How might the use of Collaborative Tools impact your pedagogy, the method and practice of your teaching? We approach it here through the lens of the RAT model of technology integration (discussed briefly in the introduction and found here and here, and discussed here). RAT suggests there are three ways, or levels, that teachers integrate technology:
- Replacement - wherein the tool simply replaces something you were doing before;
- Amplification - wherein the tool adds onto what you were doing before by increasing efficiency and productivity but falls short of meaningful change;
- Transformation - wherein the tool actually transforms your teaching and the students' learning by doing what was not doable before. We might say that technology use is transformative when it makes full use of the affordances of the technology.
In most cases, the goal of technology integration is to achieve transformation, i.e. to make full and meaningful use of the technology. We know from observation that technology integration rarely reaches this level. According to Michael Fullan, writing in The New Meaning of Educational Change, Fourth Edition (2007), transformation requires changes in materials and resources, in behaviors and teaching practices, and in beliefs. From this perspective, such change is substantial and is likely to occur over time. In some cases, replacement is all the technology affords (and that's enough); in others, the technology allows for amplification (again, enough).
I would argue that even if we come up short of transformation - it is difficult to go from nothing to everything overnight - replacement and then amplification are still meaningful places to start if they enhance the teaching and learning and help us achieve our educational aims.
In the case of integrating Collaborative Tools into your teaching, it might look something like this:
Replacement (wherein the tool simply replaces something you were doing before)
Students communicate about projects online in addition to or rather than, having to meet in person.
Amplification (wherein the tool adds onto what you were doing before by increasing efficiency and productivity but falls short of meaningful change)
Students work together virtually by sharing documents. The teacher has access to the documents so she can give ongoing feedback.
Transformation (wherein the tool actually transforms your teaching and the students' learning by doing what was not doable before)
Students are constantly collaborating with various groups of other students; taking on various specific roles in each group; leveraging each other's strengths. As the year progresses, they become increasingly effective collaborators, learning to work effectively and efficiently with other students. Students come to understand the importance of good collaboration and also to recognize when they are not holding up their end.
Teachers are able to monitor progress and provide feedback.