For some time I had been intending to complete my first MA project on collaborative writing– an idea sparked off by the potential of tools like Primary Pad and live editing in Google Docs.
The idea for this was to investigate whether collaborative tools would encourage children to spontaneously develop models for productive collaboration. As I blogged here, I wondered whether if I gave a group of children access to a collaborative document they would develop a working model which would allow them to effectively collaborate, of whether they would need some structured models for this to be productive.
During ‘Independence Time’ this week I noticed three boys were working on netbooks next to each other. I came over to ask what they were working on, and they told me they were writing a playscript. I asked how they were organising this, expecting two of them to be possibly watching and orally contributing ideas, or at most for them to have split it into writing a scene each.
Not so. It turned out at that moment one boy was writing the script, another was going back and correcting typos and mistakes, and the third was some way behind critically reading the contents and adding ‘better words’ and adverbs to improve it. All were doing this with an eye on the other’s roles, resulting in a gamut of self evaluation.
Not only were they doing this, but they were fully aware of and able to articulate their roles. Bear in mind this is an activity they set up entirely of their own volition and you have a very powerful example of collaborative tools.
Sometimes things like live collaboration can seem like a technological gimmick; something that looks impressive but leaves people to ask where the learning is. However, given time to make these tools their own children can show the power of genuine collaboration.