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Nov 18

How can iPads and Firefly be used to enhance collaborative learning effectively?

Context

Many students often have to carry out large collaborative tasks which require input from several different people, and then share this information with a wider group.  I wanted to find a way of simplifying and speeding up this process whilst at the same time allowing students to peer assess each other’s contribution to the particular piece of work.  In web circles, this principle is often known as crowd sourcing, and has a great number of benefits in terms of productivity, quality and peer ownership – with Wikipedia being perhaps the best known example (Crowdsourcing has also been used to great effect with global scientific experiments and complex humanitarian tasks such as redrawing maps of the Philippines in the immediate aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan).

 

Method

I decided to try and experiment with collaborative Google Docs embedded into the schools Firefly system which allows invited users to edit and update a shared document in real time, so that all users can see the information being added.  This not only allows the students to divide larger projects up, and collaborate onto one document, but also peer assess the work being done by other groups, as they work.  In effect, collaborating in this way will provide a real time benchmarking exercise which should hopefully improve the quality of work produced, and develop independence from continual teacher input.   If group A can see what group B are doing on their ‘shared document’ they will potentially  be inspired to create better work themselves, or stimulated to challenge Group B to create better work – because they are all ultimately responsible for the final quality being produced.

 

Findings

My first trial with Year 10 using collaborative documents was a great success in terms of creating crowd sourced research documents where students pooled findings and shared amongst the group.    Students were clearly excited by the prospect of real time updating and so some silly behaviour was inevitable, however I think with careful management of group access to the documents (one ‘editor’ per group for example), and the realisation that everyone would be using these documents in subsequent lessons, means that for the most part the students will completed the task well, with minimal intervention.

More development and work to integrate with Firefly will follow.