What are Collaborative Environments?

Collaborative environments are online spaces — often cloud-based — where the focus is making it easy to collaborate and working in groups, no matter where the participants may be. As the typical educator’s network of contacts has grown to include colleagues who might live and work across the country, or indeed anywhere on the globe, it has become common for people who are not physically located near each other to collaborate on projects. In classrooms as well, joint projects with students at other schools or in other countries are more and more commonplace as strategies to expose learners to a variety of perspectives.

Wikis, which allow many authors to add content to a web site, were one of the first technologies in this category, and it is increasingly rare to find a collaboration that does not use a wiki in one form or another. The largest example is Wikipedia, which through the efforts of thousands of contributors, has become the world’s de facto encyclopedia. One of the largest examples of an online environment built expressly to enable collaboration is Google Apps, which includes a set of commonly used productivity tools, but configured in a way to make it easy to work in teams.

The essential attribute of the technologies in this set is that they make it easy for people to share interests and ideas, work on joint projects, and easily monitor collective progress. All of these are needs common to student work, research, collaborative teaching, writing and authoring, development of grant proposals, and more. The bar for widespread participation is very low, since the software to support virtual collaboration is low cost or free, and available via a web browser.

INSTRUCTIONS: Enter your responses to the questions below. This is most easily done by moving your cursor to the end of the last item and pressing RETURN to create a new bullet point. Please include URLs whenever you can (full URLs will automatically be turned into hyperlinks; please type them out rather than using the linking tools in the toolbar).

Please "sign" your contributions by marking with the code of 4 tildes (~) in a row so that we can follow up with you if we need additional information or leads to examples- this produces a signature when the page is updated, like this: - alan alan Jan 27, 2010

(1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • There's no question that we are moving away from the "do your own work" approach to a much more social construct because of technology. I think the K-12 sector, especially K-6 is going to have to do some work in rethinking current curriculum to support a more collaborative approach, not just a cooperative one. - will.richardson will.richardson Feb 8, 2010
  • another response here

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • your response here
  • another response here

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on teaching, learning, or creative expression?

  • The K-12 curriculum and the assessments that we use right now do not support social computing in any real way. Teachers are going to have to be much more willing to let real collaboration happen in classrooms as opposed to forced group work under the guise of cooperative learning. Students are going to have to be given opportunities at young ages to work meaningfully with other students, and those opportunities will have to have an aspect of self-direction and passion rather than be contrived to meet a pre-determined direction of the curriculum. - will.richardson will.richardson Feb 8, 2010
  • There is also a huge need here to help students understand the complex interactions and expectations that take place in virtual learning spaces. How do we represent ourselves? How do we monitor our footprints when other can help create them? Etc. There is almost a new literacy requirement to social computing that is not being addressed by current K-12 curricula. - will.richardson will.richardson Feb 8, 2010
  • Teachers by and large do not learn socially, nor do they teach socially. There is a culture shift around teaching and learning that will need to take place for schools to fully embrace the potentials of social computing as defined above.

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

Please share information about related projects in our Horizon K-12 Project form.