By the moment a school child learns to read and write, tasks should become more and more challenging and engaging. Teachers in contemporary schools often face a problem of involving students in the learning process. The young generation of students was born in a digital world. The Internet and other information technologies are a natural environment for them.
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That is why the use of technological achievements can make lessons more productive. Researchers speak of applying technology in the educational process to encourage students’ interest and assist their engagement in activities (Zoch, Langston-DeMott, & Adams-Budde, 2014).
Sekeres, Coiri, Castek, and Guzniczak (2014) suggest using online information sources to provide effective inquiry-based learning. Moreover, scholars promote collaboration as an efficient way of using IT in the classroom.
Student Collaboration for Group Projects
The idea of cooperative learning is popular in contemporary schools. Researches prove the increased students’ productivity and more involvement in group work (Slavin, 2014). Students are usually enthusiastic about group work since they can help the others or get help if necessary. Apart from educational purposes, cooperation is an essential life skill (Slavin, 2014).
With a focus on collaboration, learning itself is frequently left out. However, Slavin (2014) suggests five strategies which empower collaborative learning. First of all, the formation of interdependent teams can be useful. Slavin defines them as teams “composed of diverse students who care about helping one another learn—and about the success of the team itself” (2014, p.23).
Secondly, it is important to set group goals. They predetermine the work of the group and increase the productivity. Thirdly, the individual accountability should be considered. Every team member should be equally important. The fourth strategy involves communication and problem-solving skills.
It explains the importance of communication within a team and develops interpersonal skills (Slavin, 2014). Finally, the author suggests integrating cooperative learning with other structures. Slavin emphasizes that cooperative learning should be “a key part of each lesson, but not the whole lesson” (2014, p.25).
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There is a variety of group projects where student collaboration can be utilized. Their choice depends on the age of students, type of lesson, subject and peculiarities of the class. For example, group projects can include web quests, PowerPoint presentations, Nearpod projects, Edpuzzels, etc. One of the technologies I have actively utilized is PowerPoint presentations.
They are universal and can be adjusted to any subject and variety of topics. They can be created by a group of students with the help of the Internet. As a rule, a certain task is set before a group. If the topic is new, it presupposes “wondering” (Sekerez et al., 2014, p.44). It if followed by inquiry and thus the learning is achieved.
This technology needs a careful approach to teaching how to make inquiry and develop it from the modeled to open one (Sekerez, 2014). When students learn to form efficient inquiries, they are more encouraged for further exploration of various topics.
It is also important to vary the team structure. For example, teams can work for 6-8 weeks and then a teacher should reassign new ones (Slavin, 2014). One of the important factors of the effective collaboration is communication within the group. A teacher should pay attention to technologies of active listening, explaining ideas and opinions, and encouraging teammates (Slavin, 2014).
Traditional and New Literacies for Teaching Narrative
The combination of traditional and new literacies can enhance learning (Bogard & McMakin, 2012). Already junior students can use technology in their education. The combination of old strategies with new technologies can be productive in teaching narrative.
Thus, the first stage of narration is planning. It can be provided through taking notes and developing them into the story maps on paper. The second step uses recorded oral rehearsal for developing stories (Bogard & McMakin, 2012). During the third step, students listen to the stories and critically analyze them. Listening helps to evaluate the story and add or remove some information.
Step four includes the creation of storyboards a part of which is narration. Finally, Step Five is producing the digital stories. A good example of a digital story is a two-minute video on the formation of tornadoes. It combines pictures, written information, and oral narration which was a result of five-step narrative teaching.
Collaborative Technologies for Teaching Writing
Already in elementary school, students can use the Internet to search for information or post some news. Zoch et al. (2014) suggest using digital technology for teaching writing. They provide the example of digital writing camp which was aimed at teaching students to complete a digital text by the end of participation (Zoch et al., 2014).
The camp experience proved the positive effect of technology on writing. Students were not worried about their handwriting, their hands did not hurt, and it stimulated them to do more than they expected (Zoch et al., 2014). Moreover, digital authoring provides broader opportunities for peer feedback. Online texts are easier to spread, thus more people can read them and react immediately.
In general, the use of technology in the classroom is a demand of time. The achievements of technological development should be integrated into the curriculum to increase its efficiency. However, the technology by itself is not learning. It is an instrument that should be implemented with a careful methodological approach to facilitate both group and individual activities and encourage students to learn.
Bogard, J.M., & McMakin, M.C. (2012). Combining traditional and new literacies in a 21st-century writing workshop. The Reading Teacher, 65(5), 313-323.
Sekeres, D.C., Coiri, J., Castek, J., & Guzniczak, A. (2014). Wondering + online inquiry = learning. Phi Delta Kappan, 96(3), 44-48.
Slavin, R.E. (2014). Making cooperative learning powerful. Educational Leadership, 72(2), 22-26.
Zoch, M., Langston-DeMott, B., & Adams-Budde, M. (2014). Creating digital authors. Phi Delta Kappan, 96(3), 32-37.