Thursday, January 7, 2016

How to build a collaborative culture

"There is no I in team...two heads are better than one..." these are cliches that speak to working in a team, but what is true collaboration and how do we support our young learners in working with their peers emotionally, socially, and intellectually?  We are working with our students on how to work with others, but before they can work in a group it is important to for them to know their strengths and ways that they learn the best. In our fifth grade classrooms we have students take surveys to see how they learn and what some of their strengths are so they can know how they will help a group and where they may need some help themselves.

What is collaboration? - Collaborate is defined as “to work, one with another; cooperate, as on a literary work”. Collaboration is different than group work...think of a time that you worked in a group. Was there one person that did most of the work, one person that didn't listen to everyone else and one person that wasn't interested in being a part of the group? Our students are learning to being an active part of a collaborative team. At times they are given specific roles to ensure that all are involved, other times students divide up the work, or they are grouped based on their determined skill set to support the group with their strengths.

What characteristics are needed to have a collaborative culture? Trust, being open to ideas, having a safe space, a tough skin, and being open to feedback and discussions. How do you create or provide a learning environment that supports these characteristics? It starts by building relationships with your students, but just as important are the students building relationships with each other. This is done through tools to support conflict resolution, learning about their feelings and how to positively express them, and practicing team work in a variety of settings prior to them being expected to work together. We are giving and providing the tools to support collaboration and not just expecting students to play nice with each other.

What are the tools needed to create a learning environment that supports and encourages collaboration?  Time, space and people. We will continue to provide students with the opportunity to collaborate with their peers in a variety of settings and purposes.

Digital tools - Join me, Google Apps, Skype, Google +, Google Hangout, Projector Apple TV or Chromecast to showcase the product that you are working on to the group. If you are using a Google Application such as Drive (document) collaborators are able to see the changes as they happen or through the comments section in the document.

Collaboration is essential for our students to be successful in school, but also in their future pursuits.