What is Digital Partnering?
Digital partnering is a pair group that uses technology to share ideas and work together.
Collaboration can be Simple Using OneDrive
Collaboration doesn’t have to be time consuming. If fact, it can be as simple as sharing ideas.
OneDrive allows teachers to post student work to a Group. Members can view and comment upon work within the Group. This provides an excellent opportunity for digital partnering.
For example, consider the activity we completed today. I posted all the students’ amusement park maps created using Microsoft Word into a Group folder.
Students acted as business consultants. They were divided into partners. Each student logged into their OneDrive account to view their partner’s amusement park map. They examined the current attractions on the map. Using the Comments system they suggested five new attractions that would make the park even better.
In the following class, students will view their own map to read their partner’s suggestions. They will then combine the suggestions with their own ideas to generate a list of possible new attractions for their park. This list of new attractions will be used to create a survey. Survey data will be organized in Excel and graphed. The graph will be analyzed to select a new amusement park ride.
Seven Benefits to Digital Partnering
There are several advantages to students working in pair groups digitally:
- Time to Think: Not everyone can generate ideas quickly. Some people need more time to think. Digital partnering allows a student the opportunity to work at their own pace to process information and develop a solution, without the pressure of their partner sitting beside them waiting for input.
- Efficient: Work can begin immediately. There is no need to move around the room and adjust seating, which can create a commotion and can be time consuming.
- Focus on Task: Students can focus their attention on the task without the distraction of their partner. Chatter about unrelated topics is eliminated.
- Increase Student Involvement: There is no coasting or allowing your friend to do all the work when engaged in digital partnering. Since each student is responsible for generating ideas and posting them to the Comments pane, they must participate.
- Spark Inspiration: Often when students hand in their work they think it is done and they never have to look at it again. However, by having a partner comment upon the work it can inspire students to look at their work in a new way. As students gain a fresh perspective this can spark even more ideas for how to improve.
- Equal Opportunity: Outgoing? Shy? The personality of the student does not matter. When students work together face to face, often the shy student may not contribute as much to the conversation. Not because they do not have the ideas, but because they are overpowered by the ideas flowing from their outgoing partner. Digital partnering gives everyone equal opportunity to share ideas.
- More Receptive to Feedback: Too often suggestions for ways to improve can be taken personally, especially in face-to-face interactions. A person may become offended and want to defend their work in front of a peer. Technology creates a comfortable distance between people. This allows each student to focus on the ideas presented not on “saving face”.
Commenting, Idea Generation, and Digital Partnering
Commenting is a skill that takes time to develop. Often students are not familiar with how to provide feedback to peers. Sharing ideas, through a commenting activity, provides a focused, meaningful way to help students practice this skill effectively. It also prevents students from posting hurtful criticism or vague feedback such as good job on their classmate’s work because they have specific task they must complete.
Over the next few months, the Grade 7 class is going to continue to use OneDrive to collaborate. We are building towards success by engaging in simple tasks. In the previous class, students viewed fellow classmates’ amusement park maps and posted one thing they really liked about the park. Today we expanded the complexity of the task to use Comments in a new way.
To prepare students for the task, we reviewed an amusement park map together. On the overhead projector was a sample map. Students were asked to provide suggestions on attractions that are missing from the amusement park that visitors may enjoy. I modeled how to add a comment and post the ideas. Once familiar with the activity, students were partnered with a classmate. These are the steps they completed:
- Login to OneDrive
- Access the Group folder
- View partner’s amusement park map in the Word Web App
- Critically evaluate the contents of the document to generate ideas
- Activate the Comments pane
- Select part of the document
- Post a comment that contains five new attractions that can be added to the park
- Close the Word Web App.
- Log off OneDrive
Here is a sample comment. It is unedited. At first glance you might notice the grammar errors. If you focus on those you will be missing something wonderful – the exchange of ideas.
Notice the excellent suggestions by George. Now notice, how the student responded to their partner’s ideas. The reply is positive and acknowledges the suggestion they like the most.
What is so amazing about these comments is I never asked students to reply to their partner. On their own students discovered how to reply to a comment. As well, the quality of their replies was such a pleasant surprise.