#7 – Support Student Collaboration During Remote Learning

Unpacking Education September 30, 2020 22 min

LinkedIn reported that collaboration is one of the most in-demand skills sought by employers today. To guide students toward effective and efficient collaboration, we must devote time to building the routines and sharing the strategies that students will need to be successful. But what does this look like when our students must collaborate virtually? This week’s podcast unpacks four key strategies for fostering digital collaboration with K–12 students.

We know that student collaboration has many benefits, including engagement, inclusivity, scaffolded instruction, skill-building, and communication-skill practice. By providing opportunities to collaborate virtually, we are also providing students with a real-world learning experience that will help them achieve college and career readiness.

Paul Beckermann
PreK-12 Digital Learning Specialist
Rena Clark
Digital Learning Coach
Pamela Beckermann
PreK-12 Digital Learning Specialist

Join our Digital Learning Specialists as they discuss how to engage students in virtual collaboration while ensuring the focus of their cognitive load is on learning rather than mastering digital tools.

Below, you will find resources and tips shared during the podcast to support your virtual-teaching goals.

It’s vital to take the time to teach and understand what collaboration means, and then teach those skills, so students will be able to collaborate across time and space and be better prepared for the demands of a digitally connected world.

Rena, Host and Digital Learning Coach, Renton School District, WA


In this week’s episode, we discuss the following strategies and resources that are available on AVID Open Access for you to explore in more depth.

Empower Students as Digital Collaborators

Help students develop the skills they need to become successful digital collaborators, who have voice and choice in how they brainstorm, communicate, and problem-solve together. Incorporate this four-step process into your lesson design to provide students with repeated opportunities to practice this critical life skill.

4 Strategies to Empower Students as Digital Collaborators

  1. Teach digital collaboration skills. Be intentional about defining what virtual collaboration looks like and model it often for students. Assign roles for group work, such as designer, researcher, and connector, that emphasize higher-order thinking skills. The following tips will help you get started:
    • Develop clear protocols for breakout rooms.
    • Give students voice and choice in the development of these protocols.
    • Help students understand what collaboration is by working together to define what it means for your class. Use a Y-chart to map as a class what virtual collaboration looks like, sounds like, and feels like.
    • Provide sentence stems, particularly for your younger learners, to scaffold effective collaboration.
  1. Design collaborative tech-empowered lessons. As you begin to design lessons that incorporate digital collaboration opportunities, the most important tip we can share for you to keep in mind is: Stick with one tool to avoid overwhelming your students with too many choices.
    • When introducing a new tool, stick with it for a week or two until you are sure that your students are proficient.
    • Look for workhorse tools. Book Creator is a great example of a digital collaboration tool that can be used for grades 2–12. Flip (Tool Tip) is another favorite among teachers, which allows them to create a safe space for students to see and comment on each other’s work, even when learning remotely.
  2. Debrief and reflect with students. Reflection helps students not only process their learning but also develop a growth mindset. It’s important to recognize that reflection should not only occur at the end of an activity; it should be integrated throughout the process. The following tips will help students develop the routines and mindset for self-reflection:
    • Create structures for self-reflection and group reflection. Hearing from peers helps students internalize and reshape the narrative of their own experience.
    • Ask students if their learning needs were met through the collaboration process. What worked? What was challenging? What would they change for the next opportunity to collaborate?
    • Use your students’ feedback to iterate on what collaboration looks like. Create a safe space for students to fail forward, so they feel like their input will be heard and acted upon.
  1. Repeat this process regularly. Design multiple opportunities for students to practice and refine their collaboration skills.

Digital Tools

Let us help you look for new ways to engage students online. We share tips for the following digital tool in this week’s episode. Each digital tool review in AVID Open Access includes a takeaway tip sheet and overview video.

Google Jamboard: This collaborative tool enables students to brainstorm and share ideas on a digital whiteboard in real time. Students collaborate using a variety of features, including sticky notes, drawings, and images. Jamboard meets the needs of all learners, from youth to adults. Google continues to improve the tool and regularly adds new functionality, including the ability to add text and shapes.

  • Tip! Rather than trying to manage the permissions of Google Slides, use Jamboard to create interactive activities and categories that can be shared, without worrying about file settings.
  • Tip! Practice Using Jamboard: Use this activity to engage students in the various features Jamboard offers to support virtual collaboration.