Talking the Walk: Narratives of OLC: March 22-April 02, 2006

Elements of Collaboration, Appropriate Tools, and Suitable Strategies

Elements of Collaboration, Appropriate Tools, and Suitable Strategies

by Paul Beaufait -
Number of replies: 3
It is wonderful to wake up on a sunny morning, fire up the computers, throw open the windows, and see fresh webs spun virtually over night; Sylvia and Chris certainly have been exercising their spinnerets wink. Thank yous muchly!

As Chris points out, there are numerous challenges to creation of opportunities for disparate inhabitants of the Earth to learn to collaborate, for instance: "whether there are social spaces where people of all cultures can meet, how safe people feel, what emotional literacies are encouraged, how we grant people time and relationship permissions, [and] how much communal trust flows..." (Re: 10 (or more)..., 27 March 2006, 10:06 AM).

Sylvia's reprise of Derek's reference to Vygotsky and scaffolding, along with select elements of authenticity, interdependence, and purpose could indicate a path forward (Re: 10 (or more)..., 27 March 2006, 07:07 AM). Likewise, Sylvia's foundation element, communication, glistens throughout Bonnie's story of learner collaboration on media production, in OLC Stories & Reflections (24 March 2006, 03:40 PM)

Blogs, wikis, and other communication platforms all figure in scenarios close at hand (or whatever spiders call their forward appendages), on this thread and the story lines. So I cannot but wonder...

What tools do you choose, and how do you use them to construct scaffolds from the elements of collaboration?

Coffee, Paul
In reply to Paul Beaufait

Re: Elements of Collaboration, Appropriate Tools, and Suitable Strategies

by Sylvia Currie -
Sarah has refered to Linda Harasim's work on collaborative dialogue as a learning activity. I was a learner in several courses with Linda at SFU and also worked with her to design courses. For the most part the discussion forums were the course.

One particularly memorable strategy Linda used was having the students work in groups to faciltate the class discussion for 10 days -- so the students became the teachers, and worked together to identify roles and division of labour (introduce the topic, facilitate, synthesize, report on collaborative process). The course content was generated by the students. I think the impact this experience had on my own thinking about course design is why I have a difficult time relating to the energy and enthusiasm around content (learning object) repostitories.

The asynchronous discussion tool is obviously a very important focus in a discussion based course. Students need access to the same features as the instructor. In the example I mentioned students needed to analyse participation data, create sub-topic groups, organize discussion threads, and in our case we used role play so even changed identities.

The ability to link and reference ideas contributed by course participants is also crucial. Have you ever used a web-based discussion forum that doesn't support hyperlinking or threading? It completely influences the experience.

So the number one important tool to support collaborative dialogue in a course: A good forum tool!

In reply to Sylvia Currie

Strategies for assessing asynchronous learner collaboration in various forms

by Paul Beaufait -
On the Understanding Collaboration thread, Sarah explains her observations of Virtual High School archives, and gives examples showing that, "once a thread depth reached four, building was happening" (Sarah Haavind - Thursday, 30 March 2006, 06:53 AM [JST]). Not only does that answer my question about thread depth four being a threshold for apparently spontaneous "collaborative events" in online discussion, the entire thread may exemplify such depth.

I'm wondering, however, whether Edge's cooperative development scheme doesn't create a higher threshold of depth, perhaps thread depth nine (flowchart_detail_A3_.pdf, attached). The writer, understander, and observer(s) all cooperate to draw out, if you will (rather than capture), the original writer's thoughts, intentions, plans, and commitments to further the writer's own development.

Granted, that depth of interaction is unlikely to occur frequently without suitable cultures, mediums, models, training, or practice. It certainly doesn't happen in the span of an hour, or overnight. Weeks or fortnights may be necessary to work through a single cycle - after forming relationships and assuming cooperative roles.

Other loci of collaboration folks have mentioned during this seminar include collaborative project work, and tangible by-products thereof. Bonnie's story and amplification suggest that explicit teaching of process may not be necessary, if a product is under co-construction. Sylvia's "bricks in a building" anecdote suggests that problem-solving may suffice to spark collaboration, perhaps better than a step-by-step approach - but what of learners' preferences?

Nevertheless, all these examples still leave open the question of assessing asynchronous learner collaboration. Sarah's findings indicate that students may jump, but only as high as you tell them they must to make the grade. Pragmatic students tasked to thread depth two or three achieve two or three. If you say four counts, you'll see them stretching, won't you?

Cannot the assessment of learner collaboration also involve collaboration among or with learners - whether your focus is authentic collaboration or work-products (Nancy), open story-telling (Chris), media production (Bonnie), or project proposals and plans (Paul)? Sylvia mentions class debriefing; Marsha shares course final student reflections....

If assessment, too, can be collaborative, how? Do post-participation, post-production assessments suffice? If not, why not?

Cheers, Paul
In reply to Paul Beaufait

Re: Strategies for assessing asynchronous learner collaboration in various forms

by chris macrae -

I believe we are doing our children extreme injustice by failing to debate a new learning cuuricula and modes for the 21st C in a way that could involve the most diverse participation

why do we broadcast sports but not find a way to animate through public sector broadcasting a worldwide inquiry into learning which could then connect viewers to specific conversations on the net

Probably the book with the closest view of the revolution I believe we need learning networks to be is this one which also provides this neat summary of the scale and urgency of the inquiry we should be eleveating from every community up

Eight main beliefs of one of most inspiring books around in 2004:

  • 1. The world is hurtling through a fundamental turning point in history.
  • 2. We are living through a revolution that is changing the way we live, communicate, think and prosper.
  • 3. This revolution will determine how, and if, we and our children work, earn a living and enjoy life to the fullest.
  • 4. For the first time in history, almost anything is now possible.
  • 5. Probably not more than one person in five knows how to benefit fully from the hurricane of change - even in developed countries.
  • 6. Unless we find answers, an elite 20 percent could end up with 60 percent of each nation's income, the poorest fifth with only 2 percent.1 That is a formula for guaranteed poverty, school failure, crime, drugs, despair, violence and social eruption.
  • 7. We need a parallel revolution in lifelong learning to match the information revolution, and for all to share the fruits of an age of potential plenty.
  • 8. Fortunately, that revolution - a revolution that can help each of us learn anything much faster and better - is also gathering speed.

My trouble is that I have been reflecting this way for 20 or even 30 years the first time I encountered what computer assisted learning networks can do. I am not longer interested in just chat, or this takes time before it will happen. I believe that Gandhi was doubly correct in implying that in big tansformation people have to stand up rather than expect existing institutions will help them; and in defing knowledge as that which liberates us; clearly there is a thord of the world to liberate from poverty and much of the rest of the world to liberate from organsiations that still invest in machines and cutting people.

If you are up for revolution you can find more at For example if Londoners cannot get the BBc to cover learning with as much attention as it does sports, then we should close it down or return the 2012 summer olympics as past its use by date . I also think that a thorougly underexplored area is learning games - see eg if that interests you