ISTE Standards for Educators 2.4 revolves around collaboration with students and colleagues. It specifically states: “Educators dedicate time to collaborate with both colleagues and students to improve practice, discover and share resources and ideas, and solve problems. Educators:” (ISTE, n.d.). For this module I decided to research standards 2.4a and 2.4b. 2.4 a: “Dedicate planning time to collaborate with colleagues to create authentic learning experiences that leverage technology” (ISTE, n.d.). 2.4 b: “Collaborate and co-learn with students to discover and use new digital resources and diagnose and troubleshoot technology issues (ISTE, n.d.).The question I developed is: what is 1 tool that can be deployed across platforms that is available to establish and maintain student-to-student, student-to-teacher, and teacher-to teacher collaboration and co-learning?
What is co-learning and what is collaborative learning? The basic definition of co-learning boils down to teachers and students working together to learn. This means that at times, the educator will be leading the educational experience and sometimes, the student(s) will be leading the journey (Baker, 2021). According to Baker there are three essential elements: free play, community and construction of knowledge. Collaborative learning is very similar to co-learning, though it is mostly defined around students working together. However, according to Drew (2021) true collaborative learning involves teachers and students constructing knowledge together through shared experience with the teacher acting as a facilitator. One of the cons that is listed for co-learning/collaborative learning is that introverted students may struggle (Drew, 2021). Another definition of co-learning and collaboration in the classroom that I was drawn to was Dialogic Teaching: “‘Dialogic Teaching’ means using talk most effectively for carrying out teaching and learning. Dialogic teaching involves ongoing talk between teacher and students, not just teacher-presentation” (University of Cambridge, n.d.). The teacher is not the ultimate and final authority on knowledge in the dialogic pedagogy classroom.
Teachers have been using collaborative and co-learning in the classroom for years. In fact, Jarar (2016) used a collaborative course design in a college level sociology course. The outcomes of collaborative course design – where students help to decide the direction of the course – resulted in the following feedback: “higher levels of student engagement, a sense of personal accountability, and student empowerment” (Jafar, 2016). Some of this can be attributed to intrinsic motivation. According to Brophy (2004), when people are motivated because it is something they want to learn, they are more likely to be successful. It makes perfect sense that when students have a voice in the design of a class they are taking they feel more engagement, accountability and empowerment.
According to Mallon and Bernsten (2015) collaborative learning and collaborative work are bolstered by online tools. However, they do point out two very important barriers to online collaboration tools. First, the possibility of a steep learning curve, which can come with any new technology (Mallon & Bernsten, 2015). The second barrier is that free online tools often turn into paid subscription tools over time (Mallon & Bernsten, 2015). It is important that teachers are staying up to date with the technologies they are employing in their classrooms in order to avoid these two potential pitfalls. While it is impossible to predict when or if a free tool will eventually become a paid tool, it is important that teachers keep apprised of new tools as they are released in order to be prepared for the loss of a quality free tool.
The free tool that I have found is Notebook by Zoho. Zoho has been around for 24 years and has a myriad of programs and applications 35+. Per the company website, they have 4 simple statements on privacy and security: “We don’t own your data. You do. We’ll never sell your data. We don’t read your notes. We’ll never do advertisements” (Zoho, n.d.). The reason that Zoho is able to offer Notebook for free is because their other available applications are paid for and subsidize the cost of running Notebook. They are utilizing the free apps as advertising for the paid brands – which is honestly pretty brilliant from a marketing perspective. All of your data on Zoho Notebook is encrypted and Zoho does not claim ownership over anything that the end user creates. (Zoho, n.d.).
Zoho Notebook allows you to collaborate with anyone who has an account with Zoho. You can grant them access to your note – very similar to Google Docs, Pages or Microsoft Word. This would allow you to set up students to work student-to-student, teacher-to-student, and teacher-to- teacher, meeting the needs of collaboration and co-learning with students and collaboration with colleagues. One very nice feature about Zoho is that it allows you to work collaboratively with anyone who has a Zoho account. You can grant them access to collaborate on a notebook with you. If at any point, you want to restrict access to your notebook, you can remove anyone as a collaborator as well. One issue that is often seen with collaboration projects in school is that our more introverted students may struggle due to the group work and social nature of collaboration projects. Zoho Notebook has the potential to lessen that impact as a student who struggles with speaking in front of their peers or even their teacher, it can provide a space for them to speak their mind without having to speak in front of the class.
Another benefit that may be useful for student research projects is the Notebook Web Clipper which is an extension that can be added to Chrome, Safari, Edge and Firefox. This extension allows students to add to their digital notebooks directly from websites by clipping images and text. One downside to the clipper app is that if users opt to take a focused screenshot of a webpage, it does not link back to the original website, this would need to be explained to users who are using this tool for academic purposes as proper attribution is essential to academia. Additionally, it is important to work with the IT department for your school district as they may have adding extensions blocked for the network and they would either have to do a remote install on all devices or grant temporary permissions to allow students and teachers to install this extension. No extension is required for the web version of the Notebook app itself.
Finally, the last benefit is that Zoho integrates with many of the most popular software companies on the market. This includes: Google Workspace, Microsoft Teams, Google Drive, Slack, and many others. For schools who utilize Teams and Google for their online learning platforms, integrating Zoho as a district learning tool would be rather seamless.
There are downsides to Zoho Notebook. As Sumina (2020) points out, there are some time delay issues when opening large notes – and when working in collaborative teams, longer notes is a distinct probability. There are also no “optical character recognition” features and no “ink to text” (Sumina, 2020). One drawback I have personally noted is that I cannot use my apple pence to take notes in the app. That would be a huge benefit to me personally as I love to annotate with my pencil, it is sometimes faster than typing. Another negative is that while it is available on many different platforms, it does not have a desktop for Chromebook option, as many schools utilize Chromebook for their preferred student computers, this is rather disappointing. This means that students are not able to directly install the app on their chromebook, however, students do have the option to utilize the “Notebook for web” option and can fully participate in the notebook experience that way.
Overall, I feel like Zoho Notebook has the potential to be a powerful collaborative and co-learning tool in the educational world. With proper training and access, students and teachers can use it making it an effective tool with many uses. It would be good, not only for collaboration purposes, but also basic note taking, online research collection, image collection, annotation, and even to-do lists.
Baker, G. (2021, January 13). What is Co-Learning? Possibilities ECE. https://www.possibilitiesece.com/blog/2021/1/12/what-is-co-learning
Brophy, J. (2004). Motivating students to learn (2nd ed.). Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers.
Capterra. (n.d.). Zoho notebook. Capterra. Retrieved April 8, 2022 from, https://www.capterra.com/p/174696/Zoho-Notebook/
Center for Teaching Innovation. (n.d.). Collaborative Learning. Cornell University. Retrieved April 2, 2022, from https://teaching.cornell.edu/teaching-resources/active-collaborative-learning/collaborative-learning#:~:text=The%20benefits%20of%20collaborative%20learning,self%2Desteem%2C%20and%20responsibility.
Drew, C. (2021, April 29). Collaborative learning (co-learning) – examples, pros & cons. HelpfulProfessor.com. https://helpfulprofessor.com/collaborative-learning/#Key_Features
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Jafar, A. (2016). Student engagement, accountability, and empowerment: A case student of collaborative course design. Teaching Sociology, 44(3), 3221-232. https://doi.org/10.1177/0092055X16644489
Mallon, M., & Bernsten, S. (2015). Collaborative learning technologies. Association of College and Research Libraries & American LIbrary Association. https://www.acrl.ala.org/IS/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/winter2015.pdf
Pixabay. (n.d.). Experience, evaluate, envision, experiment. Pixabay. Retrieved April 15, 2022, from https://pixabay.com/illustrations/learn-experience-education-learning-3026580/
Sumina, V. (2020, December 30). Zoho notebook review. Cloudwards. https://www.cloudwards.net/zoho-notebook-review/
University of Cambridge. (n.d.). What is dialogic teaching? University of Cambridge. Retrieved April 11, 2022, from https://www.educ.cam.ac.uk/research/programmes/dialogic/whatis.html#:~:text=%22Dialogic%20Teaching%22%20means%20using%20talk,%2C%20not%20just%20teacher%2Dpresentation.
Van de Pol, J., Brindley, S., & Higham, R. (2017). Two secondary teachers’ understanding and classroom practice of dialogic teacher: a case study. Educational Studies, 43(5), 497-515. https://doi.org/10.1080/03055698.2017.1293508Zoho. (n.d.) Business Model, privacy, and security. Zoho. Retrieved April 8, 2022, from https://www.zoho.com/notebook/business-model.html