Flat Classroom Challenge #8

Challenge #8: Collaborate and Communicate.

Do: Participate in a collaborative wiki project with your class or in one of our on-line communities with a group of at least four people.
Share: Compare and contrast a collaborative wiki editing project with traditional in-class group work on your blog. What is the difference between cooperation and collaboration? How can collaboration be taught?

I currently am taking part in three projects(two involve wiki) with my students.

1. Lunchbox Project – this is a project I have my pen pal club involved with. It has been a super exciting and enjoyable project. We have learned a lot about culture.

2. My own wiki project with 7th grade language arts – I am learning more from this project than any other project this year.

3. Communication with Japan – Not really a wiki project, but talk about a learning 
 experience like no other.

I just had a conversation last week about a similar topic to this reflection. I was sharing about how much we are learning from our friends in Japan. I mentioned that what we are learning through our projects is so much more substantial than anything a textbook can provide. We are not just reading about a group of people. We are embracing the people of Japan. We are learning differences in culture(community vs. individual outlooks) firsthand. We are learning about language barriers and how to overcome them. We are learning about time difference. We are learning about how to effectively communicate when you cannot see them in person and they don’t understand the local slang. We are learning about how to take constructive feedback and changing things to make it better. The learning is jumping off the pages and not only are the students bettering themselves, but they are acquiring skills that they will need for the future.

With my other two wiki projects the same things are happening. The Lunchbox Project requires us to work with several countries. We have had to work on speaking more than one language and to embrace the difference in cultures. I think my students involved in this project are walking way with an understanding about how some things need to change in America. They are not as oblivious to how things operate around the world. It has been a great experience.

Moving to my own wiki project I have a whole new experience going on. These students have never done anything of the sorts before. I have had to scale things back and do daily mini lessons and reflections about the process. I have had to teach them about how to represent themselves online. I have had to teach them to be careful about what and how they post because people from all over the world are reading their work. For example, one project required them to write a letter to a cousin on the east coast after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. They had to write from the perspective of a Japanese American on the west coast. In their letters they(not all of them) created these made up Japanese names. I had to teach them that this is not right. It is culturally insensitive and comes across as being disrespectful to the very culture we are reading and studying about. It might seem small, but to me this is a huge teaching moment. They were not being insensitive on purpose and many saw nothing wrong with it so it lead to an interesting class discussion.

One thing that they struggle with is collaboration. I have them working with other class periods so they are working on collaborating online when they are not on at the same time. I have provided them a wiki and Google documents to share research and communicate. They are struggling, but I am leaving it to them to figure out how to organize themselves. It has been interesting to watch the six groups work as each one has a different method. It shall be interesting to see how things develop.

Collaboration is a learning technique. It requires more than just cooperation. Everyone must contribute. People take it personal when someone does not collaborate. They are looking for help. They expect the other students to share and contribute. They will know when you don’t do your work. There is a peer element of making sure you don’t let your team down. To collaborate you may not always agree, but it is important to make sure everyone is heard and has a say in the final project.

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