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21st Century Skill – Collaboration

May 15, 2009

Over the past several weeks I have been discussing ideas regarding instructional practices and curriculum at the high school.   I have been using a presentation that includes the statement that I want our community and staff to “define and develop 21st century skills”.  I quickly follow that up with a joke about the overuse of the term.  So, what are 21st century skills?

A recent study of 500 human resource managers conducted by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills asked the question about what skills they thought were essential for success at their company.  The answer at the top – collaboration.  Take my situation – I want to create a culture within Saline Area Schools that embraces technology, willingly accepts change and is resilient in the face of daunting challenges.  Can I accomplish this by myself?  No…. We need to collaboration between the Board of Education, staff, parents, students, community members, business partners and government officials from Lansing to Washington D.C.

Many of you are saying to yourself, “collaboration is just a good skill and has little to do with the 21st century” and in large part you are correct.  For me, the 21st century part enters the picture with the process we use to collaborate.  I need to use social networks (yes, we have an internal professional social network for Saline Area Schools), blogs, wikis, video sharing, Google Docs, etc.  These tools allow for users to be participants.

Showing our current students how to effectively use these tools and equally as important – how to use them in collaboration with others is key.  Many of these “new” tools to encourage collaboration are simply updated versions of classic classroom activities.  For example, earlier this year I was in Ms. McMaster’s 1st grade classroom at Harvest to watch her and her students start the day with an English activity using an interactive whiteboard called a “Smartboard.”  She had written several sentences that had missing punctuation on the board.  She was able to do this the day before based on the concepts the students had demonstrated that still needed to be reinforced.  She called on students to come to the board and choose what was missing – students were asked if they thought the answer was correct, etc.  The class worked together to answer the questions and add the proper punctuation.  When the activity was done, she saved the file for her records and turned the board into an activity center for the next language arts activity.

There are many other examples of collaboration between staff and students that are enhancing their skills in this area.  Continuing to encourage collaboration among students and staff  along with activities that teach this skill will be a focus moving forward.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. May 15, 2009 8:24 pm

    I agree with the 500 people who listed collaboration as one of the most important skills for the 21st Century. Not only is this an important skill, but it can also make student’s lives much easier.

    Microsoft is working on a few products that enable collaboration in the classroom. One example of this is Office Live Workspace, which lets students store papers, essays, notes etc online, which they can then share with other students or keep private. Teachers can use it to share the most current syllabi to ensure that students and the teacher are all on the same page when it comes to due dates. These are just a few examples, and I encourage you to take a look at the Office Live Workspace homepage for more examples of how this service can benefit students and teachers.

    MSFT Office Live Outreach

  2. Staci Nazareth permalink
    May 22, 2009 9:02 am

    At the Middle School, we have been working on ways for students to collaborate effectively for a while. I think it was 2 years ago that we were able to have kids collaborate on Google Docs using their Presentation feature. This was really cool. One of the coolest examples of this was that we had a special ed student work on his project and share it out, and then he was able to get feedback on his project from his teacher, his teacher consultant, me, AND one of our building techs Eddie J., who he had become friends with. It really helped that student to have an audience view his work. I am hopeful that we will be able to pursue using Google Docs with our students in the future because collaborative work is the way the world is going to run. We just can’t afford to physically bring people together in the same room!

    The other tool we use for collaborative work is Moodle. Moodle is an online virtual classroom tool. Kids are able to post discussions, and one of our teachers, Kara D. is using the workshop feature- and that is REALLY COOL. Kids submit their writing pieces and they are able to view other kids writing and give peer feedback. The teacher can also give feedback. Their writing improves not only from the specific suggestions for improvement by their peers, but also because they know that others are reading their work.

    And finally, (sorry I’m so long winded today….) I have been talking with our tech director about online e-portfolios. I am hoping that at some point soon we will be able to have kids post their work online so that their friends and families will be able to view and comment.

    Anyway, to sum it all up- I believe in collaboration! Give us the tools and we’ll be all over it.


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