This quarter we are addressing ISTE Coaching Standard (CS) 3: Digital age learning environments – “technology coaches create and support effective digital age learning environments to maximize the learning of all students.” Each module will look at a different indicator from the standard and for this week we are looking at indicator CS 3a – “model effective classroom management and collaborative learning strategies to maximize teacher and student use of digital tools and resources and access to technology-rich learning environments.” This indicator inspired two questions:
Why does this indicator link classroom management with collaborative learning? How can you promote collaborative learning in an online course?
One thing I’m still unsure about is whether CS 3a is about promoting spontaneous collaboration or collaboration within the structure of assigned group work. My investigation mostly turned up the latter kind of information.
During this module, I learned that classroom management is more than just managing discipline. It’s also about establishing expectations and managing the structure, culture, and flow of the classroom, which I think can be seen in this Edutopia blog post by Tyler Hester (2013), here. To develop a better understanding of the instructor’s role in promoting collaboration in an online course, I found these two articles particularly valuable:
- Sull’s (2007) article, Keeping Teamwork Alive, Motivated, and Enthused!
- Shank’s (2007) article, Improving results and reducing frustrations from team activities
Sull (2007) gives a nice list of what online course instructors can do to foster teamwork and collaboration, such as: giving students examples of good team work from previous courses (like excerpts of a threaded team chat), being an active part of each team rather than just observing, and answering all teamwork questions within 24 hours. Shank (2007) gives a different set of suggestions aimed more at how to facilitate what the students should do. These things are along the lines of how to set up team agreements and team assessments. Shank (2007) also suggests having students go through this online tutorial by Terry Morris, or something like it, to help teach them about working in teams.
Between reading these articles and talking to my peers, I feel like I better understand how the techniques to promote collaboration in an online classroom are classroom management techniques. For example, having each team decide how they will provide constructive feedback to each other and how they will handle teammates who are not contributing as expected (Shank, 2007) gets students thinking about and discussing, in advance, how to manage such issues. Additionally, posting a list of possible solutions to common teamwork problems, including suggestions for ways to talk to non-contributing team members (Sull, 2007) and how to provide certain types of constructive feedback gives students some common structure for how to handle problems and supports them in managing their own activities.
I initially struggled to understand the connection that CS 3a makes between classroom management and online collaboration – which is likely a result of me having a limited understanding of what classroom management entails – but I’m starting to see how these two things are deeply related. In today’s world of tech, everyone seems to have their own system and set of tools integrated into the way they do things. For example, nearly every Physics Education Research project that I’m a part of in the physics department utilizes different digital tools to store, organize, and share files (e.g.: SmartSheet, Google Drive, Dropbox, Google Sites). Similarly, there are a variety of ways that instructors will choose to have you submit work (e.g.: sent directly to their email, uploaded to the LMS, posted in the discussion forum) and in different formats (e.g.: Word documents, Google Docs, PDFs). There’s really no converging on a single system of digital tools to use, because every situation has unique needs, and that’s okay. But what that means is that, given the plethora of tools and expectations that students experience from quarter to quarter, we as educators need to be clear for students about how we plan to manage our classroom, and how we expect them to manage themselves.
Obviously, students in an online course need an online space to collaborate, and as a student who has used a variety of LSMs, I would suggest that instructors choose a discussion platform with two key features: threaded conversations and notifications. Threaded conversations really help organization discussion, allowing for multiple discussions to happen at once, and notifications are a must (I think) to keep people connected and the conversation flowing. In the past I have suggested slack.com as a good platform conversation (blog here) but I’ve recently wondered how well Slack would work if I were part of multiple Slack chats. Nevertheless, I envision one of Sull’s (2007) techniques for teachers, “become an active part of teamwork,” happening within a platform like Slack.
ISTE: International Society for Technology in Education. (2017). ISTE standards for coaches (2011). Retrieved from http://www.iste.org/standards/standards/standards-for-coaches
Shank, P. (2007). Improving results and reducing frustrations from team activities. In Online Cl@ssroom (Ed.), Student collaboration in the online classroom. Retrieved from https://www.facultyfocus.com
Hester, T. (2013). 7 tips for better classroom management [Blog post]. Edutopia. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/7-tips-better-classroom-management-tyler-hester
Sull, E. C. (2007). Keeping teamwork alive, motivated, and enthused! In Online Cl@ssroom (Ed.), Student collaboration in the online classroom. Retrieved from https://www.facultyfocus.com