One of the critical skills that teachers attempt to facilitate in students at the elementary school level is collaboration. It is one of the six "Learning Skills" on which students are graded each term, and is therefore seen as an important part of the education process. However, students do not just arrive at school in Kindergarten and naturally collaborate effectively to complete a task. This is a skill that needs to be honed and taught throughout their time at school, the needs of which change as the students grow older and mature. Online collaboration is a relatively new area for students and teachers, and collaborating in this sphere can prove to be both rewarding and challenging.
However challenging the idea of online collaboration is, I would argue that it is an essential skill to develop in our young students. Children interact online in a number of ways; everything from simply "liking" another person's picture on Instagram, to helping build a world together in Minecraft. Deborah Fields argues that "online spaces offer young adults around the world an opportunity to interact and collaborate with others around a shared passion (Fields, 2014, p. 20). But what is appropriate collaboration and interaction online? For teachers to address these kinds of issues, they need to embrace and utilize the online space for teaching and learning.
An example of very simple online collaboration used in a primary classroom could be the See Saw app. This app allows students to upload content, such as videos, photos, or written work, to their "Journal" for students in the class and teachers to see. Within this application, there is the option to "like" another student's post and an option to "comment" on the post. In my classroom, we are currently working on how we can frame our comments to each other so that they are both respectful and helpful to the creative process. Using sentence stems, for example "I really like that you..." or "Next time you might want to include..." helps the students to frame responses that are intended to give constructive feedback. This feedback can then be used to improve the product or applied to the next journal post. If we start explicitly teaching students how to collaborate and provide feedback online from very early on in their school careers, perhaps the skills will transfer to more mature online forums like "Scratch" or "Figment" and provide students with the words to create something meaningful as a collective.
Fields, D. A. (2014). DIY media creation. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, 19-24.