Collaboration: as with all learning, is too important to be left to chance

Jane McGonigal presents a great argument here that attempts to demonstrate the potential force for good that could exist within games-playing. Games like World of Warcraft require a commitment on the part of the participants to collaborate with their fellow players in order to achieve their goals.

For me, this brings me back to considering the power of games-dynamics in themselves and of the need for students to get as many opportunities as possible to learn together, in groups. The structure and integral components that underpin interactive games-playing might be translated into a some form of taxonomy of learning design. Here’s a very rough draft of what it might look like:

  • Identifies what needs to be done in order to achieve goals
  • Recognises that attainment of goals cannot be done independently of others
  • Identifies who and/or what can help in the attainment of such goals
  • Adapts own behaviour so as to foster collaboration from others
  • Collaborates with others to achieve own goals
  • Works effectively with others to achieve own goals
  • Is prepared to offer collaborative expertise to achieve goals of others
  • Recognises that working with others is more effective than working independently
  • Actively seeks out further collaborative opportunities with others

And so on.

And what if we created a game-scenario that was intended to solve some of the world’s greatest problems and handed this over to our students? How might this encourage learners to engage with the wider world and begin a process of problem solving from which innovative solutions might emerge? We know it works, after all. Consider the way in which The Human Genome Project finally unlocked human DNA, or the creation of WIkipedia or…well, you know what I mean.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating that we should ditch the curriculum and get students to start playing WoW. What this talk does make me think about, however, is how collaborative skills need to be deliberately practised just as much as skills in calculus, research or reading. As I’ve said before in posts and what I’m writing about in other forms at the moment, if we can design learning in such a way that it offers engaging opportunities for students to mindfully practise the skills required to collaborate, then surely that’s one step closer to their readiness to both give and take from the world everything it has to offer?

Other TED Talks on related to this and that have similar connections to learning include Seth Priebatsch and Tom Chatfield.

9 thoughts on “Collaboration: as with all learning, is too important to be left to chance

  1. Strong insight Zoe. I agree that games appear to help foster both problem solving and collaborative skills, as well as providing an opportunity to become more aware of the processes being used in pursuit of these endeavors. Perhaps even more importantly, they allow us to learn in this way in a relatively ‘low risk’ environment.However, I think we need to be careful in assuming that ‘working with others is more effective than working independently’. In ’59 seconds’, Richard Wiseman discusses some research which has made me a little skeptical of such claims. I imagine that the most important thing for pupils in their future will be having the skills to identify when it will be more effective to work collaboratively and when it will be better to work independently – something I believe our generation hasn’t got a handle on.I read an article in the Guardian recently which talked about how in the future we will ‘play games to solve problems’ – there is clearly something very interesting going on here Will be interested to see how you develop your ideas.

  2. Thank you for your comment, Peps. I really appreciate your thoughts on this. I completely agree with you that we shouldn’t consider collaborative learning to be in opposition to independent learning. I fully endorse the belief that we need both and that we need to provide deliberate and explicit opportunities within our learning design for learners to practice both. For me, this all comes down to the development of the Discerning Learner, which, when I have time, I will finish writing about and post…one day! I’ll check out the article you recommend and you’ve also convinced me to get hold of Wiseman’s 59 Seconds. Thank you for taking the time to reflect on this with me. Off to follow you on Twitter now…

  3. I agree with pepsmccrea, as does Morton Hansen who wrote Collaboration. I heard Jane in a compelling interview at Long Now. Methinks she’s been successful in her collaboration because of more specific behaviors and steps than she shared.Some that can be used by all of us include:• being very specific about a top goal,• clearly stating it to the potential participants• describing a sweet spot of mutual benefit for all participants and the specific talent or resource each brings to the collaboration• being open to others’ modification of above before proceeding• collectively agreeing on a few Rules of Engagement so that the group has co-created its own ecosystem in which to build trust in the process and expected accountability behaviors upfront• agreeing on the steps, lead person’s for each part and a timetable – ALL of which could and probably will change along the way yet changing from one specific to another enables disparate people to see the same picture of the situation and to speak to the problems and opportunities rather than personalizingLearning a few ways to collaborative communicate is vital – such as speaking first to the sweet spot of mutual benefit and/or the goal then how a proposed idea or action is supportive of one or both.Here are collaboration-related resources… submit your favorite tips on collaboration here, and perhaps win prizes

  4. Thank you for your insightful feedback, Kare. I’ll check out those links you have kindly shared too.Not sure why, but your comment came through six times (!) so I’ve accepted the most recent one and deleted the others – I hope that’s okay!I look forward to sharing more ideas and reflections with you in the future.

  5. ZoeI thoroughly enjoy your thoughtful ideas on your blog – and apologize re the dups, have been having some troubles with computer that are being fixed. Thanks for correcting it at your endKare

  6. Employ this girl! She’s an absolute wizard-geek where learning is concerned. Super stuff Zoe. Lots of luv, Paul xx

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