04 May 2013


Working TogetherI recall being taught how to 'collaborate' an interactive whiteboard. The trainer was actually demonstrating calibration, and was clearly unaware of her error. But although little collaboration occurred that day I learned a great deal.

I facilitate collaboration as part of my job, often setting activities which I believe depend on team-work for success. However, I found myself questioning its value during some digital media sessions I ran last week, for trainee teachers on the PGCE.

Multimedia authoring is a powerful learning medium requiring creative thinking and co-operation, and is a significant aspect of the teacher-training programme. The sessions required trainees to produce digital stop-motion animations. I showed them how to use some simple hardware, and how to edit their work, before setting them off. As I was undecided how best to organize grouping, I left it up to individuals as to what size group they formed. Some worked in pairs, and some in groups as large as seven.

There was no correlation between group size and the final quality of the work. Pairs didn't necessarily start work faster than the larger groups. The differences instead emerged during the process - the different role each person adopted, the knowledge they brought to the task, the nature of the decision-making during the work, and the learning trainees gained through participation. Success depended on the following:
- a shared understanding of the work
- understanding that the work was likely to stretch existing, individual knowledge, and
- that members of each group recognized and drew on each other's areas of expertise (McCulloch, 2011).

So, we mustn't just set learners off on group activities, and ask them to 'work together, please.' People must be willing and able to articulate the knowledge and expertise which they bring to the collaborative process. And even if only expected to work in pairs, pupils need to be taught effective collaboration; how to plan, negotiate, propose, justify, and identify and challenge assumptions.

Anyhow, taking the form of a reward for reading this far, here are a selection of the animations. Enjoy.

References and further reading

Jesson, J. and Peacock, G. (2012) The Really Useful ICT Book: A practical guide to using technology across the primary curriculum. Routledge

McCulloch, M. (2011) 'Inter-professional Approaches to Practice', in McMahon, M., Forde, C. and Martin, M. Contemporary Issues in Learning and Teaching. London: Sage.

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Regards, DJA