How to get the most out of collaborative learning tools

Due to the global pandemic, we have seen a massive and forced transition from traditional teaching to a completely online learning setup, in order to allow learning to continue during these unprecedented times. Consequently, with the lack of experience and expertise on remote delivery, most educators around the world face many challenges when it comes to conducting online classes. According to Hamdan & Amorri (2022), online education requires educators and students to adopt new strategies to achieve effective learning outcomes.

This includes developing eLearning content that is educational yet at the same time, interesting enough to keep students motivated and engaged throughout the learning process.

With educators seeking alternatives and recommendations on keeping their students actively occupied and participative during online lessons, there has been a rise in recommendations for collaborative tools for students, apart from educational applications. The former focuses on making lessons more fun and interactive.

Benefits of online collaborative tools

Encourages involvement and cooperation from all students

Educators often find it challenging to get students to stay engaged during online lessons. For instance, students may not turn their video cameras on (despite repeated reminders), may not participate in class discussions or simply just not being involved were some obstacles that affect learning outcomes. One suitable tool that educators can consider to get maximum involvement from students is Mentimeter. Using Mentimeter, educators will be able to ask questions through live and instant polling and assess students’ understanding instantly, allowing them to provide constructive feedback accordingly. Mentimeter can also be used as an excellent ice breaker, with the addition of interactive elements.

How I use Mentimeter

As an ice breaker activity, I use the Word Clouds function to get students thinking about a certain topic. It is effective as students who are more keen to share their creative ideas will likely encourage the rest of the class to participate and discuss their peers’ responses.

Sample from www.mentimeter.com

Check it out!
https://www.mentimeter.com/  (Free version available)

 

Helps students, even the shy ones, think out of the box!

Research has shown that collaborative learning provides students with a safety net to brainstorm creative ideas (Pun, 2012). When discussing a topic, students involved in collaborative brainstorming have an equal voice and space to share their unique ideas. One collaborative tool that facilitates this is Padlet. Basically, Padlet is an online bulletin board where students and educators can easily share ideas and create content. Like a wall full of Post-it notes, educators and students can add text, links, images, and videos to a board and have them organised suitably. Padlet also allows for communication in real time. For educators, Padlet can serve as an effective way to track and assess the learning of everyone in class.

How I use Padlet

I use Padlet to teach my students vocabulary based on a new phonics or morphology concept. Just like a vocabulary graffiti wall, I will get them to choose a word from the new concept and share a post in the Padlet. In the post, they are to include an image and use the word in a sentence that explains the image. Students can also take this to the next level by using GIFs to illustrate their vocabulary words. This activity allows students to learn new things by looking at their peers’ sentences. As for me, I use it as a formative assessment to check on my students’ ability to use words accurately in sentences.

Example:

Check it out!
https://padlet.com/ (Free version available)
What’s Padlet? : https://bit.ly/40ulAAb

Improves the teaching-learning process

Using online collaborative tools, educators can create active learning tasks and students do not have to be physically present to produce or provide the expected input. This makes remote learning more efficient. One collaborative tool that educators can consider using is Nearpod. With Nearpod, educators can create interactive teaching materials which incorporate quizzes, videos, collaborative boards, to name a few. Nearpod can also use gamification of information to make learning more engaging. Furthermore, to make creating teaching materials more productive, Nearpod is also built to work well with other pre-existing tools, such as Google Slides, Microsoft PowerPoint and YouTube.

How I use Nearpod

I use Nearpod to introduce a topic for argumentative writing. With the vast content library, I am able to create my teaching materials easily and have them all in one place. Apart from showing my students presentation slides, I am also able to include videos and facilitate live discussions using the interactive discussion board, which helps me be more organised. In other words,  I am able to follow my lesson plan by arranging my intended activities appropriately. My students are also able to follow through with the lesson better and understand the concepts taught clearer. I also like using the Student-Paced mode, to help me with preparing lessons that require differentiation. I just need to duplicate my lesson and adjust accordingly before providing my students with their individual Student-Paced codes. This empowers them to work more independently on their Nearpod lesson while I facilitate the small group.

Check it out!
https://nearpod.com/how-nearpod-works (Free version available)

Having said that, it is important for educators to consider the benefits of the various collaborative tools in order to make learning effective for their students. Ultimately, the tools should help increase student retention, confidence and ownership. Not only that, educators should also be able to observe some improvement in the development of higher-order thinking, communication, and leadership skills among students.

 

Contributed by:
Juzailah Amin
Lead Educational Therapist and Curriculum Developer
RETA Fellow

 

References
Pun, S. K. (2012). Collaborative Learning: a means to Creative Thinking in Design. International Journal of Education and Information Technologies, 6(1), 33-43.
Hamdan, K., & Amorri, A. (2022). The Impact of Online Learning Strategies on Students’ Academic Performance. E-Learning and Digital Education in the Twenty-First Century.