I got inspired by the word “synergy” which I came across during my management studies. Once I looked deep into the meaning it was even more impressive and practicable as it involved collaboration, combined effect or concentrated effort.
Since I opted for teaching as a profession I have been looking for avenues where I could implement collaboration and get fruitful results. Fortunately I got this opportunity when I was asked by my school management to facilitate a collaborative project for Grade Six students.
The project was based on sensitizing students to the importance of organic food and trying to inculcate a preference for natural food over processed food. My school was in a rural area and I got a chance to collaborate with my partner school in a metropolitan area. We collaboratively planned and executed a series of activities that was quite successful in achieving the goal.
I have always realized that collaborative learning provides an opportunity to work in groups that brings synergy because more ideas are pooled, better ones carried forward and the best ones implemented. Real world problems are dealt within a structured manner. Larger steps are broken down into smaller and much simpler ones, implemented, evaluated, some better alternates are agreed upon and re-implemented. In my collaborative project both the partners jotted down a collaborated timeline, students from both the schools were inducted in an online Skype session followed by a series of Skype sessions for each activity separately. Students shared their views and gave input on their way of conducting different activities already shared via a timeline. As an example, once they had done the research work they shared their findings that helped them to find variations and the reasons behind them. Students shared different methods restricted to their framework to manufacture organic fertilizer and they facilitated each other in deciding upon suitable vegetables to be grown during the course of the project. They shared different recipes of various dishes based on organic ingredients. By the end of this project a salad making competition was held among students of both the schools. A structured approach was followed during the course of this collaborative project and the results were quite phenomenal. While teaching the same students in senior classes they always referred back to the knowledge that they achieved from the said project. Whenever there was a discussion about the organic and inorganic substances I was reminded by my students about how much they had retained. This made me realize that if collaboration between two schools in the same country can have so much impact on the learning of students then what to talk of a global project. I started looking for further avenues and got an opportunity to meet a few passionate teachers on Edmodo’s platform. They were very excited about the venture. We planned the initial steps that were required i.e. selection of a group of students from different grades and a timeline to be followed. Unfortunately on account of certain personal issues I had to transfer to another school where I am looking forward to implementing this idea. I am in contact with the teachers via Edmodo who are completing their project on cultural variance.
The collaborative learning not only helps students share their findings on a larger scale but it is also helpful in retaining these learned facts for a really long time since a sense of “doing” is practically involved and the learner is the primary focus in this mode of learning.
It is proven by research that educational experiences that are dynamic, communal, circumstantial, engaging and owned by the students most often lead to deeper learning. The benefits of collaborative learning are as follows:
Development of higher-level thinking, oral communication, self-management and leadership skills. Promotion of student-faculty interaction. Increase in student retention, self-esteem and responsibility. Exposure to and an increase in understanding of diverse perspectives. Preparation for real life social and employment situations. This is the right time to leave our comfort zones and do something extraordinary for our students since we have one of the most powerful teaching tools in our hands i.e. the World Wide Web. We can easily find numerous aids from the web and contact like-minded individuals who could bring about synergy and a win-win situation for all the partners involved in collaborative ventures.
“Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress, working together is success.”Henry Ford.
About the Author:
Zahid imran is a social studies teacher and presently associated with Beaconhouse School System Margalla Campus Islamabad.