The part I liked best about SMART Sync collaborative functionality was its ease of use. The software was very intuitive. With just a few clicks, my first collaborative project was ready to go. Having the install set up folders in My Documents to house projects, student, and group work created instant organization in my already cluttered documents folder. I appreciated that feature. After a brief overview of the project, my students were ready to get started with the individual assignment. We all learned together the first time as the collaborative part began. Students were excited to experience positive interdependence and reach common goals. They just didn’t know that’s what made them so thrilled with the assignment. They thought it was because they could chat with each other about what each team member thought the answer should be. All four groups turned in their assignment, but three documents didn’t have answers marked. The first time it happened, I thought the recorder forgot his job. However, it has continued to happen during other projects. It happens both in Word and in Notebook. The individual’s work arrives, but not the group work.
The main benefit derived from using Sync Collaboration includes polishing the skill set needed for 21st century collaborative learning: interpersonal skills, critical thinking skills, interaction with a small group, and group processing. My students love working in a group, whether it’s digitally with Sync, at a desk editing their writing, or conducting a science experiment in lab.
When I first began this trial, I watched the video explaining SMART Sync. It was helpful in that it explained the collaboration feature. I had been using SynchronEyes in my classroom for two years prior to this time so I was well acquainted with most of the other features already. But I have faced a few challenges using the collaboration feature.
The first technical challenge is to learn how to assign groups instead of allowing the teacher computer to randomly make groups. The first project I allowed randomization and it made one group of three, two groups of two and one group of one using eight workstations. That was most likely user error. That part was not very intuitive for me. Perhaps that feature could be improved in the next update and the process of letting the teacher assign groups made easier with a selection area.
There were several other technical challenges. The teacher computer froze the first time group work was turned in. Since then, I’ve added 512 mb memory to the laptop and have not had it happen again. I might mention our district is buying
The main pedagogical challenge I faced was coming up with suitable collaborative assignments for third graders. All of the ones I found on the web for primary students were for written for classroom to classroom collaboration. Designing a collaborative assignment that could be completed both as an individual and a group project in a class period encourages me to think outside the worksheet as I redesign, rethink, revise, revisit, and revamp a lesson into a new assignment. That’s a good thing as I continue to learn how to think outside the worksheet.