hoops as the only prop in the team building. It’s very back to basics, but it pulls their focus in and it works!
Motivating them to do their best regardless of the obstacle – I think this is all about developing a mindset, and it’s hard. But here are two concrete suggestions I can make.
Help them reflect and have honest discussions. We have an Advisory program for our 5th-8th grades. We focus on a lot during that time, but each grade has a particular focus that speaks to this issue which tey revisit throughout the year.
5th Mediocrity vs Excellence
6th Finding your personal Inspiration
7th Personal Responsibility
8th Acting as a Role Model to your Peers
I also think it’s about working with kids to find the tools that they’re excited to use. One child might like using a FlipCam, another might like writing, another might like creating podcasts. If they are excited about their medium, you’ll be amazed about the effort they put forth. In the beginning of the project help them identify the different mediums the project will include and how they can connect so that each student is working with the tool they love.