Nowadays we are witnessing a change in our social interactions. Many of us are spending much of our time online, engaging in social networks and befriending people we have never met face-to-face. We are joining social groups and finding ourselves sharing, cooperating and working with others. Is this a good thing? Is this having a negative influence on our creativity, individualism and competitiveness.
- Do you see collaboration and teamwork as a waste of time or an opportunity for personal growth? Do you prefer to work alone or with others? Please elaborate
Technology, like everything else in life, has its pros and cons. The trick is finding the right balance and making technology our servant rather than the other way around. What's the right balance? That will depend on the individual and his/her needs at any given time. Sometimes, the pendulum has to swing wildly back and forth a few times before it settles for a smaller, more balanced, swing. As I watch my adaptation to social media, I realize that I am very much aware that I need to establish "balance" very quickly; I notice that my teenaged daughter's approach is quite different and that she'd be quite happy to be permanently plugged into her online communities. Perhaps the answers to your questions will be affected by the age group of your readers.
As I'm on vacation for a good chunk of this seminar, I may be a lurker for a good chunk of it. Interesting topic, though. I am looking forward to learning from my online colleagues.
Thanks, Christine (Chris) Horgan
Curriculum Co-ordinator, SAIT Polytechnic, Calgary, Canada
You mention balance and age groups. Do you think one person's balance may be another's dis-balance?
Collaboration and teamwork is never a waste of time for me. Collaboration potentially brings richness through diverse viewpoints, a variety of skills and strengths, and exposure to new triggers and possibilities. You can see I'm a total convert - have been for some time. However, I recently had an interesting experience which makes me think that the word "collaboration" has become a buzzword that is not always - um - fully understood.
I started a project that was to be/ was called a collaborative project, but ended up being a people-working-on-their-own and throwing-things-together-at-the-end project. I though how much better the thing would have been if there was a clear understanding by all parties at outset what collaboration entails. This is likely the responsibility of the project lead - to make clear expectations re communication, openness, extent of boundaries, etc. There has been a lot of research done on the collaborative process - surely there exists accessible "guidelines" that could be used in various contexts.
Look forward to the course, although have some time constraints,
You are so right about the importance of having clear understanding of the meaning of collaboration from the outset. However, I feel stifled when one person leads. I prefer group leadership where collaborators share the leadership role.
How do others feel about leadership roles in collaborative projects?
If leadership is required, then it needs to be assigned by someone and not given to the loudest/most talkative/strongest personality. It needs to go to the person best able to consider all points of view and make a decision. I've been in "forced collaboration" projects that were anything but collaborative. Our group was to reach some decision that would affect an entire department. All opinions, thoughts, etc...were expressed during many meetings, but then the conversation started "circling back". At that point, a manager stepped in and appointed a leader to take everything into account and arrive at a conclusion. Had a leader not been appointed, we'd still be going in circles.
I've also worked in a truly collaborative fashion where no leaders were necessary. Everyone brought a unique aspect to the situation and, putting all the pieces together, we were able to reach agreement. It's a thing of beauty when that happens.
Hi Nellie - I need to clarify - hierarchical structure constrains collaboration - "leadership" emerges and moves around among the collaborative group. Many of us are familiar and comfortable with collaborative processes and understand or quickly glean the culture of a collaborative project. How is this culture shared with people new to collaboration? Is a critical mass of experienced collaborators necessary (new participants absorb culture), or can collaborative culture be explained up front?
Bye for now,
Balance in everything. The time spent on more casual social networking sites-- checking out my Facebook page, etc. is very different from time spent in truly collaborating with others. I think we need to be careful when using the term "collaboration" when what we are doing is pretty basic levels of communication.
Collaboration-- working toward shared goals, meshing ideas and approaches to solve common problems-- is indeed productive time.
I like both individual and team or collaborative work. I especially like working across disciplines...even though it can be challenging. But I need time to think and reflect, alone, to generate new insights that enrich the work I do with others.
As enthusiastic as I am for the online part of my life, I think its important to balance with the other parts-- the great outdoors, family and friends, live music and theater. That said, I am signing off to visit my patio and see what is growing in the garden!
I love gardening but I must confess that my garden does not look as good as it did 10 years ago. It's hard to balance online and offline life. Online collaboration seems to take a lot more time than offline.
your comment intrigued me and got me thinking about the reasons for your opinion about this - apart from the obvious that you are spending more time online. Does online collaboration really take a lot more time than offline collaboration? Or is it just that you are more engaged with others when online and the possibilities for collaboration are greater and there are more tools available to help it happen?
All the above I reckon, but what do you and others think?
In my experience it is much harder to find a time and space when a group of people can meet together physically or even synchronously on the telephone or online using web conferencing. Whereas asynchronous opportunities lend themselves to more frequent interaction. This discussion forum is a great example of this.
I am finding that in order to contribute wholeheartedly to my online ventures, I need to be super quick on the keyboard and at multitasking so I can do a lot in a very short time. I would not be able to manage as much as I do online, offline. Time seems to take on another dimension online. I am much more mindful of my work online than I am offline, but the price I pay is time.
I would be interested in how others find online collaboration as opposed to face-to-face collaboration.
Thank you for sharing the Sour video and your article. Technology can certainly facilitate and make the process of collaboration a lot of fun. I would be interested in learning how others get their "students to collaborate effectively".
Currently, I've found myself referring to S.Downes 4 conditions of network quality: autonomy; diversity; openness; and interaction/connectivity. (I heard this at an Australian Council seminar March 31 of this year - must be in a paper by now.)
Nellie asked us what conditions are necessary for successful collaboration - I'd say Downes' conditions inform this question. Some of my research showed practices that sustained an informal adult learning group were:
Valuing and eliciting group members' personal experience and knowledge;
Practicing "spaciousness" - unhurried listening and reflective participation;
Creating an informal and supportive culture of participation;
Growing trust through collaborative interaction;
Regularly clarifying and reiterating group goals;
Developing and using critical feedback mechanisms;
Using ethical practice;
Creating and applying criteria for relevant and credible information.
Do these practices apply to formal education context as well?
Is there a link to the article you wrote that referenced my work? I'd be interested to see it!
The 2004 article is here, and Yikes! I guess this not the first time this has happened for you, but the ref was actually Gillian Salmon ( Salmon, G. (2002). Five-step model of teaching and learning online. Retrieved November 27, 2003)
Must pay more attention to detail! I guess this is an example of something that happens online but wouldn't happen F2F.
Look forward to learning more about your work,
You may be interested to know that I have continued to develop the model. I changed the name from the Taxonomy of Collaborative E-Learning to the Taxonomy of Online Collaboration to allow for the option to apply it in other online settings besides e-learning. I am right now completing a book, Taxonomy of Online Collaboration: Theory and Applications which will be out early 2010. It covers a full range of topics related to designing, planning, teaching, guiding and assessing collaborative assignments and projects. I discuss planning at the curricular level, to create a systematic progression of skills development in online collaboration as someone moves through an academic program-- from being able to participate in structured assignments, to being able to facilitate, organize and self-manage collaborative work. I also provide a substantial theoretical framework-- and propose a theory of "e-social constructivism."
Last year I co-edited the Handbook of Electronic Collaboration and Organizational Synergy-- it is a reference book with chapters on Education, Business and Government. Check your library-- if they have an InfoSci subscription you might be able to access it.
As you may recall from my previous session, I conducted the research for this work online. That experience got me going, so I wrote a book coming out from Sage in December: Online Interviews in Real Time. We're planning a mid-January SCoPE session so stay tuned!