Our school is currently on the journey of integrating the inquiry approach as our teaching model so I have been reading Harvey and Daniels’ text Comprehension and Collaboration. In the first chapter Susan Heathfield is quoted as saying, “Fostering teamwork is creating a work culture that values collaboration. In a teamwork environment, people understand and believe that thinking, planning, decisions, and actions are better when done cooperatively. People recognize, and even assimilate, the belief that ‘none of us is as good as all of us.'” When I read this statement, I wondered if I would truly feel this way in regards to our Course 2 COETAIL final project. I was thankful for the timing in that I was both reading about collaboration and being asked to carry it out professionally. What better way to learn than actually trying it out!
I began with some emails to a few grade level teachers in the upper elementary range thinking that we would share the common thread of students with similar needs. Our group shaped up to be a grade 6 teacher in Canada (Erika), a grade 4 teacher in Korea (Colleen), and two grade 5 teachers, one in Dubai (Kara) and one in Jakarta (me). Being the practical classroom teachers that we are :), we gravitated to the second option of using the UbD planner to create a lesson that we could use to “teach students about 21st Century Literacy Ideas, Questions, and Issues.” And here is what we created . . .
Process: By using Google Docs we could contribute to the UbD planner when we each had time. Since we are located all over the world, the document would frequently change/improve/adapt while some of us were sleeping and there was always something new to edit, add to, reword, ask a question about, etc. We truly did use it as a live document. We each had a different colored font to represent our thoughts and wonderings and then once we were all in agreement we would change the font to black. Bit by bit sections became solidified and we collectively built our unit. I found the process of collaborating across the globe by using a google doc to be clear, organized, and convenient.
Content: Our group agreed to focus on the following Enduring Understanding: “The communication tools that exist today are powerful mediums to help spread positive change and global awareness.” By selecting this EU, we narrowed our focus in using an online communication tool to “spread change and awareness” but left it open-ended enough to meet the needs of each of our classrooms. I did not have the opportunity to implement this unit as we created it but now that it is complete, I can better visualize how it would be a natural fit with many of our units in grade 5. For instance, it could fit with our persuasive writing unit or our Perspective and Conflict inquiry unit or even our final Investigation and Reflection Grade 5 project.
Reflection: Having learned about collaboration for my students and having now experienced it on a broader and more global scale through COETAIL, I am more of a believer than ever. I now have a better understanding of how powerful a tool collaboration can be to deepen, expand, and fine tune learning for students and adults alike. Stephanie Harvey argues that “we cannot provide robust, engaged, and differentiated learning unless kids can break into a variety of groups and work together. . . we simply must train kids to team, give them plenty of structured practice, and then trust them to work as partners.” I can now see for myself how through collaboration we can create new and improved learning together.