Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Our Collaboration Project Didn't Go So Well

My mentor and I tried doing a collaborative project using google documents. We really liked how we all shared our thoughts on one document at the last global learners training. Our goal was to have students answer problems and then comment on how other students solved a problem very similar to their own. We knew there would be troubles using this same idea with middle school students but didn’t anticipate it going wrong in every way possible.

We decided to break our students into groups of 4. We made one document for each class that had all the problems on it. The problems were organized by number and teacher. Each group was given a number. Before we got out computers the students had to solve the problem and explain their answer. This part went really well. In my first block the wireless didn’t work in my room for the laptops. Instead I decided to have each group come up individually to type their answers using my computer while they took a quiz. Well my mentor’s internet didn’t work either so the students were unable to comment on each other’s work.

Then in block ¾ I was able to get the computer lap. After solving their problems on paper they were allowed to get on a computer. Well they started to write inappropriate things on the page and I didn’t know who was typing it. Then they would erase the word problems and mess with the other students answers. It turned out to be such a waste of time and most students didn’t take commenting on another students’ work seriously.

For block 5/6 I made sure to figure out which group was which anonymous writer. Even knowing this, it was too hard to track every inappropriate thing that was written and erased rather quickly. Many of the same problems occurred that happened in block ¾ and I was able to catch more of them but not all of them.

I tried gave a talk about being respectful using the computers and writing only appropriate things. I demonstrated exactly what they would be doing once they got on the computers. I’m not sure what else I could have done to make this project go better. As of right now, I’m never doing it again. Has anyone tried this and have it be successful? If so, please let me know what you did!


David said...

I have some recommendations:

1. Make sure that students are signing into the collaboration spaces, at least initially, and then share with them the "revision history" so that they see that you can track changes, and see who makes what changes, and when. This will make them more reluctant to be inappropriate.

2. Expect the students to play with the tool the first few times they see it. It is very new to them, and they are experimenting. Find ways to harness this experimentation, ie. build a few collaboration projects at the beginning where the idea is to find out what the limits of the Google Docs system are. It will both help kids practice using the system, and give them an outlet for their desire to experiment.

3. Be patient with them, they are only teenagers. :)

We use Google Docs regularly at our school, and at first we had the same issues you are describing. Now, Google docs are a tool the kids use regularly. One of our students even introduced Google Docs at a Model United Nations conference she helped run, as out of the dozens of high schools represented, none of them had ever used Google Docs before.

Jacquie Taylor said...

I am wondering how much experience they have with face to face collaboration and the benefits/challenges. If they have not had face to face experiences they will not be able to know first hand how it feels. Collaboration needs to result in an outcome that is better than an individual they understand the criteria and the outcome they are striving for?
We learn from our mistakes...don't give up on this as collaboration in this manner is an important skill they will need to survive in their world.