Collaboration and Community
*image from lorinett.wordpress.com
*image from lorinett.wordpress.com
By Michele Brucculeiri
According to the Marriam-Webster dictionary, collaboration is to work jointly with others or together especially in an intellectual endeavor. Collaboration is a recursive process where two or more people or organizations work together to realize shared goals. What does this mean for schools? Should teachers collaborate with other teachers? Should students collaborate with other students? Should teachers and students collaborate with each other? The answer is yes to all of the above. According to Adolescent Literacy: A Policy Research Brief produced by the National Council of Teachers of English, “The challenges associated with adolescent literacy extend beyond secondary school to both college and elementary school” (NCTE, pg.1). These challenges are not just a “middle school” problem. Teachers in all grade levels need to work together to ensure the success of all learners. “Our students need us to provide them with rich opportunities to read deeply, think critically, and write for responsive audiences. And they need us to prepare them for a world outside of our classrooms where literacy, texts, and tools will continue to change, be recast, and even reinvent themselves” (Kajder, 2010, pg. 11).


Collaboration Among TeachersSo how do teachers prepare students for the world outside of the classroom? Veteran teachers have seen the benefits of a strong school/community bond. Now there is a new community we need to invite into our schools, a digital community. As quoted from the 2007 Pew Internet and American Life study,”64 percent of online U.S. teens had created s
*image from castlellc.com
*image from castlellc.com
ome sort of content on the Internet. This work spans a significant range, including but not limited to uploading photos in photo sharing/editing tools such as Flicker or Photobucket; editing an article on Wikipedia; composing original writing in a fanfiction website; creating a video or remix posted to YouTube; or programming a new iPhone application” (Kajder, 2010, pg.15). I have to believe that this number has only increased in the past five years. It is more important than ever for teachers to work with members within their school and county to create rich and meaningful lessons. Sara, a teacher introduced in the book Adolescents and Digital Literacies Learning Alongside Our Students, shares how she finds success incorporating multiple search engines and other digital resources through the support of her media specialist, administration, and grade level team members. Each staff member in a school has his/her own strengths and ideas to incorporate. Through collaboration with one another, teachers can create and integrate technologies into lessons to motivate and excite students in the classroom.

Collaboration Among Students
It is not only important for teachers to collaborate with each other but for students to be included as well. In chapter 1 we were introduced to Jassar, a 10th grader reading on a 6th grade level with very little interest in school. My initial thought was, This poor kid, how will he ever be able to get a decent job? I was surprised to learn just how much literacy plays a role in Jassar’s daily life outside of school. Jassar has created so many digital recourses for his youth group including Facebook and MySpace pages, a Ning, an annotated Google Map of his community with pins noting the site, work and participates on projects. “Across all of his work, Jassar has demonstrated a broad range of literacy practices, none of which he was “taught” inside of school” (Kajder, 2010, pg.2) Jassar learned these technologies through exploring and collaborating with his peers outside of the school day. “Jassar is vibrantly literate in ways that are purposeful and important, and in ways that have a place in the classroom that values bringing together his digital literacy skills; his passion for doing work that “matters” outside of school walls; his need to interact with expert, authentic audiences; and the diverse texts, skills, and experiences that make up our English curricula” (Kajder, 2010, pg.2). My thoughts suddenly shifted from, this poor kid to what an amazing kid! In my opinion, Jassar is applying far more literacy skills than he could ever possibly show at school, and he’s not alone. “ Research tells us that adolescents are largely learning how to mediate identity, compose, and collaborate in online spaces outside of our classrooms and that these are practices and spaces that are increasingly valued, and even expected by employers” (Kajder, 2010, p.87) Students are already collaborating together online outside of the classroom. It is time for teachers to embrace the digital community with open arms into the classroom, to allow students the opportunity to work together inside the classroom. According to The National Council of Teachers of English, “adolescent literacy is social, drawing from various discourse communities in and out of school” (Kajder, 2010, pg.3). Bringing “out of school” activities into the classroom will encourage more student involvement and enthusiasm in learning.

Collaboration and Motivation
*image from fallingschools.wordpress.com
*image from fallingschools.wordpress.com

“Research shows that out-of-school literacies play a very important role in literacy learning, and teachers can draw on these skills to foster learning in school” (NCTE, pg.2). It is important to show our students that reading does not have to take place in a book. If students prefer to work on the computer, why not use that to our advantage as the teacher? The authors of the article, Recentering the middle school classroom as a vibrant learning community: Students, literacy, and technology intersect stated, “Choice, power, and belonging are necessary for students to become engaged in learning” (Grisham and Wolesy, p.651, 2006). When students are given choice, they feel more empowered and are more motivated to learn. Together, students and teachers can accomplish more than ever. Together, we can make a difference!


Resources
Grisham, D. and Wolesy, T. (2006). Recentering the middle school classroom as a vibrant learning community: Students, literacy, and technology intersect

Kajder, S. (2010).Adolescents and digital literacies learning alongside our students. NCTE Urbana:IL.

National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). (2007). Adolescent literacy a policy research brief produced by The National Council of Teachers of English. Retrieved fromhttp://www.ncte.org/library/NCTEFiles/Resources/PolicyResearch/AdolLitResearchBrief.pdf