Collaborative Learning Labs
What does collaboration really mean? Collaboration is more than sitting students in a group at a table, device, or poster board with colored markers. There’s nothing new there. Grouping tosses students into collections of fours or fives by class number, separating kids out by skills, behavior, strengths or weaknesses, and possibly sorting for the least friction between individual group members. Dividing a class into groups doesn’t make those groups collaborative. That takes a bit of teaching skill with the right content, and the right tools—both traditional and innovative. How can a school or district get there? It may take some rethinking, along with a little modification of existing rooms.
Re-outfitting computer labs to become collaborative learning environments could be a good start. Almost every school has at least one computer lab. Brainstorm the sorts of tools students would need, and modify those places to make them new and creatively productive for students, as well as educators. Think of creative ways educators could add new elements to their teaching repertoire in those new environments. If that collaborative learning lab had a mix of traditional tools, pencils, pens, and paper—along with the latest tools—interactive tables, boards, tablets equipped with the appropriate software/apps—add a bit of programming, maker movement and 3D—as well. Signing out a room like that would be a walk into teaching and learning paradise.
The beauty of computer labs was that you could begin a student computing program by outfitting one room. The collaborative learning lab concept could offer that same launching pad for districts without technology, or for those already in a 1:1 program seeking more collaborative learning. Affording interactive tables, boards, tablets, software, and other devices for one designated room that would be visited by an entire student population is budget friendly—as well as a great beginning.