What is a collaborative classroom?
The collaborative classroom is a shift from teacher-led learning to students having more say, within a carefully constructed learning environment. The concept of the ‘flipped classroom’ is a collaborative model, where students conduct work before the class and use the lesson time to explore what they have learned. The use of technology can facilitate group problem solving and interactive presentations.
How to implement it – advice from the experts
Neil Watkins, managing director at Think IT, says the key to collaborative classrooms is with the teacher. “They should have the capability to monitor all pupils’ activity simultaneously, broadcast specific content onto individual devices and also shut down any users whose activity is deemed inappropriate, and with virtual desktop solutions, this is made easier than ever,” he says.
“With the increasing use of the cloud and virtual learning environments (VLEs), it’s extremely easy for a school to sync up multiple devices so that they work seamlessly together, to achieve a truly collaborative classroom. As long as the content
remains interesting and engaging, students will want to learn and will be less likely to become disinterested and disruptive. With over 250,000 apps in the marketplace, choosing the right content can be tricky, but working with trusted providers such as The Educational App Store will simplify the process hugely.
“If I could offer one piece of advice to schools, it would be to remember that technology doesn’t teach people; people teach people. It’s important to think not only about the devices you need in your school to achieve collaboration, but about how exactly they’re going to be used together and what content is needed to get the best out of the technology you’re using. It’s simply not enough to invest in 100 iPads and assume that this will improve teaching and learning. I always advise the schools I work with to consider their desired outcomes before anything else.”
Marc Smith, IT Integrationist at ACS Hillingdon International School, says creating a collaborative classroom through technology equips students with vital communication, teamwork and analytical skills, ensuring they are prepared to thrive in the rapidly changing digital milieu.
“Technology galvanises students’ creativity and collaboration,” he said. “ACS Hillingdon’s IT Lab provides a flexible working space with adaptable furniture allowing students to work in any size groups. Students also use Apple’s Air Play to easily share and model work between their iPads and two large LCD wall mounted screens.
“This collaborative environment encourages students to develop teamwork skills. The school’s Advanced Technology Club, a group of High School students, who meet once a week, created, coded and built the ‘100 iPad Wall’ within the school’s IT Lab. The 100 iPad Wall, a huge screen made of one hundred tablets, was able to receive and display images simultaneously in real time. The high school students worked together to design and film their endeavors using the IT Labs inbuilt film studio, including front and back cameras.
“Through the use of this collaborative classroom, students learnt key communication skills by presenting and filming their creation; critical thinking and problem solving through the design and build of the iPad Wall; developed a creative mindset by producing the ‘live’ artworks; and collaborated with their peers and other students in different age groups.”
The latest research on pedagogy shows us that today’s students want to move away from ‘chalk and talk’ teaching and apply knowledge in a more practical way, which presents teachers with a new challenge – to empower pupils without abdicating control of the classroom. Samantha Blyth, director of FE and schools at VLE provider Canvas, says that independent schools have an opportunity to blaze a trail with collaborative classrooms.
“Lots of technology vendors promote ‘the ability to collaborate’ as a key feature of their product, and it’s true that the strategic use of technology can facilitate a more collaborative approach to teaching,” says Samantha. “But comprehensive collaboration, or connected learning, is more than just bringing teacher feedback online and offering pupils the right to reply. A 360 approach to connected learning combines peer to peer engagement, reciprocal teaching and parent/teacher collaboration. It provides pupils with the ability to learn on their own terms, in their own way – and gives teachers with a better view of their pupils’ progress – allowing timely intervention and the ability to adapt.
“Importantly, bringing collaboration tools to a primary and secondary audience sets pupils up for the rest of their academic career and beyond; into the working world. Lots of commentators ask how university courses prepare students to enter the workforce, but it’s time we ask the same of K-12 educators – how do they prepare pupils for a lifelong learning journey? Students will be expected to work collaboratively, using digital tools, into further education and beyond. Helping them to develop investigative skills, the ability to work with peers, and to harness the power of technology, from an early age, will breed a new generation of enthused, accountable and motivated students – well placed to succeed.”
ACS Hillingdon International School