By Sam Piha
The Learning in Afterschool Project promotes collaborative learning as one of its five learning principles of quality afterschool programs.
Why do we emphasize collaboration? YouthLearn offers some important reasons why collaborative learning is important:
“The New Economy is distinguished by interlocking partnerships and networks of people and organizations. In the past a loner may have been at a disadvantage, but today, he or she may not be able to survive. Businesses work in teams; they outsource, form alliances and hire without ever running an advertisement. Put simply, the opportunities available to your kids will be as much dependent on their mastery of communication and collaboration skills as on writing or math skills.
People care about things they feel a part of and about which they feel at least some degree of ownership. If your kids are involved in planning and decision making, they'll show a level of enthusiasm and curiosity that schools can only dream of.
More knowledge, creativity and ideas can be found in two minds than in one, and even more can be found in four or in 10. When kids see what their friends have done with a project, they add to it and create something even more original. In out-of-school programs, you have the freedom to let kids work in groups almost all the time and to shift the groups around so that kids learn from lots of different people.
Face it, there's no way you can know about everything, especially once new technologies like the Internet, computers, software, scanners, cameras and all the other devices are added into the mix. Then again, why should you have to? Don't be afraid to let kids teach each other when one of them becomes an expert in PhotoShop and another an online audio wizard—that's the real power of collaboration. Rather than being mired in the details of ever-changing software programs, you can focus on the important jobs of coach, guide and educator.”
The Global Development Research Center offers a number of useful tools for those interested in exploring collaborative learning, with specific techniques and methods. We recommend that you visit this site and other sites that will appear when you do an internet search for "collaborative learning".