Collaborating with colleagues from beyond our school walls helps us become stronger, better, and more innovative educators. As Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote, “Many ideas grow better when transplanted into another mind…” To that I would add, “minds from other places.”
I am attending the 2015 International Society for Technology Educators(ISTE) annual conference where it’s a bit of a zoo — a crazy, good, really busy, intellectually stimulating zoo — with people to meet, activities to learn about, lectures to hear, things to play with, information to process, and much more. Collaboration is in the air.
If you want a perfect example of people coming together — as makers — to work on a critical and life-saving project read the article How a Wedding Dress Maker is Trying to Stop the Spread of Ebola, in the Washington Post. The November 9, 2014 article describes how John Hopkins University biomedical engineers brought together a group of people to generate ideas about how to make a safer and more comfortable protective suit for the medical personnel who care for Ebola patients.
Sometimes when I sit quietly in a computer lab at school and observe my students, I overhear the most wonderful conversations about learning. Today, as I sat in a corner working quietly, several fifth-grade students came in and sat down to work on essays. Focused on work, they took little note of me.
A delightful conversation ensued when one student asked the other student for help with the name of a country. As soon as I realized that an interesting 21st Century learning conversation was happening, I started typing their dialogue rather than my parent letter.
The two children went online together, searched, made all sorts of comments and decisions about what they saw, discovered a few things that they were not looking for, and finally located the information that they needed. But their searching led to additional questions.
The entire conversation lasted less than two minutes, but they learned a great deal.
Student #1: I am trying to write about the country that broke off from India when India became independent. Do you know its name?
Student #2: I’m not sure. I know it’s right next door.
Student #1: Hummm. Maybe it’s Pakistan? But I’m not sure.
Student #2: Maybe. Let’s go online and find a world map.
Student #1: OK. Are you going to Google it?
Student #2: Yes and look. If we go into Images there are lots of maps.
Tony Wagner’s book looks at young adults who are successfully navigating a transforming world of work, where a deep understanding of teamwork and innovation is a prerequisite for success. His profiles focus especially on the educational and parenting experiences that helped each young person flourish. Wagner prods us to identify what we — educators, parents, concerned adults — need to do to engage young learners and help many more of them grow into innovative and creative thinkers.
Creating Innovators features two blended tracks — one text and the other media. Wagner supplements the traditional book with a host of videos that extend and amplify what we have just read. QR codesin each chapter make it easy to access the videos, so we need only scan the image with a smartphone app and off we go to view the related media. If a reader does not own a smartphone — and I’ve discovered that for financial reasons quite a few of my younger colleagues don’t — Wagner’s website includes a page with links to all of the videos. Continue reading “Creating Innovators by Tony Wagner: A Short Review”→
A wikiis an online document, viewed in a web browser, that allows a user or users to add and accumulate information on a topic. Usually, but not always, people work collaboratively on a wiki, so it’s a terrific learning tool.
Anyone can set up a wiki and invite others to contribute. All of the pages are visible and can be edited in the browser. What is unusual about a wiki, compared to many other forms of writing, is the ability of all users to edit and change the work of fellow collaborators, definitely a “we’re all working together project” that teaches group members to cooperate with one another and respect their work. A wiki document can include text, links, pictures, and video.
Have you been ever in a work situation where you feel especially old — as younger colleagues occasionally roll their eyes, proudly demonstrating their up-to-the-minute technology skills? Or maybe you’ve seen more experienced workers shoot down younger worker’s ideas. Lots of people in mid and late career periods, well people of all ages really, note these frustrations. It’s not all about age or technology — it’s about working together.
…and guess what?
Teams with differing ages and skills are often the most productive. While technology skills are important, collaborative skills and teamwork are more significant. In today’s fast-changing world, we are spending considerable effort teaching tech-savvy students how to work together with people who have differing perspectives and different kinds of ideas. Twenty-first Century employers are on the lookout for workers who can collaborate.
Sometimes older and more experienced team members offer points of view that add innovative problem-solving puzzle pieces to a team’s project. Younger workers can push limits and eagerly try new things. Older workers can also be skilled mentors. Skilled leadership, the ability to help people form a cohesive team, is a key to success.
Jessica Matthews, a co-creator of the energy-producing soccer ball, SOccket, visited my school today, taking the place by storm with her stories and engaging presentation.
A collaborative, 21st Century learning team working together for an undergraduate college class project, envisioned a soccer ball that might create clean energy as it moved around, while still being a ball for playing soccer. Their SOccket invention is astonishing and inspiring, creating enough energy to plug in a lamp or charge a mobile phone. Now, several years later, two members of the team have become social entrepreneurs, and SOccket is in production.