Online Tools Group Project Rationale and Reflection

     EDUC 3311: Instructional Technology
Idaho State University

In the past, I was extremely anti-group project in the classroom. Those two words, GROUP -PROJECT had the ability to: send shivers down my spine, cause my palms to sweat, and increase my stress level. Now, with the inclusion of technology, I am more open to the idea of working with a set of classmates toward a common goal. The two words, Group Project, means with proper planning, preparation, scheduling, and online set-up; there is potential to strengthen bonds, acquire knowledge, and gain team-building skills. In the following essay, I will share with you how my perception of group projects during our Online Tools Group Research went from intimidating to inviting; through a research based rationale and reflection in the art of virtual communication and collaboration.
Rationale
     In completing the Online Tools Research Project, I learned the value of working within a group as a student. As a future teacher, I am to be aware of the importance of virtual communication and collaboration as an educator. The actual tool that is used to complete communication and collaboration online does not hold the utmost of importance; as long as it has the necessary capabilities in which the group of teachers are in need of. Online tools accessibility, as well as their functions will always change; however, what takes place through them will remain the same.
     Similarly, to being a student, a teacher’s role is not one that should be taken on alone. A teacher should surround him or herself with a group of educators known as their Professional Learning Network (PLN). I have learned of this type of group through my time spent on the social media site, Twitter. Tom Whitby, a blogger for the site Edutopia, defines PLN as, “a tool that uses social media and technology to collect, communicate, collaborate and create with connected colleagues anywhere, at any time. Participating educators make requests and share resources; each one becomes a potential source of information” (para. 1).
     Prior to the internet, teachers were succumbed to their co-workers and administrators within their school building and a few others inside their district in which they could collaborate with face to face or via telephone. Opportunities were rare in having a variety of educators to discuss issues such as: lesson plans, classroom management, and professional development. Technology, has removed these limitations in connecting with other educators. Giving one the option to exchange methods, share strategies, and participate in online discussions (Whitby, para. 10).
     In addition to being a personal/professional benefit, having the skill to communicate and collaborate online gives us the ability to make students who can communicate and collaborate online. Today’s world, is controlled by technology. Teachers who are virtually connected are using online tools to remain applicable in the classroom, so that they can prepare their students for their lives outside of the classroom. To use technology or not to use technology is no longer a relevant question. Teachers are to be life-long learners of such things that we are to model for those students that we teach. In the article, No Longer a Luxury: Digital Literacy Can't Wait published in The English Journal, authors Troy Hicks and Kristen Hawley Turner state,
It is difficult to let go of traditional ways of being and doing when we do not understand the technology that makes new literacies new. Students need – and deserve – for us to catch up quickly, to let go of the past, and to critically examine whether what we do is indeed supporting the development of their digital literacies. Digital literacy is no longer a luxury, and we simply cannot wait to build the capacity in our students and colleagues, as well as ourselves (p. 64).

Reflection
     My experience, working in an online collaborative environment for this research project was an educational one. A large factor that assisted in this project was the easily understood layout of expectations that was provided by our instructor. This created the planning and preparation of the project to be quite simple as all members of the group were knowledgeable of what our goal was and how we were to reach it. In the future, I would like to create a similar line up of steps if they are not provided for the group.
     Through the usage of the online tool Google Hangouts, we were able to discuss availability through the process of elimination, until we came to a time that we were all able to meet. Being able to have a virtual face to face conversation eliminated the long pauses between e-mails or messages sent; as well as, the question of emotion. There was no guessing in how each other felt about the items we discussed. This was the first time I have experienced Google Hangouts, I enjoyed the online tool very much. I was able to pick up the basic features of the program very quickly and was impressed with the functions of: sharing screens, group chats, sending files, and accessing Google Drive. The Google Hangout meeting automatically placed itself in my Google Calendar when I accepted the invitation to connect with the group at the designated time; allowing me to stay on top of the group project quite efficiently.  
     In our first meeting, each team member brought to the group four different tools. We shared them by category, each one sharing the information they found from their initial research. During this process, we began to clearly see which members were going to complete which section. Two of us, were quite passionate about the online tool that they found; whereas, the other two were passionate about the specific subject matter overall. The words used to describe such passion was,” geeking out”.  We made the decision at that time, what subject matter each member was to complete, gather research, and create this portion of the presentation. At the remaining meetings: we shared what we liked and disliked about our tools and asked for advice on how we were putting the presentation together. When we were not in a meeting, we completed our research, began creating a group presentation through Google Slides, and pieced together our section of the website. Since all of our research documents were in our Google Drive, everyone had what they needed when they needed it, no matter where they were. A few discussions were had through the comments of the individual documents, for assistance.
     In completing my area of the project, planning. I began my research by visiting the experts, through middle school educator blogs. I knew that if I was going to find something purposeful, it would be from those teachers who daily use the products that we are searching for. Once I set my mind on PlanBook Edu, I furthered my research on the products website, teacher blogs, and YouTube.com. These three provided me with more than enough information I needed to complete my section of our presentation. I also decided to create an account and sign up for the free trial period, which allowed me to get some hands-on experience with this tool. I found all of its features to have several benefits to a middle school teacher.
     In the future, I plan on integrating the usage of online communication and collaboration as a college student, as a teacher, and in my classroom. As a college student, I will present the option to use the combination of Google Hangouts and Google Drive to complete a group project. As a teacher, I will further develop my PLN through Twitter, Blogs, and other forms of social media. In my classroom, I will use a combination of Google Hangouts, Google Drive, Twitter, Blogs, and other social media to provide them with the necessary tools to be digitally literate; as well as, making miserable group projects ancient history.
     As I stated in the beginning, group projects in the past caused some anxiety. I believe, this is caused by the multitude of negative experiences that I have had with group projects: having to complete all of the work, making up for a member’s lack of abilities, finishing the project at the last minute, and more. Completing a group project with integration of technology, eliminates barriers that cause these negative encounters: tracking of individual members completed work, provide each other with assistance, allowing more connection time online, and flexibility of doing individual portions on your own time. With these common issues removed, it gives team members a chance to plan, discuss, learn, and complete; creating an extremely positive experience.
Conclusion
     In conclusion, my idea of group projects drastically transformed through our Online Tools Group Research, due to the inclusion of technology. Through my research based rationale and reflection toward the art of virtual communication and collaboration, you can understand how this dreadful task became pleasant. When working in conjunction with a team there is a greater ability to be more productive, creative, and motivated than those who work by themselves. I now can grasp the truth in those sayings: two heads are better than one, the more the merrier, and more hands make for lighter work.


References

Hicks, T., & Turner, K. (2013). No longer a luxury: Digital literacy can't wait. The English Journal, 102(6), 58-65. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/24484127
Whitby, T. (2013). How do I get a PLN? Edutopia. Retrieved from
             https://www.edutopia.org/blog/how-do-i-get-a-pln-tom-whitby

   
rwcsignature
                Lets stay connected: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & Pinterest.

Comments

Posts Readers Love A Latte