How to start
Collaborative spaces are designed for students to not only work within, but also become part of the learning process. At times, they can be created by teachers for students to interact within, but the most empowered learning comes when students are contributing to and for each other. This makes it a truly student-owned space for learning. The teacher's role in facilitating these collaborative spaces is to keep the learning and discourse as conceptual and focused as possible, and encourage students to trust that they can learn more from each other than they can from you.
Some of the easiest ways to empower student voice are to use backchannels such as Today's Meet, Padlet and Blendspace.
Google Apps, Picasa Web and YouTube also anchor cloud-based collaboration with limitless potential, especially when combined with Blogsy and other creation-based apps.
If you have already dabbled in some of the more basic tools and resources, the next step is looking at how we can make the collaborative spaces more sustainable in our classrooms and take them beyond one-off engagements. How can we shift the default learning space to one that is collaboratively and sustainably driven through, and by, student contributions?
This is where we are moving into more peer-to-peer content collaboration spaces.
Flipboard offers the potential for students with higher lexile reading ranges to curate content for each other from a variety of sources. The challenging aspect of this is finding content that is appropriate for the reading levels of our students that is available to the public. Google search features can help narrow down results for some, but it can be an uphill battle for lower elementary students to contribute content to a space for inquiry. Nevertheless, embedding videos and photos through Flipboard still provides an avenue for a streamlined collaborative magazine filled with student-selected content.
Taking Google Apps to the next level and leveraging the tools for student documentation also empower students to carve out digital spaces they can call their own and directly influence, thereby giving them more voice and self-direction in their learning. A goal of mine in the next year or two is to build our own school-wide, in-house, peer-to-peer library stored in Google Drive. This would start with ebooks created on Book Creator or iBooks author, broken down by year level folders to help with appropriating just-right texts. Students could then download these files to iBooks and create a collection of texts written by their schoolmates, which are texts that are not only popular, but also empowering, to read.
Additionally, students could create a similar library of background tracks for iMovies using GarageBand, thus offering more original scores that elicit desired emotions for the story they will visually tell. A school-wide YouTube channel could also be created for students to record read-aloud texts, thereby creating a place of modeled fluency and listening to reading opportunities for all age levels.
How else can we leverage the cloud for increased peer-to-peer teaching and learning? Be sure to add any ideas to the collaborative document above.