Collaborative learning is a fantastic way for students of mixed abilities to capitalise on one another’s resources, skills and knowledge. It’s an enjoyable way for students to develop the key skills they’ll need for the big wide world beyond the classroom, such as higher-order thinking, communication and leadership. As with any educational initiative, we must ensure that practice is backed up, and we can turn to educational research to see the impact of collaborative learning.
The EEF found that collaborative learning as a tool provides ‘high impact for a very low cost’ and a 2012 review by Laal and Ghodski broke down the many benefits of collaborative learning into four key areas – social, psychological, academic and assessment; showing the great importance of including collaborative learning in every educational setting.
Today’s students truly are digital natives; not only did they learn to use technology from a young age — they were born surrounded by it, unlike many of us growing up it has been part of their day-to-day life.
There is a debate that hinges on the idea that this use of technology could harm the development of collaborative learning skills on one end of the spectrum and on another, it is believed that technology offers an opening into learning. Whatever your position, one thing is clear, technology is not going away so it is vital we prepare our students to live in a virtual world that is getting more and more technology enabled.
Human beings are social beings at heart; from a young age, we learn by watching, engaging and copying what we see; when we’re surrounded by others, discussing the same topics, trends and sharing knowledge, we thrive and develop in our own personal growth.
Collaborative learning therefore is invaluable in supporting students through receiving feedback regarding their progress and getting their questions answered — by their peers to form a sense of true collaboration. Of course, they are used to receiving feedback from teachers as schooling trains them for that however, learning with and from their peers is key to collaborative learning.
Collaboration is deeply human, in an ever-changing digital landscape, education technology has evolved to support and enhance collaborative learning. Remote learning has become more mainstream- especially due to the recent COVID-19 restriction- so we, educators, need to engage with these tools more readily to allow our students to learn, connect and grow. Here’s the story of my own experience with collaborative learning and EdTech in my years as a teacher and how I would place GoLearn’s platform head and shoulders above the others I’ve experienced.
During my 8 years in the classroom, I worked across many different environments, as many of us do. From Hertfordshire to Singapore, I have worked with young people from all kinds of backgrounds. No matter the setting, as a teacher, you always want to provide each student with a personalised learning experience – giving them the best chance to excel. But when you have a class of 32 children, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, this can be a real challenge to achieve.
I have worked in Year 6 classrooms where some students are working towards confidently writing the days of the week while others are challenging themselves with senior school level writing tasks. As a result, I have always sought out technology that can support my teaching, engage my students and provide the personalised learning that my pupils deserve.
Over the years I have tried out a number of EdTech platforms and online resources with varying success and engagement from my classes (My students were always happy to provide brutally honest feedback). I always found that the maths resources were more engaging than their English alternatives. English options tended to be limited to short quizzes or word matching tasks that the students would enjoy for a short time but ultimately wouldn’t add any real depth to the learning we were working on in the classroom. It was great to have a starter or morning work task which allowed them to practice their spelling but nearly all the time this was in isolation from the objectives we were targeting that week, objectives that didn’t get enough time as it was.
When I first started using GoLearn it was clear this platform was so much more than a series of simple quizzes. With 12 different task types, each scheme of work has great variety and covers a wide range of skills.
GoLearn does make use of simple task options like true and false and identifying all the correct answers in some given question, but it also builds depth through challenges such as adding text tasks which allow students to correct spelling and grammar mistakes in given sentences and marking tasks that encourage students to identify specific word classes in context as well as adding long story writing and essay type tasks.
For these closed tasks, (the ones that take so much time to mark in the classroom) GoLearn utilises AI technology to provide teachers and students with instant and detailed data feedback so they can gain an understanding of each student’s strengths and weaknesses without wasting precious time.
It was so reassuring to me to know that the platform was using the plethora of data that it collected to differentiate and give each student the right level of challenge to ensure they were progressing. I work hard to stretch and support the students in my class but as teachers with time pressures and only so many hours in the day, we need all the help we can get!
To be proficient in the English language we need opportunities to speak it, read it, listen to it and write it. It is one thing to understand what an adverb is or to locate it within a sentence, but it is another thing altogether to be able to write it correctly within a sentence we have constructed ourselves. I had also seen from the years I had in the classroom how powerful discussion and collaboration was; each time I facilitated a discussion, read a chapter aloud or asked a student to share their ideas with the class I could see how these ideas were absorbed by the class and they would then spill out into their own writing. So, when I started using the GoLearn platform, it was the opportunities for collaborative learning which really stood out to me as making it different from other EdTech platforms and the two areas I have always been most impressed with are the peer review and teacher taught lessons.
Built into each GoLearn scheme of work is several writing opportunities covering a wide range of topics and contexts -all using the ‘peer review’ task type. While technology can now do a lot, creative writing requires a deeper level of understanding that a computer cannot – and should not – attempt to simplify. As a teacher I want my students to know that their writing attempts are valued, that I have read through each story or essay they have taken the time to write and to give them the opportunity to share with and learn from their peers. It is important to consider writing techniques but also style, authentic voice, sentence structure and all the other aspects we know are so personal to each writer, and this is why the peer review task is so crucial.
In every classroom, we see the power of students sharing their work. From team writing tasks to ‘magpieing’ vocabulary, it is the opportunities to work with their peers that expose children to a variety of writing styles, formats and ideas while allowing them to share their own work and take pride in their writing.
GoLearn utilizes the power of this through a range of writing tasks that have been planned by experienced teachers and curriculum experts.
Each task comes with a carefully considered list of both writing and marking objectives for the peer to review. Assigned anonymously to facilitate and foster a positive experience, each student is then given a piece of their peer’s writing to mark.
Once complete, the writing appears in the teacher dashboard for the teacher to check over before appearing back in the student’s lesson area so they can in turn review their writing and their peers’ and teacher’s comments. This process allows for a safe space for students to share their writing while also ensuring it adds to the big picture data that the teacher needs to provide a personalised learning experience.
As teachers, we know those longer creative writing tasks are so valuable but when we have 30+ books to mark and a school marking scheme to adhere to (often with a colour code to go with it!) it becomes increasingly challenging to assess each student’s strengths and weaknesses and to apply this knowledge, which is why I love that GoLearn takes that stress off my shoulders, giving me the key data I need in an easily presented manner.
Teacher Taught Lesson
The second feature of the GoLearn platform which allows teachers to personalise their classroom experiences is the ‘teacher taught lesson.’ With at least one teacher taught lesson in each scheme of work, this session has been crafted by GoLearn’s team of educators to add further depth and variety to the overall topic.
Each teacher taught lesson comes with a full lesson plan and list of necessary resources as well as tasks embedded within the platform. It allows for opportunities for more interactive classroom experiences such as drama tasks, classroom-based discussions, and other opportunities for collaboration. These lessons allow for a blended learning approach, using technology but also allowing for the interactivity of a classroom. Lesson plans are broken down into starter, main and plenary and can be easily adapted to suit the needs of each classroom, ensuring this is a resource that supports and saves teachers’ time.
This feature allows for a depth of learning that is often not seen with other AI-based EdTech platforms and each teacher taught lesson is carefully planned around a topic or key area of English that will benefit from some additional focus from the teacher. By embedding tasks into the scheme of work to complement the taught lesson, teachers are also able to collect detailed data on their student’s understanding of this area to ensure a complete picture of the student and whole class understanding. This means that if there are specific weaknesses, the teacher can use the customised GoLearn learning plan or continue to add in extra opportunities offline for the students to practice further.
Sometimes things sound too good to be true and often teachers and schools don’t have the budget or time to commit upfront to EdTech platforms that may or may not help them in their classrooms. It is a stressful experience trying to sift through the myriad of EdTech platforms now on offer and many expect a year’s payment upfront, something which always put me off.
The team at GoLearn understands this and this is why they offer an extended trial with no commitment and full access to the platform and all its features.
So why not reach out and sign up for your free trial today to see first-hand how GoLearn can help you and your students in their English learning journey.
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