Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Collaboration and Cooperation

Developing 21st century skills calls for a closer examination of the power of collaboration and the role of cooperation in the classroom.

In their book, The Connected Educator, Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and Lani Ritter Hall speak to the importance of collaboration, cooperation and individual learning.

Collaboration is sometimes confused with cooperation. Cooperation is an individual approach to learning and the construction of individual knowledge done within a group. In this model everyone is expected to contribute something that anyone else in the group could have contributed. Each learner works individually on the same topic and then shares what he or she has learned in order to deepen the understanding of the group. Because the work is done individually, one learner’s failure to participate does not negatively affect the learning outcomes of the group.

In short, when in a cooperative situation, each individual’s contributions is replaceable; if a group member leaves, work doesn’t necessarily suffer; the group shares information that any member could have contributed; everyone works together on a common task; the group is structured.

Collaboration comes about when a learning group approaches a project or learning opportunity as connected learners, relying on one another’s knowledge, skills, talents and readiness to share. In this model, each participant shares his or her specific knowledge. Each brings some unique ability to the group’s project or task that helps to create success, and everyone works together to solve a problem.

In order for collaboration to be successful, each member of the group must invest in his or her personal knowledge-building before they have something to share. Personal knowledge is critical to creating a collaborative culture.

Technology makes connecting, collaboration and personal learning easier than ever before in human history. Through technology we can connect with others across continents and time zones to build collaborative learning communities that were not possible in the not so distant past.

Collaborative models of problem solving are the wave of the future, and through the use of technologies anyone can find a project on which to work or problem to solve where his or her individual talents, skills and knowledge can make a difference.

In the 21st century, technology has transformed how people connect, interact and collaborate to create knowledge. It offers our students unprecedented opportunities to learn and, as our GDS Mission exhorts us “… to become constructive contributors to the world.”

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