Technology Trends

Increasing Use of Collaborative Learning Approaches

Leaving the west coast last year for Washington DC, was an adjustment for me. One of the major adjustments that I had not foreseen was joining a school district that had not adopted Google Apps for Education for their students. Having been a classroom teacher for eight years, in multiple school districts with GAFE, I apparently had taken this for granted. For years, my students and I were engaging in the collaborative learning projects using this platform as a jumping off point. When I interviewed for a Technology Instructional Coach position in DC Public Schools, I was shocked to learn GAFE or even some form of student collaborative capability was not in place everywhere.

Over the past few days, I have been reading the NMC Horizon Report: 2015 K-12 Edition. This annual publication discusses solutions, challenges and trends regarding educational technology over the short, mid and long term. For our assignment, we were to identify one of these technology trends or tools, explore it further and develop some authentic product we wanted to use from our research. I definitely gravitated toward the particular section, of which I am sure you can guess.

The trend that stood out to me was a mid-term (3-5 year) trend calling for increased use of collaborative learning or cooperative learning. This trend called out to me as it described districts successfully using collaborative environments through the use of district-wide tools. Collaborative learning is the opportunity for teachers and students to engage with each other to form a community of learners locally and globally.

Collaborative Learning

From this, I chose to look more deeply at Microsoft 365 as a collaborative and creation based tool. This fall our district will be adopting Microsoft 365 for both teachers and students. Not only this, but students will be given five additional Office licenses to use on home computers and devices. This adoption will be revolutionary for our students. I know this because my teaching in GAFE school districts was forever changed for the better. Students were engaged with each other, teachers, and peers outside of their school. They would work together on assignments, critique, review, analyze and create together. I am very excited to introduce this tool to the teachers and students that I work with.

My teachers are familiar with Google Drive and its features, but Microsoft 365 will be new. Of course everyone will have some familiarity with Office products so that is a great jumping off point. But, it is the collaborative nature of both services that I am most excited about.

I developed a beginning-of-the-year introduction to Microsoft 365 for my staff. I chose to highlight only a few tools for this introduction, as well as suggested ways teachers could learn more. These accounts will be a surprise to teachers and students as the release for my district will happen August 1st, and as you know, teachers and students have been off for the summer. I am excited about the collaborative possibilities. And now that Microsoft acquired Skype, the global possibilities are even more achievable!

Please check out my Microsoft 365 Sway presentation, a work in progress.