Collaboration in practice and content is increasingly accepted as a component of forward-looking educational thinking. In this session on the last day of ONLINE EDUCA BERLIN 2012, the presenters took a broad look at how the use of digital technologies supports creative collaboration, including examples which illustrate how content and collaborative practice change education for the Arts.
By Abe Pazos
Sarah Eagle, from the University of Bristol, started by presenting examples of learning that involve collaboration and creativity. She described how a successful scientific team worked smoothly together, never really needing to explain matters to each other, because they had developed short-hands in communication. However, “by bringing somebody else in from a completely different discipline, they had to start explaining things. Suddenly, the light bulb went on, and there were new scientific discoveries. This justifies why we now see many artists in residence at scientific laboratories”. Eagle mentioned the work of Gerhard Fischer, whose team “looks at using technology to support breakdowns in processes or teamwork, because it’s at those moments when creative insights take place.”
Eagle continued detailing the results of two different CoCreat projects, whose objective is to enable creative collaboration through supportive technologies. In one of the projects, pupils in elementary schools create digital stories in order to illustrate their home area. The stories are shared in an online portal in order to promote knowledge exchange. A second project involves aged people working in groups, who together find ways to manage their everyday duties and hobbies and to contact their relatives and friends. One surprising outcome of the research was that difficulties with technology improve social interaction. The collaborative learning took place because the technology was not just in the background, but it had to be dealt with.
The second presenter was Gisle Johnsen, founder and CEO of Grieg Music Education, Norway, who talked about an online music learning platform for children which allows students to listen to each instrument in a symphony one by one, then collaboratively mix popular musicians with instruments played by students from other countries to create complete songs and discuss the pieces online. It results in students who are more engaged in the music production. “When the education system focuses on music education, it only focuses on people who want to play an instrument.” That means, according to Johnsen, leaving behind 80% of the students with no interest in playing instruments. “This project is not just about music, but about enhancing creativity”. Johnsen argues that “the European society now needs creative people who can find new ways of earning their money and creating new businesses. If you look at the time schedule of any schools you won’t ever find the subject creativity. Music is a great way to be creative if you provide the right tools.”
To complete the session, Nicoletta Di Blas, from Politecnico di Milano, HOC-LAB, Italy, introduces PoliCultura, a project in which groups of students are given three months to create a multimedia story which is later shared online.
“Teachers tell us students are engaged, they love doing stories, they are willing to work the night to finish the story. But do they learn?” asks Di Blas. “Many times when you introduce technology in schools the students are very happy. But do they really benefit from the experience in an educational sense?” PoliCultura uses mandatory questionnaires before and after the experience, meetings and Skype interviews to carefully evaluate its effects. The findings are encouraging: students not only gain a better understanding of the presented subject, but also get “atypical benefits like development of professional skills. They begin to understand what a deadline is, they learn to be tolerant towards other students, they learn to listen to each other, and, surprisingly, they increase proficiency in all school subjects because they experience what it’s like to be good at school, and want to taste this again.”