Time to Get on Board with Collaborative Learning

Collaborative Learning

Collaborative Learning is where it’s at and let’s allow technology to bring it home!

A while back I wrote a post about technology being the great equalizer. I have never understood the resistance to using technology in the “class”. In today’s day and age, learning collaboration is and should be the norm in all our learning designs.

Just recently, I conducted a workshop where I had the participants pull out their pocket computers and research items to share with others in the room. There was laughter. One brave soul spoke up, “Are you sure you want us to use our phones? No one ever lets us do that in a class.” Well, my friend, there is a first time for everything.

As I reflect on that conversation and prepare for a live webinar session coming up this Wednesday hosted by Litmos, about collaborative learning tools (11/08/2018) – it pains me to know that there are still people in the industry who are clinging to ways that just do not work any longer. People we are 18 years into the 21st century! Time to belly up to the technology bar!

I know, I know – there is a risk in letting people turn on their computers or phones.

What if they check their email? GASP!

What if they get distracted by Facebook? The horror!

What if they answer text messages? Heaven FORBID! 

But seriously folks…

Yes, I say these things in jest – partly. We all know the human can focus on the content they WANT to focus on. They will focus on information that is interesting, relevant and has meaning. I say this knowing that I just binged two whole seasons of Grace and Frankie, risking severe sleep deprivation in the process. That said, even I had to take a mind break every now and then to dash to the bathroom or find another frosty adult beverage…so breaks in mental focusing are necessary. Now, because I wanted to know what was going to happen next, I was back and pushing the play button rather quickly.

I shared that story, to share this – even if people check their email, or Facebook, or text messages – they are with you. They just needed to scratch the technology itch. If your content is thoughtful and has meaning, they will be back.

Here’s a little about how the brain works. When you are doing work that requires concentration (like sitting in a class and trying to absorb endless PowerPoints), your prefrontal cortex keeps you focused on your goals. The prefrontal cortex is also responsible for logical thinking, decision making and using willpower to override impulses (to list a few). That’s a lot of heavy lifting for one part of the brain!

Therefore, your gray matter needs some relief from time to time. I understand this brain break doesn’t always line up with your scheduled class breaks, so subsequently the brain will reach for something that is less heavy lifting to give a bit of relief. Dropping some science people. 

Pick a topic to kick it off then plan your collaboration technique

How to bring relief in the form of collaboration? Let’s start with these topics.

  1. You are running the annual performance management workshop on how to give feedback. What would happen if you had people crowd-source the reasons why people need feedback? Wouldn’t that be far more interesting that another PowerPoint slide listing the “Top 10 reasons…” (you know you all have one).
  2. You are running a session on Salesforce.com wouldn’t it be more beneficial and interesting for your people to turn to YouTube or the Google machine and find some best practices on tips that they can share?
  3. You are conducting an onboarding session – and are talking about the mission, vision, values – what would happen if you had people go out and discover items in the office that prove that the business is actually living the mission – then take pictures…THEN…share an album created in Google Photos to the leadership? That could be fun and inspirational.

Okay, you have them off and running to find information that is relevant to the people and the learning goals. Key is to get participants to share the information so OTHER people in the organization will have the benefit of this crowdsourced information. Try any one of the following tools:

  • Google Docs
  • Evernote
  • OneNote
  • Microsoft Teams
  • Facebook for Work
  • Slack

These tools are SUPER easy to get up and running in the classroom. I’ve used slack on multiple occasions during workshops and conference sessions. All it takes is some pre-planning and clear instructions on your part so people are with you.

Time for collaborative learning exercises 

There is so much potential in how we can take learning to whole new collaborative levels so that it not only resonates with the participants but with others beyond the walls of the class. Let others benefit from the lessons gathered.

  1. Have people take pictures of flip charts on the walls and share thoughts with the class through shared note-taking.
  2. Have groups start a blog about the learning lessons.
  3. Have the groups create infographics about the top key ideas – then print them out and post or share on your intranet.
  4. Program more analytical? Use Google Sheets to create shared spreadsheets to analyze data.
  5. Use Coggle.it to create shared action mapping.
  6. Create a series of interviews using the voice recorder on their phone and share the recording on your organizational podcast.
  7. Assign each group a video task that reflects on a key lesson. Every phone comes with a video studio in it, just point and shoot.

And those, my rebel friends, are just a few ideas right off the top of my head that goes beyond the typical “turn to your partner and share an idea” activity. So, while I gather my notes for my live webinar, it seemed timely to share a few thoughts and ideas around collaborative learning.