Educationstudent-driven learning

My short list of best tools for collaborating in the classroom

I’ve spent the last two weeks focusing on communication and collaboration in and beyond the classroom walls. It’s no secret that technology plays an increasingly important role in how we collaborate. Nonverbal communication (email, texting etc.) can cause breakdowns in communication and collaboration because we miss the tone of voice, facial expressions, and body language that accompany the message when delivered verbally. With technology we are also able to collaborate and communicate, globally, making those skills even more important. Video conference tools like Google Hangouts/Meet, Zoom, and Skype give that person-to-person feel. Voxer is similar in that it allows for instant voice messages and a platform to share files via Dropbox. Slack gives you a platform to collaborate and communicate based on team and/or project, integrating seamlessly with Google Apps.

When the goal, objectives, and norms of a group task have been clearly determined, then using digital tools to accomplish each step becomes more seamless. The tools I mentioned above are great communication platforms. Adding to those, there are several tools that I like the most for collaborative workspaces.

Nothing tops Google Apps in G Suite for collaborative purposes. OneDrive by Microsoft has tried to establish a foothold in the collaboration space, but it’s usually pretty glitchy, requiring frequent refreshes to see real-time changes. G Suite, on the other hand, it easy to share, easy to see, and provides total transparency among the group working together.

Some of my favorites for collaborating and communicating include:

  • Flipgrid: “Flipgrid is the leading video discussion platform for millions of PreK to PhD educators, students, and families in 180+ countries.”
  • Adobe Spark: “Transforms your ideas into stunning visual stories. Create impactful graphics, web pages and video stories in minutes with Spark’s free graphic design app.”
  • Sway: “Create visually striking newsletters, presentations, and documentation in minutes.”
  • And class communication tools like Seesaw, Remind and Class Dojo

The right platforms, along with common norms give everyone a voice eliminating the few dominating voices in the group.

I can’t discuss the best tools, resources, and strategies for communicating and collaborating without talking about the importance of learning space design. Spaces need to be intentionally established to provide students and adults alike a space to easily collaborate and communicate (within and beyond the physical walls). You can read more about the importance of learning spaces in these articles, Collaborative Learning Spaces: Classrooms That Connect to the World by Jennifer Williams, Key Elements for Creating Collaborative Learning Spaces by Cynthia Merse

and in the book, The Space: A Guide for Educators, by Robert Dillon and Rebecca Hare

And if you still want more, check out the following links for ideas to increase communication and collaboration in your classroom.

What did I miss? What are your favorite tools?