Collaboration Fluency

In their book Literacy is Not Enough: 21st Century Fluencies for the Digital Age, Crockett, et.al defines and explains the importance of collaboration fluency:

“More and more, working, playing, and learning in today’s digital world involves working with others. It is the spirit of collaboration that will stimulate progress in our global marketplace, in our social networks, and in our ability to create products of value and substance. Collaboration fluency is the ability to successfully work and interact with virtual and real partners. The 5 Es of Collaboration fluency are: 

  • Establish the collective, and determine the best role for each team member by pinpointing each team member’s personal strengths and expertise, establishing norms, and the signing of a group contract that indicates both a collective working agreement and an acceptance of the individual responsibilities and accountability of each team member.
  • Envision the outcome, examining the issue, challenge, and goal as a group.
  • Engineer a workable plan to achieve the goal.
  • Execute by putting the plan into action and managing the process.
  • Examine the process and the end result for areas of constructive improvement.”


At the beginning of the year, to get my freshmen warmed up to writing essays (a scary task for most students, especially since it is their first essay of their first high school English class!) I had my students write a collaborative essay using google docs. Before we jumped into the writing portion though, we first brainstormed our ideas about our topic (**ENVISION**)  through a Harkness discussion in which I and another student took notes on what was said by everyone at the table. Then I sifted through the notes and the next day showed the students the notes and we talked about what ideas they seemed to focus on more than others. From our discussion and notes, we mapped out an outline,(**ENVISION**) then divided up the labor (**ENGINEER**), assigning three to four students responsible for writing each body paragraph, intro, conclusion because we found that there was too much lag time if everyone tried to type on the same part of the essay at the same time.

By sharing the document with everyone in the class, all students could see what others were writing and respond to the writing by using the chat box feature. (**EXECUTE & ENVISION**) The chat box feature was the best part of this experience. Before the lesson, we talked about what constituted appropriate comments. Students had to understand that this task was different than texting friends or posting a comment on twitter. (**ESTABLISH**) I was delightfully surprised by how well they handled this chat box. I wish I had saved some of their comments, but I can sum them up and categorize them as follows:

1. Students demonstrated awareness of an essay’s requirements before we had even talked about such things with posts such as: “We still don’t have a topic sentence yet? Can someone help write that?” or “This paragraph is only four sentences. It needs to be longer.”  (**ESTABLISH**)

2. They also demonstrated they knew their strengths and weaknesses (**ESTABLISH**).  One student would post something along the lines of: “Can someone help me proofread this? I don’t know why but it sounds wrong.” Another student would respond “I can proofread it for you.”

3. They were also really encouraging of other’s ideas and helped each other find support for points made or push each other farther with posts such as: “Great example Sue! Can I add the part about the TV too?”; “What about the end of the book? That doesn’t fit what you just said.” ( **ESTABLISH**)

What I find by reflecting back on the experiencing now with the knowledge of the five Es of collaboration in mind, is that we don’t move through these steps linearly. Collaboration requires us to continually circle back and establish or reestablish our accountability to and  acceptance of others in the groups. In the process, we find we may have to re-envision and re-engineer as well, taking into consideration new found variables and skills present in our group members and in the task itself.

What I liked about using Google docs was not only that it was a safe way for kids to ease back into writing at the beginning of the school year, but it also promoted the kind of community building skills that I value in my classroom and that Heritage Hall values as a school. It dovetailed nicely into the Harkness method I use for class discussions, because we were able to use our discussion of what is appropriate communication skills to have online to what is appropriate communication skills to demonstrate in class person to person. (**EXAMINE**)

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Posted on 30 November 2011, in Collaboration Fluency and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Karen Littlefield

    Great use of collaboration via google docs. Bet the comments from the students really were a display of their knowledge learned related to the writing a good essay.

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