Google Docs and a theme of collaborative learning was the topic of this week's lesson, and for one of the few times this semester I actually have experience with the tool we're using. I have used Google Docs and Spreadsheets for years as a way to share and update information in an online setting. Me and a group of cousins and uncles engage in a fantasy baseball league, so a few years back I began to put "working" documents online (schedules, statistics) that everyone had access to so that the league stats and notes were up-to-date and organized. It has worked very well for us, so I know that such tools can be effective. I guess I have been using collaborative learning for a while now!
But now I'm going to take some time to rant. I hate group work. Absolutely hate it. I've had some awful experiences with my fellow university students. From classmates giving me astonishingly bad work or even no work at all, I can't really say I have had a positive experience working with others on school projects at Brock. My program assigns a lot of these group assignments, so I've learned to keep my expectations very low. I just don't understand a few things. One - if these students hand in work like this all the time, how did they get to University and how do they stay here? Two - the students who literally do none of the work, how do you not feel guilty about that and how do you expect to survive in the real world? Rather than give me a sense of teamwork and collaboration, group projects have caused me to have no trust in my classmates and dread the experience. End of rant.
Anyways, the Institute for Writing & Rhetoric (2013) lists a number of reasons for collaborative learning, with most pointing to learning how to write to other's expectations in a clear manner. I can see the value in that, and I would definitely say that some partners I have had need this. But in my opinion, group projects as they are do not follow the goals of collaborative learning. One person simply ends up fixing the others' work, and instead of that person learning from the experience, they instead become dependent on others to fix up their work. They don't increase their own skill and cause a lot of bitterness and anger with other partners.
All that being said, Google Docs is a useful tool for group projects. It allows all the information to be stored in one place while being saved securely online, creates accountability, and enables immediate feedback. However, it only will work if all group members are committed to actually working hard and willing to correct themselves while learning.
From Feedly this week, ISIS continues to cause devastation in Middle East, but with a different tactic this time. They have begun to destroy the ancient remains of the Assyrian civilization, ruining artifacts of extreme historical and cultural value. They call it "idolatry" and do it the name of their god, yet other Muslims in the area have immediately disowned and lashed out against the group and this "crime against humanity". While there could be an interesting debate about how the outrage of artifacts being destroyed gets similar or greater sympathy as the human lives being wiped out, this is no doubt an awful attack that should have an effect on everyone in the region. This is the history of a people, and it bears striking similarity to what the Nazi's tried to do with Jewish history during the Holocaust. You can read about it here: http://nyti.ms/18XIo0M