Collaborative Working

For years now pupils have been working together on various aspects of ICT. In some cases, the task has determined the effectiveness of the collaboration. Having a team creating an animation or video lends itself to pupils having different roles and responsibilities and being purposefully engaged throughout, with the option of changing roles as the project progresses.

Where collaboration has been less successful is where pupils have been required to work together to produce a presentation, poster, story,etc.  I suppose we had to adopt this approach in days gone by, where 1:1 access was a wistful dream. We’ve all tried this approach and whilst we probably called it a joint effort, in reality it often worked out as pupil 1 typing whilst pupils 2 and 3 were on the periphery, sometimes contributing,  but just how engaged in the process were they?

And so to the present. 1:1 might be a ratio that’s now possible, but does this mean true collaboration? Quite the opposite possibly as pupils bury their heads into their own device. to the exclusion of all around. One of the many benefits of that the internet brings is the ability to have multiple users working on the same document. I first came across this when a Google Doc was shared and whilst I was typing in my tuppence worth up popped another user doing the same thing. It was a tad disconcerting at first, but we managed to steer clear of overwriting each other and the document took shape in front of us and all was well.

I’m currently spending some time at Parkstone Primary and this 1/2 term’s topic is to create a multimedia document. Quite why and when the idea of document sharing popped into my head I can’t recall, but it did. Usually things pop out of my head these days, so this was a refreshing moment.  I think it was partly because they’d worked well in pairs on the last term’s project that I though this might just work and be an exciting new slant on working together.

So, how to crack this one? Google Docs was a possibility, but I didn’t know if the pupils had email addresses, so sharing that way might have fallen at step 1. Secondly, the presentation tool looks just like MS PowerPoint and that’d probably had been done to death. Thirdly, as I’m only there one afternoon a week, I needed something where I could easily keep tabs on progress when not at the school. I know this can be done via Google docs with shared folders and I’m certain it’s been done by some, but I find it a rather clunky process with too many places for it to fail. This video shows why I didn’t bother. If it needs a 10 minute instructional video on YouTube, it is probably going to turn off most classroom teachers as impractical. I even thought that I’d be happy to pay £199 just to have access to J2Launch as a safe and secure online shared area even if I didn’t use the software. (Interestingly, the topic of getting work off iPads arose in a different setting this week with some schools looking at specific software to do just this. Both seem to be either expensive or a technological tangle).

So, J2E it was. You will, if you’ve read my blogs before, know of my enthusiasm for J2E, so it wasn’t a difficult decision to make. I organised a trial of the software, set up the users and off we went. I demonstrated a sample of what J2E could produce and we set about story-boarding the presentation. The pupils did have some decisions to make. They didn’t have to work together. Solo working was fine. They didn’t have to use J2E. Finished presentations in a software title of their choice could simply be saved and uploaded to J2Launch once completed. Interestingly, not one pupils has opted to use anything other than J2E for this task. I asked why and ease of use an access from home were the two most common reasons.

I’d shown the pupils how to share a file: They do that, not me and how the little chat window works when multiple users are logged on to the same document. This also provided an ideal opportunity to remind the pupils of appropriate online behaviour and responsibilities.  I then gave them 20 minutes to lose the novelty value of watching their screen change as a partner typed something and asking questions via the chat window when turning their head and talking might have been more effective.

Once the novelty had subsided they set to and began work on their presentations. The temptation was to work on the same page, but I pointed out that it was possible to work on different pages at the same time.

So, the crunch question is… Does it work? Well, yes. Quite easily and splendidly in fact. The novelty has, by and large, worn off, and pupils were engaged and on task. Some had already used it at home, both individually and collaboratively and the deadline of 3 weeks hence, when all presentations need to be completed is firmly implanted. It’s panned out that no group is larger than 3 and for the time being, I think that’s enough as any more could lead a case of ‘too many cooks’.

The original plan was to shoot and edit a video and then upload this into the presentation, but time won’t permit this, so we’ll be using the animation tool in JIT and the audio recording tools to produce as radio, rather than TV, interview instead.

I’ll add to this blog and post some of the finished work up when completed. Normally I wait until little projects like this have been completed, but, like the pupils, I get excited sometimes an I just didn’t want to wait before posting.  I’d be interested if anyone knows of alternative approaches to multiple access, other than Google Docs and Office 365. So if you do, please get in touch.



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