The ITSE Standard for Communication and Collaboration include the following objectives:
- Identify digital tools that can be used to help them interact, collaborate, and publish.
- Determine which media and/or format options work best to communicate information and ideas effectively to different audiences.
- Use digital tools to enhance cultural understanding and global awareness by engaging with learners of other cultures.
- Utilize digital tools to contribute to small group projects, produce original works and solve problems.
As I was researching this topic, I can across a rather extensive list of products that are either free or allow free demonstration use. It is broken down into suggested products for K-5 teachers, middle school teachers, high school teachers, tutors, and special education
teachers. I will be working in the high school environment, so my commentary will be directed towards those products. As I read through the list, I selected a group of products that I thought would be most applicable and broke them down into four categories: Annotation, Collaboration, File Sharing, and Project Management. I see these four areas as being the critical aspects of a collaborative work environment that students would need to master.
In what will probably be a recurring theme in my writing for this class is that technological tools and solutions will only take us as far as our non-technological skills will take us. In order for students to use these tools effectively, we will need to teach them how to approach these tasks. What is the purpose of annotating a document you are reading as part of your research? What are best practices for organizing your research data and your in-progress work product? How do you effectively manage meeting so you can accomplish your goals? Do you even know what your goals are? What timelines do you need to meet? These are skills and knowledge you need to have before you can optimize use of these products.
As I was reading a classmates blog, I came across a comment that hit a nerve in a surprisingly strong way. One of the referenced articles discusses a benefit of video conferencing is the ability to, “Leave no students out.” While that has the potential to be true, it is predicated on strong functional planning.
I once worked as a product manager for an auto insurance company that was, “born on the internet.” The home office was in the Bay Area of California and the product managers were housed in the regional office near Sacramento. There were other field offices across the country and we were connected by a video conferencing system. One of my interviews was conducted with a C-level executive via the video system as he was in the South Dakota field office that day. However, the video conferencing system was unable to overcome the faulty placement of staff. The product manager coordinates with actuarial, marketing, and claims staff. Because the actuarial, marketing, and claims analysts were located at the home office, the product managers were consistently excluded from the impromptu, informal discussion that happen in the hallway, break room, and around the water cooler. No amount of technology could overcome this problem.
In order to teach student how to communicate and collaborate via technology, we need to make sure we spend the necessary energy to make sure they know how to use technology, not just how to operate it.