Monday, February 3, 2014

The Potential of Collaboration in the 21st Century

     Ever since humankind began to inhabit the earth, over hundreds of thousands of years ago we have long understood the value of working together.  Whether it be our early ancestors who traveled in bands as hunter-gatherers, or our more modern ancestors who lived in villages, evidence exists to support the notion that our success is a direct result of our ability to work in "collaboration" with others. In the modern world the successful business model works because employees collaborate and work collectively to accomplish goals that are in the best interests of the company. In education, teams of passionate educators are formed, where collaboration occurs in an effort to fulfill a common vision that is established in the best interests of the students. While today's educators have the opportunity to come together and engage in passionate collaboration they don't always have to, due to the advent of social media.
    The twenty first century has brought about new global opportunities for collaboration. Our ability to access Twitter or other forms of social media from the "internet" has created the potential for educators as well as others throughout the world to digitally exchange ideas and acquire resources that pertain to a vast array of content. This has led to unprecedented personal growth for both teachers and administrators that have embraced Twitter and other forms of social media.. Furthermore it has led to the consistent strengthening of their commitment to their craft. The ability for individuals to acquire followers and create Professional Learning Networks, based on their passions, their interests and their ability to provide potential contributions to their followers, has taken the power of Twitter to new heights.  Each follower has the ability to provide resources for others within their network and as the network of followers grows in scope, the size of the collection of resources grows as well.
    The sharing of resources is just one of the many benefits of using social media. Other benefits consist of  "topic chats" ( ie. technology or school culture) with other PLN members, seeking to gain new ideas or perhaps new perspectives.  When all is said and done, the networking opportunities whether in the form of sharing resources or perspective is an excellent form of professional development. Twenty first century collaboration, in the form of social media is immediate,  far reaching and has unlimited growth potential. Anyone who has made a life long investment in education and the future of children will surely reap the benefits of this amazing tool.
    The challenge that we face as educators is how to best share the wealth with our students. How can we guide them towards an understanding of the potential academic benefits of the global peer to peer collaboration that are available through Twitter and other forms of social media? Once we figure this out, then we can help them gain an understanding that Twitter and other forms of social media have an intellectual collaborative value that far exceeds its social benefits..

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