9 Ways to Foster Collaboration through Cooperative Learning

This article is part of the 12 Days of Learning. Click now to see all articles.

Has the thought of working with a group ever made you cringe? Or have you ever been in a group with someone who just didn’t seem to be interested in contributing OR one person who seemed to take over?

We’ve all been there.

However, being able to collaborate and work effectively in groups is critical to success not only in school, but also in college and the workforce. Luckily there are a variety of cooperative learning strategies that can be applied to foster students’ collaboration skills.

What is Cooperative Learning?
Cooperative Learning is students working in groups or with partners to put together pieces of a puzzle, achieve a common goal, and learn from one another. It’s a powerful strategy to help students learn, get them out of the box, and get them discussing a topic at another level.

Research has shown that students who work in cooperative groups often perform better on tests, and are better critical thinkers. And, if that alone isn’t enough, it’s also said to improve students’ social skills, enhance oral communications, and even heighten self-esteem.

With cooperative learning, it’s also harder for students to fade to the background, and when their contributions are accepted and acknowledged, they are more engaged in the learning experience.

Putting it Into Practice
While there are a wide variety of approaches for cooperative learning, we’ve gathered together a list of nine popular options that you can quickly introduce in your classroom.

  1. Think-Pair-Share
    One of the most commonly used cooperative learning strategies in education today. First the teacher poses a question to the class, and then gives students time to think about their responses individually before having them pair up with a partner to discuss their response. Based on individuals’ responses and perspectives they could learn something new or be challenged with something they’d not previously considered, and have an opportunity to discuss it with their partner before the teacher calls the class back together for pairs to share what they’ve discussed.

    Think-Pair-Share is very easy to use and can be a powerful tool for learning. If you're interested in trying it yourself, you can learn more in Atomic Learning’s Think-Pair-Share course.
     
  2. Prairie Fire
    The Prairie Fire approach is designed to get your students talking in groups about more high-level questions. To start, gather students in groups of 3-5 before posing a question, then give the groups time to discuss and formulate a single group response to share. Next each group quickly shares their answer and learns the correct response before being instructed to continue their group discussion on what was shared, what they may have gotten wrong, and why.

    This approach is a great way to help students practice the group processing component of cooperative learning, including incorporating feedback from other groups.
     
  3. Four Corners
    Start by dividing students into larger groups – say where they stand on an issue, for example, and ultimately directing them to one of the four corners in the room to join a team with similar values, opinions, philosophies, etc.. Then pose a question to answer or assign a task for these groups of like-minded individuals to complete. After allowing time for discussion, have groups share out to the class.  

8 Technologies to Watch

It’s no secret that technologies come and go. In fact, the ever-changing technological landscape makes it incredibly difficult to keep up with the latest and greatest tech trends, let alone plan how new tools can be used to enhance instruction.

The recent 2016 Teaching with Technology Survey, asked participants at educational institutions across the country to predict which new technologies they saw having the greatest impact on education in the next decade.

Interested in which tools made the cut? Here’s a few of their top choices:

  • Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality
    Topping the list were augmented and virtual reality, one of the fastest growing trends in educational technology today. Beyond the cool factor, much of the appeal for education is the ability to go farther and dive deeper into a topic by not just telling students about it, but letting them experience it.

    One of the questions that comes up for those new to virtual reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) is the difference between the two. The short answer is that VR allows you to completely immerse yourself as if you were magically teleported to an alternate location. AR, on the other hand, adds a layer on top of real life—for example viewing a 3D beating heart layered over an Anatomy textbook.

Related Resources:
10 Ideas to Get Started with Virtual Reality
Go Anywhere with Virtual Reality 
Getting Started with Augmented Reality

  • 3D Printing
    Possibly fueled by the already popular Maker Movement, 3D printing ranked as one of the top trends to watch. The option of 3D printing also is being fueled by the demand for STEM focused education, as it allows students the opportunity to apply mathematical processes and engineering concepts while developing critical thinking and problem-solving skills to create something tangible. (And its pretty darn cool, that probably helps.)

Related Resources:
SketchUp for 3D Printing using Google SketchUp
Students as Digital Creators 

7 Learning Styles: Which One Are You?

Whether they recognize it or not, most people have a preferred way of learning. While some learn best by listening (think of those lecture classes in college), others may have to see a concept in action to learn the material (this is where lab work comes in), and the list goes on.

The trick is figuring out your individual learning style and then utilizing your strengths while being aware of your weaker areas.  To help, we’ve worked with Dan Kuemmel, a specialist in learning technology, data visualization, and pedagogy, on an in-depth course on Learning Styles. As a preview, we’ve provided a quick peek at each of the seven types of learners below:

  1. Visual Learners
    These learners turn words into pictures to retain information, and tend to excel with writing assignments and textbook readings. However, they can struggle with information that is only audio-based, such as a lectures or audio-recordings.
     
  2. Logical Learners
    Logical learners thrive on processes, statistics, and making connections between ideas. Puzzles, riddles, and word games engage them, as well as charts and diagrams.
     
  3. Aural/Auditory Learners
    These learners have great recall when hearing information be it a lecture, podcast, spoken directions, or even music.
     
  4. Verbal Learners
    Verbal learners are most easily identified as those that need to ‘talk through’ a problem, either through verbal or written communication. They excel at writing essays and class discussions or debates, but can struggle with math and science concepts.

6 Things College-Bound Students Need to Do NOW

Busy High School Juniors and Seniors can get tied up in the fun spring activities—prom planning, graduation pictures, sports—and procrastinate on a few very important items that they should do sooner rather than later, if they’re planning to attend college after graduation.

To help guide them on the right path, here’s just a few quick points to touch on with your college-bound student(s):

  • Visit a College Campus (or Several)
    Picking a college is a big step. One way to help determine if a school is right for you is to visit—virtually or in-person. Online tours are great if expense or distance is an issue, but keep in mind that video tours are edited to show the campus at its best. If visiting in-person, it’s often recommended to do so during the school year to get an accurate idea of what the campus would be like as a student.

    Related resource: What Should I Look for on a Campus Visit?
     
  • Put Thought Into Your College Major
    With the rising cost of college, it’s not very cost-effective to go in without a focused area of study. And, with a future career-path in mind, students can look into whether or not a college offers the desired course of study. While transferring to another college later is always an option, it’s important to note that not all courses transfer and such an option could delay completion of a degree and increase costs.

    Related resource: How Do I Choose a Major?
     
  • Apply to College(s) of Choice
    While application deadlines vary quite a bit, most seem to expect completed applications for new students in before February. If students have a specific school, or even a short list of schools, in mind, they need to consider any upcoming deadlines. (Coming in late isn’t a good way to get your college career off on the right foot.) Even if a school’s deadline is later than most, applying early may create a buffer to apply at an alternative school if a first choice doesn’t work out.

    Related resource: How Do I Pick the Right College?

5 Tough Questions to Ask When Implementing 1:1 or BYOD

Has your school gone 1:1? Or are headed that way? Often, with technology comes a great deal of change, a fair amount of resistance, and an abundance of questions. However, when done right, a 1:1 is well worth the effort.

To help ensure your school or district is set up for success from the start, we’ve compiled a few quick tips to set expectations and minimize potential pitfalls.

  1. What’s the Goal of the Initiative?
    We’re big fans of educational technology, but the addition of technology as a standalone isn’t enough. It’s important to set a goal for your devices that is focused on learning. In the words of Andrew Marcinek, a school CIO and former Director of Technology, in a recent Edutopia article:

    “A 1:1 environment should be the goal of every learning institution; however, this is not about devices, it's about access. I imagine every school superintendent, principal, and teacher would agree that it is in their best interest to provide their students with the best access to the most current, scholarly information available.”

    Without a focus on learning, a 1:1 initiative has the potential to be underutilized as well as fail to ultimately impact student success. If you haven’t already set such a goal, take a hard look at the technology in your district, 1:1 initiative or not, and see where changes can be made.

  2. How Will You Ensure Devices are Used?
    As with any initiative or project, there is a learning curve. Keep this in mind, and support your teachers’ success with professional development opportunities and time to integrate new tools into their lessons. It’s also important to not demand that the devices be used at all times, while still encouraging use when appropriate.

    Setting up expectations, supporting teachers with needed training, and checking in with them on how it’s going and any further professional development needs can make all the difference.

    Related Resource: How Do We Plan with Purpose? A Look at Effective PD
     
  3. What is the Devices’ Role in the Classroom?
    A device is no replacement for a quality teacher, and it shouldn’t be treated as one. A device is a tool, just like an old chalkboard, not-quite-as-old whiteboard, or a calculator. Work with teachers to make them feel comfortable with the device, understand the benefits the available technology provides, and provide practical ideas that show how the device can be successfully used in the classroom.

    Related resource: Evaluating Technology Resources

4 Hesitations Teachers Have About Tech Integration

Change is hard. And for many, it can also be scary, whether it involves technology or not. People, as a rule, tend to be creatures of habit, and even those that consider themselves to be forward-thinkers may be among those most hesitant to adopt change.

When it comes to teachers, they’ve invested considerable time in their lessons and projects, have established rubrics, and gathered concrete evidence that lessons have successfully communicated a topic to students. Because of this, they may be more resistant to change than other individuals.

To help overcome this resistance, it’s important to take the time to understand their hesitations. To help, we’ve compiled a short list of some of the most common phrases heard from teachers who are questioning if technology integration is right for their classroom:

  1. Why should I?
    While this question may be delivered in a variety of ways, it’s often fueled out of fear. Sharing the logic behind the need for technology integration, as well as supporting teachers with any necessary professional development, can provide hesitant teachers the nudge they need to take the first steps.

    An easy way to start the conversation on the need for technology integration is by focusing on the importance of ensuring students are college- and career-ready, of which technology plays a critical role. Digital technologies have become commonplace in both college and in the workplace.

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