Friday, November 30, 2012

Preserving Collaborative Learning in the Future of Education

By Sean Scarpiello

A couple weeks ago, I was emailed a link to an article entitled “Facilitating Collaborative Learning: 20 Things You Need to Know from the Pros,”and I was intrigued. As education progresses, we can expect to see more technology becoming integrated into the learning process, but less personal interaction. Essentially, this means that education could be done cheaply and effectively using technology, but without collaboration among students in the learning process. However, as we move forward, we can see that this should not be the case. One of the main purposes of receiving a quality education is to obtain a good job. Almost every job on the market requires some degree of team collaboration and working with others, so it imperative that we keep collaboration within the learning process.

The article on collaborative learning and implementing it effectively listed 20 ideas to keep in mind when implementing collaborative learning in classrooms and online. Among the 20 ideas, there was much overlap; however, the majority of the ideas could be lumped into three main goals. These three goals include staying motivated, incorporating diversity, and keeping the group challenged. In the real world, each of these aspects are plentiful in effective teams of workers. But now we ask, how we can ensure these traits make it into the future of education and technology.

The answer to this is simple. When online learning program curricula are designed they need to take into account certain degrees of collaboration. In our digital world, it is easy to let technology isolate us from each other, so we need to remedy this by simply creating teams of students to work on group projects together. These groups of students will need to be 4 to 5 people in size and have a rich diversity of ideas. In our online world, this would be easy, as we are able to connect to people on the other side of the planet with just a few clicks of our mouse. Also by creating collaboration groups online, instructors or educational programs can easily find ways to keep challenging the group so that debate and discussion are used to best solve problems. This type of education is important because although everyone can read the material found in a textbook, different people bring different experiences and their own strategies for solving problems. It is on these online collaboration sessions where students are offered the opportunities to learn from listening and teaching others.

Through this collaboration, students benefit from this type of learning because society is quickly moving towards a state where it is just as important to apply knowledge as a group as it is to learn information. In our current and more traditional school setting, collaborative learning is easy to implement, as students are all readily available to work together. Now, as education professionals are designing online programs that are quick and efficient through the learning process, it is easy to forget about the importance of collaboration. This holds especially true when the course load is packed full of material and educational programs are trying to get information from textbooks into the students’ heads. If these new programs are not designed with collaboration in mind, one’s knowledge would be shallow in the subject matter. In classes like foreign language, math, English, and science, concepts mean nothing if they cannot be applied, analyzed, and questioned by students. Therefore, we cannot approach the future of education in a way that pumps out a lot of students that can memorize a list of physics equations but cannot apply them to solve challenging problems.

Overall, we have seen the importance of collaborative learning in schools today, so now we must ensure that this same style of learning makes it to future of education which is on the horizon. If we do not implement these advanced learning processes, students will have a poor understanding of the material and a difficult time solving problems collaboratively as a team or group.


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