ORMS Module 2 Response: What challenges exist as students work collaboratively as opposed to working individually?
After completing the various readings and watching videos for this module, I am more excited than ever to have students work collaboratively in my language arts classes. Clearly, there are several challenges to having students collaborate online. Some of these challenges fall under the “nuts and bolts” category. Are there enough computers available? What about students who do not have Internet access at home? What if the technology doesn’t work or the server becomes unavailable? These problems might prevent some teachers from trying a collaborative online project with their students. The fear of the unknown is what keeps many teachers from using technology in their classrooms, but I believe it is important to try new ideas in the classroom even if there are many challenges.
More challenges could arise as students work collaboratively. As with any group work, there may be cases where one student in a group does most of the work. Another issue is that students may be led to inappropriate websites while working online. Plagiarism is always an issue when students are researching, and seems to be even more of a problem with online research. I believe all of these challenges can be dealt with through careful planning by the teacher. Students need to be taught strategies for working in groups, staying safe online and for avoiding plagiarism. These are all valuable lessons which should be taught even if students were not participating in an online collaborative inquiry project.
Finally, a challenge that faces all teachers is the issue of time. Whenever a new project or idea is presented in class, it takes more time than doing what was always done before. Teaching students to pose questions, locate information, research, collaborate, synthesize information from multiple sources and reflect on their learning will take time. These skills should not be taught during one unit of study, but should be taught multiple times throughout the year in smaller assignments so that students have plenty of practice.
The challenges above are
issues that teachers have dealt with even before the use of technology. Today, however, teachers have an even greater challenge of teaching students to be responsible online citizens who leave a positive “digital footprint.” This idea was repeated throughout the readings in this module. One idea that stood out for me was in Williwam M. Ferriter’s
article, “Digitally Speaking/Positive Digital Footprints
.” In it, he noted that one technology
expert worried that his children would not be “Googled well.” In other words, students who do not have a positive digital footprint will be at a disadvantage in the future where technology
will play an even larger role in every aspect of our lives. It is up to teachers to put
aside their fears of all the potential challenges of collaborative online work and help students to create a positive digital footprint.