Posted by: darcymullin | March 17, 2011

Does Technology Increase Collaboration?

This morning I was checking out the Edutopia website  It’s a great site, if you don’t subscribe, I really suggest you do.  Today they have a poll on whether or not technology increases or impedes collaboration.  Interestingly, most people feel that technology decreases collaboration.  That is different from my experience, both on a professional development and educational level.

On a professional level, technology has only increased the amount of collaboration I have been a part of – the online community has been instrumental in my growth as an educator.  On an educational level, technology has taught my students a different way to collaborate, in fact some have learned how to collaborate because of technology.

I would be interested to hear people’s thoughts and stories.



  1. Darcy: I don’t think its a yes/no issue. It depends on the purpose of the interaction. Collaborate means to work together. To me that implies that if/when we are collaborating we are producing something — a product, an idea, a shared understanding. If we are just pushing information and video clips back and forth, I don’t think we are collaborating. I’m currently working on a book project with a colleague. Sometimes we work side-by-side, sometimes we use Skype and Google Docs and sometimes we work independently and then share and cross edit. All of this is collaboration and some of it taps technology.

    • Bruce, I agree the issue is not black and white. Some of the examples you cite are methods of collaboration that were not available to us even a few years ago. I think the definition of collaboration has not changed, but the means are ever evolving. The idea that we can now meaningfully collaborate with people remotely opens a world of possibilities and efficencies that we are only beginning to tap into.

      Thanks for sharing.

  2. Great question Darcy. I think that technology does increase collaboration. We can easily think of many ways that this happens: blogs, twitter, googledocs, forums, screencasts, you name it… On the other hand, the only way that technology decreases collaboration is if a social dynamic is changed enough that it cuts down on face 2 face time. Perhaps this happens at some level with people, where they write an email or wall post instead of talking in person with other people. However, I think that is a broader social issue that isn’t specific to education.

  3. I think you’re right Doug, it is a balancing act. I said earlier that the definition of collaboration hasn’t changed – at some point I believe there needs to be F2F contact, but the parameters have changed. This week I used a Google Docs with my Gr. 4/5 class and it allowed them to collaborate on a whole new level. They were working on the same document but on different computers. The collaboration was amazing – they were really problem solving and negotioating what should go in and what should be left out. It was exciting to watch.

    Even though, the 4/5’s are ready for this type of collaboration, I don’t think the teachers are – interesting don’t you think?

    Thanks for taking the time to comment. BTW checked out your physics blog – cool!

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