Is it really collaboration?

Collaboration like innovation is a word thrown around education spheres a lot.  According to the Partner for 21st Century Learning organisation, collaboration (in combination with communication) is listed as a Learning and Innovation Skill (4 C’s – Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking and Creativity) and is achieved when a learner can:

  • Demonstrate ability to work effectively and respectfully with diverse teams
  • Exercise flexibility and willingness to be helpful in making necessary compromises to accomplish a common goal
  • Assume shared responsibility for collaborative work, and value the individual contributions made by each team member

These outcomes clearly define what true collaboration look like.  In preparation for a presentation I did to the Asia Pacific Round Square conference this year, I came across Alan Dayley and his work with Big Visible.  The visuals accompanying his explanation of the synonyms mistaken for collaboration were so clear and had me questioning the practices that I believed to be collaborative.  I put together a little animation to accompany my presentation taken from his visuals.  The title of my presentation was Collabor-action and was designed to inspire attendees to take action, contribute and then co-create.

Click on image to view video
Click on image to view video

Dayley states that collaboration is often confused with communication, coordination and cooperation and the real meaning of collaboration is to work with someone to create something together.  Reflecting on my own collaborations, the one that stuck out to me as the most collaborative was my presentation with Aaron Davis (@mrkrndvs) for DLTV2014.  We communicated, coordinated, cooperated and created something together over a period of months.  We created a shared resource (click on the image below), a shared story and a shared promotional campaign.  It still sticks out in my mind as one of the best learning experiences I have had and you can read what Aaron thought here.

Screen Shot 2015-07-26 at 3.19.10 PM

Having prepared many presentations by myself, this process was so much more rewarding and by the time Aaron and I got to presenting, it was just icing on the cake.  For anyone out there looking for an innovative conference idea, how about a collaborative stream where interested educators are partnered and they have to co-create a presentation.  Their learning would be immense.

With that experience being the barometer for true collaboration, I turned my mind to the student collaboration that I foster in class.  The groups that work in my class are the groups that really create the idea together.  Each student feels that they have contributed and as soon as you have equal contribution, you have group investment and real collaboration.  Other groups might be dominated by one person or one person is left to carry the load and as such the work is not collaborative. The action of contribution as a result of active listening and respect for ideas fosters improved collaboration.  At the end of a successful collaboration, the students want to continue to work with each other.  It is a truly cathartic experience to mesh and interweave the ideas, questions and values of a group into a layered composition.

At the moment, Aaron and I are co-curating around the topic of Vision and strategy in education, a topic we are both incredibly passionate about.  I created a magazine in Flipboard and invited Aaron to co-curate with me.  We both throw in great resources and then comment and chat to each other via Voxer about the articles.  I try to curate as much as I can and have done so for a long time but I have found this collaborative approach to be so much more.

Screen Shot 2015-08-09 at 8.04.49 PM
Click on the image to view our co-curation

As always, would love to hear your thoughts and hear about your true and not so true collaborations.

Thanks for reading



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