by Jessica Sanders 

Student collaboration teaches learners a valuable lesson: how to use the people around them as a resource. What’s more, it gives them a chance to share their voices, developing the opinions that will dictate the people they become as they continue to grow and learn.

With technology, student collaboration and collaborative learning is much easier to facilitate, whether you want students to work together outside the classroom or need to increase student buy-in and engagement.

You may be thinking: Well, I can already do all of that without technology! While that may be true, once you see how valuable technology can be to student collaboration, you won’t want to.

More: Eduspire’s continuing education course, Using Technology to Promote Creativity & Innovation, addresses the integration of 21st-century skills where collaboration and engagement are natural byproducts of classroom activity.

Student Collaboration Is Natural

Collaboration is a natural way to use technology. Students use Facebook events or groups to collaborate about an upcoming gathering; they use hashtags to bring ideas together from people around the world.Not only does this type of collaboration come naturally to students, but when you do something in the classroom that mimics their lives outside the classroom, the activity tends to be more memorable and, therefore, more effective. This is never truer than when you use tools like Twitter to facilitate student collaboration—bringing something familiar into the classroom increases student buy-in and engagement.

More: Eduspire’s continuing education course, Social Media for Educators, provides insight into how social media supports education professionals by enabling ongoing learning.

If you don’t want to use tools like Facebook and Twitter in the classroom, but you want to encourage deeper engagement during collaboration, try one of the following tools. Their built-in social features will make collaboration-based activities more exciting for students:

  1.  Twiducate: Their tagline is “Social networking for schools,” which is why it’s a perfect tool for student collaboration. Teacher accounts are free, and students use a code to access a private classroom “Twitter feed.”
  2.  Whooo’s Reading: This simple web app allows students to log reading and answer standards-aligned questions. They can see what other students are saying and reading in their class “newsfeed,” where they can also like and comment on their peers’ posts.

Using tools like this also encourage students to continue the conversation outside the classroom.

Student Collaboration Can Happen Remotely

Without technology, collaborating can be difficult to do outside of the classroom, forcing you to use the precious class time to facilitate it. With technology, students can collaborate on almost anything, anytime with an Internet connection and the right tools.

Use technology to make it easier for students to work together outside of the classroom, freeing up more time for in-class activities. Some student collaboration tools to consider include:

  1.  Cacoo: Collaborative mind map creation
  2. TitanPad: A replacement for Google Docs for classrooms that don’t use Google Apps
  3.  Vyew: Online interactive whiteboard collaboration
  4. Any online community

More: Blended, Hybrid and Flipped Learning models for boosting student collaboration & engagement 

Student Collaboration Is Easy to Track with Tech

When students collaborate offline, it’s difficult to track who’s contributing what. As many of us know, this was the reason why group projects were always frustrating—you never wanted to be the only one putting in effort, while the others got away with doing nothing.

Using technology, you can track student collaboration whenever you want. For example, with a Google Doc, there are two very easy ways to track this:

  1. Comments: Who has been chiming in with changes, edits or praise?
  2. History: Who has been editing the project doc the most? You can see this by going to File > Revision History.

More: 5 Tips to Implement Google Drive in the Classroom

Checking on the progress of a collaboration-based project will allow you to intervene frequently, ensuring every student is contributing. Most ed tech tools that encourage student collaboration have built-in tracking tools; look for this feature when deciding between a few tools that you love.

Collaboration and collaborative learning are critical for student growth. Use technology to make it easier for students to collaborate outside the classroom, boost buy-in and engagement, and much more.