No man is an Island, entire of itself
(John Donne, Meditation XVII, 1572-1631)
These weeks, we have learned about collaborative learning at the ONL course. I have truly enjoyed investigating, discussing and reflecting about this topic.
Collaborating as a scientist
I like collaborating because it is challenging, enriching and gratificating. Moreover, it is an essential part of my job as a scientist, not only because is useful (which it is), but also because it is needed. We are becoming very specialised in our competences, skills and knowledge. As a consequence, we are very good at what we do. But this also limits the number of things that we can do and explore. Therefore, if we want to conduct groundbreaking research, we need to find partners with complementary expertise. If you look in Pubmed, it is difficult to find publications with only a single author. Collaborating is a ‘need’ in science.
Collaborating as a teacher
Collaborating is also a necessity of today’s students. Interacting, sharing and working with each other is a skill that they will need throughout their life. In my courses, I always include assignments that are challenging and require innovative and/or critical thinking and ask the students to solve them as a team. My experience so far is really positive (please note that I only teach few weeks per year). I have no doubt that a collaborative approach promotes learning and creativity. The students are active, more engaged and relaxed and learning becomes fun!
Yet, these exercises are done at a very small scale: the students meet face-to-face and interact in small groups. As usual, the ONL course is opening the door to a much broader possibility: what if we expand our learning spaces and include larger learning communities into it?
Collaborating as a learner
At the ONL course, I am experiencing collaboration as a learner. I am discovering that using online technologies, we can expand our learning network in an incredible way. The Google+ ONL community is a great example, with all the interesting posts, blogs and links. For instance, this week I found a very inspirational video: (https://vimeo.com/119101747). Thanks Marcus Lithander (PBL 9) for sharing!
The core of the ONL collaborative work is at the PBL groups. At PBL4, we are sharing concepts, experiences, technology and ideas. Sure, we are facing some challenges (such as finding times that fit everyone’s schedules), but we are coping well with it. We are taking some risks, testing new ideas and experimenting with new technology (videoscribe this week, thanks Yumna :-). Thanks to my colleagues at PBL4, I am doing things that I would not be doing by myself.
Our collaboration is based on discussing. We are working intuitively, so I was surprised to discover that our work follows the principles of online collaborative learning described by Harasim in 2012, which I just read this afternoon. Harasim describes 3 phases to construct knowledge through discussion:
- Idea generating (brainstorming)
- Idea organizing (compare, analyse and catagorise)
- Intellectual convergence (synthesis, understanding and consensus)
We are becoming masters of phase 1 and 2. Phase 3 requires more time and reflexion, but I think we are getting better at it :-). Sometimes it feels like the topic just finished when we were ready to continue at a deeper level. Or maybe is just my own feeling, since the topics are so new to me and I need time to research on them…But perhaps that is learning after all, something that stays and grows with us.
In summary, it is very satisfactory to see how the concepts of connectivity, openness in education and collaborative learning in networks are converging together. This might be a turning point for me in the ONL course.
Harasim, L. (2012) Learning theory and online technologies. New York/London: Routledge