What are Collaborative Environments?

Collaborative environments are online spaces — often cloud-based — where the focus is making it easy to collaborate and working in groups, no matter where the participants may be. As the typical educator’s network of contacts has grown to include colleagues who might live and work across the country, or indeed anywhere on the globe, it has become common for people who are not physically located near each other to collaborate on projects. In classrooms as well, joint projects with students at other schools or in other countries are more and more commonplace as strategies to expose learners to a variety of perspectives.

Wikis, which allow many authors to add content to a web site, were one of the first technologies in this category, and it is increasingly rare to find a collaboration that does not use a wiki in one form or another. The largest example is Wikipedia, which through the efforts of thousands of contributors, has become the world’s de facto encyclopedia. One of the largest examples of an online environment built expressly to enable collaboration is Google Apps, which includes a set of commonly used productivity tools, but configured in a way to make it easy to work in teams.

The essential attribute of the technologies in this set is that they make it easy for people to share interests and ideas, work on joint projects, and easily monitor collective progress. All of these are needs common to student work, research, collaborative teaching, writing and authoring, development of grant proposals, and more. The bar for widespread participation is very low, since the software to support virtual collaboration is low cost or free, and available via a web browser.

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Please "sign" your contributions by marking with the code of 4 tildes (~) in a row so that we can follow up with you if we need additional information or leads to examples- this produces a signature when the page is updated, like this: - Larry Larry Feb 7, 2012

(1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • Collaborative environments are students and teachers to collaborate at very low or no cost to schools/districts. As the description points out, this is highly relevant to team work, student work, etc. The connection between collaboration and 21st century skills and career skills is high. - jean.tower jean.tower Feb 23, 2012
  • Highly relevant. A key focus of Singapore's curriculum, and in particular, the 3rd ICT Masterplan for Education, is to foster collaborative skills. Such environments, when properly scaffolded, can support the development of such skills. - horncheah horncheah Feb 29, 2012
  • Collaboration is becoming more and more central to the K12 area in my part of the world. Our research is showing that collaboration is becoming more and more a general condition for learning – even when the students and teachers are not aware of it: they are communicating, inspiring each others, sharing etc. Collaborative environments are spreading rapidly across the K12 area. - claus.gregersen claus.gregersen Mar 3, 2012
  • We need more collaborative learning environments, such as workshops, symposiums, action-research labs, social networks, studios, and new learning spaces. We need to make a few more in-class mistakes 'together' so we can move away from 'schooling' toward 'learning.' - michael.lambert michael.lambert Mar 3, 2012

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • As collaborative online work in schools grows, how will higher ed embrace this? Will students be able to submit collaborative essays for college admission? Will collaborative work be allowable as a dissertation? How will they tease out your individual contribution? - jean.tower jean.tower Feb 23, 2012
  • The pedagogies that can effectively promote the development of collaborative skills are essential. The interactions within such an environment need to be designed such that collaboration skills are explicity 'practise' and carefully nurtured. - horncheah horncheah Feb 29, 2012
  • To help teachers, tools that can assess, primarily qualitatively, the degree to which such skills have been developed would be most welcomed, especially if they can automate the process. - horncheah horncheah Feb 29, 2012
  • How do we help students and push ourselves as teachers to see the difference between cheating and collaboration? We continue to view that a paper test in a single-cell environment as the primary method that shows a student has understood/learned a concept. We do not live in cells, we work together. So how can we create more assessments that display collaboration? - michael.lambert michael.lambert Mar 2, 2012
  • Watch the Indian Bollywood movie: 3 Idiots. If you liked, "The Race to Nowhere" or other films about education, you'll love this story. Great humor and a story that is applicable to the current Western approach. - michael.lambert michael.lambert Mar 3, 2012
  • I agree that cheating and testing is crucial aspects of the issue. The description is emphasizing the possibility in overcoming distance and time, but collaborative environments are not less relevant for the daily teaching in the classroom. - claus.gregersen claus.gregersen Mar 3, 2012
  • Very often educators do not have the meta-language to describe the range and types of collaboration that their students are engaging it. See the Learning Dimensions (LEAP21) as described in the ITL research (www.itlresearch.com)- deirdre.butler deirdre.butler Mar 3, 2012

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on teaching, learning, or creative expression?

  • If properly designed, the pedagogies and assessment of collaborative learning can potentially transform curriculum, and in turn, impact teaching and learning practices (in both formal and informal environments). - horncheah horncheah Feb 29, 2012 - michael.lambert michael.lambert Mar 2, 2012
  • I agree - way to go!- claus.gregersen claus.gregersen Mar 3, 2012
  • Great to see that "The BadgeStack Project is a collaborative platform that certifies and recognizes informallearning..." was added to the report. - michael.lambert michael.lambert Mar 30, 2012

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

  • The Educational Technology Division of the Education ministry has a project on computed support collaborative learning. It focuses on teasing out the attributes of such a learning environment, as well as using it to build the capacity of teachers. - horncheah horncheah Feb 29, 2012
  • Flat Classroom Project - bwatwood bwatwood Mar 2, 2012
  • Our national research project “Media and ICT in Upper Secondary Education” include as a central part the experiences in the area. - claus.gregersen claus.gregersen Mar 3, 2012

Please share information about related projects in our Horizon K-12 Project form.