Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Collaboation in education

Collaboration is key.

In any sector it is vital to collaborate in order to create work of a better quality. Who would not want to produce better work?

It is thus essential as educators that we show the right example, that we model good practice for our students to ameliorate their achievement and help them enter a world where collaboration is now common practice.

One of the tool I use for collaboration, among others, is Twitter, like a lot of teachers nowadays. I will not explain here how Twitter works as others have done it before me and have done it perfectly. I would like to point out here what was the process of collaboration I followed.

Let’s go back maybe 2 years ago. On Twitter I started to follow Marielle Lange, aka @widged, a francophone (someone who speaks French like me) Flex Developer who is extremely interested in education in general. We met once in true life :-) in Auckland during the Educamp2010 organised by Fiona grant. (wonderful event which will be held again this year again in Auckland, Wellington and Tauranga). During our non-virtual meeting, we shared our views on education and what we are capable of doing.

Here is I think an important step. Around a cup of coffee, or tea if you prefer, it is pivotal to discuss what each person is bringing to the collaboration. I am a teacher of French, so I know the students (or at least I think I know- another post needs to follow this one I reckon), what they want, how they learn and of course what they should learn (as in content- e.g. to prepare them for NCEA). As for Marielle, she brings in her knowledge of encoding (e.g. CSS, HTML etc…) which is a foreign language for me and she also brings an extensive understanding of how one learns and of education in general.

During numerous times, Marielle has helped me during the last two years, so many times that there is not enough space on the web to cite them all !!! But she has particularly helped me this year. Let me explain why and especially how.

I have always wanted to create an online course for a Year 11 French class. In this course I wanted the students to be able to find resources which could help them to gain good grades at NCEA independently and activities monitored, or not, by a teacher. This year I have decided to take the big step and put my fear aside and start the course.

Once again Marielle has been of a wonderful help. She has helped by creating activities well suited to the needs of my students. Marielle has kindly shared the codes in her wiki that teachers (or any educators) can reuse and use on their platform of choice. However, you need to keep in mind that her Wiki is only at a early stage and more activities will be added regularly. I have also chosen a Wikispace for platform and you can see Marielle’s activities in action within a language environment. The course I have created is far away to be finished and once again you need a bit of patience as I work full time, so I create the course at night :-) What is funny anyway is that our job as a teacher is never finished. Since the beginning of my career I have never known a moment where I could think “ah I have finished, my product is as good as it could be”. When one is a teacher there is always room for improvement.

So here you have it true collaboration in true context !


  1. Thanks for the kind words Florence. In all honesty, Your VLN start to look great. Many activities are really well thought with the right mix between learning, engagement, and challenge. Your students are gonna love it!

    Not sure I deserve much credits. What makes a great course is the quality of the teaching... the technology is just a tool which can either help with drawing students in or support them with the infinite patience that computers have (You want to do this activity again? That has been 10 times already! Ok, no problem, let's go for it).

    Even considering technology, my contribution has been very limited. I made a few activities available, provided examples of how to embed in wikispaces... and you got it all sorted without me helping much. If anything, I am really grateful that you gave it a try.

    The best compliment I read was between the lines. Your post was about collaboration and you teaching goals... not at all about technology. Let's keep it that way! What I have tried to do is set up a way for teachers to edit activities without having to be concerned about the technical aspect of things. This post suggests that I may not be too far off that goal. Great to hear!

    I will be spending at least 6 months, full time, working on that project. If there are other NZ teachers who want a hand with using similar widgeds in their wikispaces, feel free to get in touch. Especially teachers in the Wellington area. As Florence mentioned, opportunities to meet face to face meetings can be really helpful.

    Before closing, I need to give you credits for seeing the value to engage with a developer...at the time we met on twitter, most of my tweets were about really geeky stuff. But that didn't put you off. I think education could benefit a lot from teachers starting to converse with tool makers (software developers) and other professionals. In the education sector, the responsibility to check up and integrate knowledge from other fields has traditionally been delegated to consultants and other representatives. But as they don't do the job themselves, they cannot be directly aware of your needs. Twitter and other social medias give you new opportunities to bridge over multiple layers of interpretation and to directly engage a conversation with software developers and other tool providers. Good on you to have shown vision there too!

  2. Hi Florence

    Thank you very much for this wonderful story illustrating how you collaborate online. And as Widged said, you talk about the collaborative process as opposed to focusing on the technology...a lesson to us all :)

    As a matter of interest, do you both think you would have achieved the same level of collaboration if you had never met F2F? How do you achieve a high level of collaboration when you do not have the experience of a F2F meeting to enhance your communication?

  3. thanks Sarah. Yes I think we would have still worked together as we had already started. I work with people I have never met before.