Thing 15 is about why collaboration is important and how digital tools can support it.

Students are using digital tools to collaborate within learning spaces. They are also using digital tools to make connections in relevant, real-world contexts.  

Teachers are teaching collaboratively in Innovative Learning Environments (more on this in our next post, Thing16).

Collaboration vs Cooperation

Educators and researchers differ about what collaborative learning is. Wesley Freyer contrasts it with cooperative learning, below.

Find out why collaboration is important in the video, below.

An essential skill

Why is collaboration essential for 21st century education? Our NZ Curriculum describes how we want our students to be able to relate well with others. Relating to Others, is one of the key competencies for living and lifelong learning: “the ability to listen actively, recognise different points of view, negotiate, and share ideas… By working effectively together, they can come up with new approaches, ideas, and ways of thinking.”

Collaboration can occur at many levels of learning – between students, teachers, family/whanau and/or the wider community.

Sir Ken Robinson discusses collaboration below…

Dylan Wiliam explains why group goals are necessary in collaborative learning:

Collaboration in the classroom

While we are sharing some digital tools that can be used to assist students in working collaboratively, it needs to be done as part of a collaborative classroom environment.

Here’s some ideas for building a collaborative classroom environment:

Using Digital Tools for Collaboration

The digital tools such as Google Apps for Education and OneDrive (see Thing 7 and Thing8) enable students to work collaboratively on documents, slides, sites and presentations, concurrently (from anywhere, anytime).

Google Apps for Education and Google Classroom are free for schools. Here’s a resource about using Google Docs for collaboration. Below is screencast of how to upload a document as a Google Classroom assignment and make a copy for each student to work on.

OneNote from Microsoft is designed to support collaboration in the classroom. Opaheke blog how they are using it for collaboration How OneNote Class Notebook supports digital modelling books. Below is a video showing students from two NZ schools working together using OneNote.

Microblogging – is a combination of blogging and instant messaging that allows users to create and share short messages. Microblogging in the classroom shares Twitter and other well known platforms. (Thing 2 shared ways for teachers to collaborate including Twitter).

Teachers are also using Twitter in classrooms. Kidsedchatnz Wednesday 2-3pm is a twitter chat for NZ schools and a great place to start with your students. (Twitter can also be used for way more than collaboration by the Global Digital Citizen Organization).

Yammer is a social network like Twitter or Facebook, but is only available to people who belong to your school/organisation. The posts support collaboration, sharing projects, files and co-editing documents projects, share files and co-edit documents. See “5 Ways Yammer is Improving Communication, Connections, and Learning in our Schools” or watch Build Classroom Community with Yammer to learn more.

Docurated list 102 Free (or free to Try) online collaborative learning tools for teachers and educators. You will be familiar with a few of them already!

try-this-iconTry this

This week we recommend that choose a collaboration tool  that you have not used much before and have a play. (There are more options in the Explore Further section)

In your blog, tell us what you think collaboration is and one way that you could use the digital tool you chose to support collaboration in the classroom.

explore-further-iconExplore further

The story, Above and Beyond, shows what is possible when communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity transform learning opportunities for all kids.


The Big Bang Theory gives us some insight into effective collaboration – or is it?


Additional resources for designing a collaborative classroom:

Additional Collaborative Digital Tools:

Kelly Walsh has a list of 20 fun, free tools for an interactive classroom collaboration.

Trello is a collaboration tool that organizes your projects into boards. In one glance, Trello tells you what’s being worked on, who’s working on what, and where something is in a process. Overview is here.

Wunderlist allows you to create to-do-lists, get reminders, collaborate with others. You can use it on just about any internet capable device. Wunderlist for Beginners.


Header image: Sara Jade Photography / CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 NZ
Icons: Everaldo Coelho and YellowIcon / GNU Lesser General Public License

This post is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 Unported License.

23 teaching things is written by Lucie Lindsay and Bronwyn Edmunds at the University of Auckland’s Faculty of Education and Social Work. #23Teaching

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