Collaboration over Competition

Photo by Perry Grone on Unsplash

My first lesson of the year is always a lesson on reviewing the “rules” of using an iPad to the K-2 students.  This year, I created a kahoots game to review the rules.  The kids loved playing the game but had a hard time signing in and were getting upset over getting the wrong answers or over the scores.  Reflecting on these lessons and then reading More Talking in Class, Please made me realize that having the students having their own iPad took away a collaborative spirit and made the students unnecessarily competitive.  So I decided to take away the individual iPads and play as a whole class with one iPad instead.  After asking the question and reading the answers, I had the students use a visible thinking routine and do a “think, pair, share”  with a friend nearby (Visible Thinking).  Using the one iPad took away the competitiveness but got the students talking to one another and sharing their ideas. 

So if you’re wondering if that was my structured learning experience‚Ķ it wasn’t.  Since I don’t have my own classroom and the Kahoot lesson was the only thing I’ve done with the students, I wanted to create an activity that made sense for a second lesson.  About 50-60% students were returning so I wanted an activity that allowed returning kids to review but gave new students an opportunity to learn and as well.  Studies show that when students work together, they “develop higher-level thinking, oral communication, self-management, and leadership skills” (Collaborative Learning). I wanted to give more opportunities for students to work collaboratively with the iPads as  I find that we tend to have them work on iPads only individually. Students would work in groups to create a poster labeling parts of the iPad.  Having the students create digital posters on the app Pic Collage allowed the students to explore both the app as well as reviewing the parts of the iPad.  Teachers were able to print up the posters and have that be a reference poster for students while students could feel ownership of creating something for their class!  We focused on the ISTE Global Collaborator standard 7C because this lesson was more about collaboration and review. The standard states:

Students contribute constructively to project teams, assuming various roles and responsibilities to work effectively toward a common goal.


Using the strategies from 10 Strategies to Build on Collaborative Learning, the classroom teacher and I created groups of four but students were able to discuss amongst themselves and decide which role they got. There were four roles: 

  • A Photographer – opens up the app, takes all of the photos
  • A Typist – types all the labels
  • A Helper – models the iPads in the photos, saves the image to airdrop (later I would add upload to Seesaw)
  • A Designer – chooses the font, the colors of the font and background and the background for the whole poster

This was a great opportunity for the students to negotiate and have some agency in what role they wanted to partake in the group.  Many groups of students were would utilize rocks, paper, scissors when they couldn’t reach an agreement or would put their shoes together and do eenie, meanie, minee, mo.  I was impressed that there wasn’t a single argument about which roles students received. 

They were tasked with finding the following parts on the ipad, taking photos of each part.  Then they labeled each part and designed a poster by choosing the colors and fonts and where the images and labels would be placed.  These were the parts of the iPad they had to locate:

  • Front Camera
  • Back Camera
  • Home Button
  • Volume Buttons
  • Microphone
  • Audio Jack (G2)
Example of a Grade 1 Group

Things that I was happy about:

  • Students were able to solve disagreements when choosing roles by playing rock, paper, scissors or eenie, meenie, minie, mo
  • Students were able to get in groups, assign roles and complete the task in a short amount of time ~ roughly 15 to 20 minutes
  • Only one student in a group (out of 7 classes) came to me with issues of students not working
  • Students were highly engaged and excited
Students working to help each other.

Even though each student had specific roles and jobs, they were able to collaborate with each other in other ways.  They worked as a group to find all of the parts of the iPad that needed to be labeled and had to continuously look at the board and their work to compare which parts were still needed. Here were a few other ways the students worked collaboratively with each other outside of their specific roles:

  • Helping the typist by spelling out the word 
  • Helping the helper by giving the next iPad feature to find
  • Helping the designer by giving opinions on what colors they should use and if it worked or not
  • Helping the photographer by holding the iPads steady or pushing the button if the photographer was holding the iPad

Being in my role, I have the opportunity to co-learn with my students and change things along the way for the next class.  I learned that I didn’t need to re-teach the basics but it was good for the new students to have an opportunity to learn it for the first time.  I also learned that there were some things that still needed to be taught to students, such as how to get back into the words they were typing in Pic Collage or a review of design “rules” regarding color choices.  Students were still a little confused as to where the microphone is located and so I’ll continue to model the location as students do a lot of recording on seesaw and this is important.   I also learned that I will need to teach young kids negotiation and communication when it came to picking roles.  Something I want to teach students is how to stay engaged and model what does that look like?  What can students do when their peers are not engaged? 

Example of a Grade 1 group

Things I changed along the way:

  • For Grade 2 students, I added an extra feature: audio jack and added the option of posting it on Seesaw and teaching the new skill of editing an item AFTER posting (so they could tag the members of their group)
  • The helper was specifically given the job of posting to seesaw and editing the post
  • For Grade 2 students, I added a title called Parts of the iPad
  • Teaching them how to edit the words or how to get the cursor in the right position
  • Implemented the rule of no patterns for fonts (students kept choosing a pattern for the font and the background, albeit still following my rule of using one light color and one dark color for contrast)
  • Due to the lack of time, encouraging students to use the same fonts and colors fro all of the words

Looking back to the strategies, there were a few that I would definitely incorporate into future collaborative activities (10 Strategies to Build on Collaborative Learning), such as:

  • Setting the rules of language and collaboration
  • Use real-world problems
  • Teach students how to listen to one another

Things I would work better on or try to change for next time:

  • Model what to do when peers aren’t helping
  • Allow for students to try different roles
  • Talking about how much time we should be spending on designing
  • Talk about how students can help each other when it’s not their role
  • When talking about colors, using the words contrast
  • Include something like applause to help create more of a collaborative atmosphere (Adaptive School Strategies)
Example of a completed Grade 2 Poster

2 thoughts on “Collaboration over Competition

  1. Hi Bormay,
    I really enjoyed reading your post this week. It was reflective and connected to all kinds of relevant information from the course. I found myself nodding along in agreement with you as you describe the process of refining the lesson with each class. As a tech coach, I find myself doing that as well and usually by the last lesson, I feel like I’ve finally mastered it! I had an experience like this recently when working in Google Expeditions with Grade 3 students.
    I especially like how you highlight all of the skills that are incorporated in this seemingly simple lesson. This is something that we don’t always take time to notice, but it’s really a great way to be reflective and intentional about our teaching practices. Best of all, you have already thought about what things you will tweak and add to upcoming lessons with these same students- that’s gold! Nice work.

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