How can technology be used with cooperative and collaborative learning?
Technology -- especially the Internet -- has opened up vast new opportunities for cooperative and collaborative learning. With the Net, students can correspond -- and collaborate -- with "keypals" (e-mail penpals) around the world. E-mail can also be used to facilitate collaboration with students in other classes in your school or district -- or anywhere in the world, for that matter.
There are organized collaborative projects called WebQuests on the Web that are ready for you to join. These allow students from many locations to work together while learning about a particular subject and searching for information. See our CONCEPT TO CLASSROOM workshop devoted entirely to the subject of WebQuests.
The Net can also allow students to communicate with experts in different subject areas -- there are many "ask the expert" Web sites devoted specifically to answering student questions. Or, students could correspond by e-mail with experts from universities or industries as part of a particular project.
And, as mentioned in the previous section, students can collaborate on building a Web site.
How do you find another school or class with which to collaborate via the Internet? Kelly Willis, director of technology at Collegiate School in New York City, directs teachers to Web66, a registry of schools and projects online.
Students in schools with limited computer resources can still use collaborative and cooperative learning techniques while working on Internet projects. In fact, cooperative learning may be your best choice if you have a limited number of computers for your classes and wish to use the Net for projects. The skills learned in cooperative learning groups can help ease problems when the number of students in the class exceeds the technological resources available. The small group approach works well in these circumstances. For instance, one small group or team member might work on the computer and share the results of Internet research with other team members who are doing library research or tutoring.
Cooperative learning can also be useful if you do have enough computers; some students may be less proficient at working online than others, and the questions raised by the some of the complicated material on the Net may be best confronted in small groups. The variety of perspectives encountered in online material can also be better interpreted when students learn together. Almost any educational technology can be used in cooperative learning.