Creating Collaborative Minds

Collaborative learning is on the rise and according to the 2015 NMC Horizon Report Preview, “Research studies have revealed that teamwork exercises and cooperative learning environments bolster student engagement and performance.”

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James Gee (2013) agrees in his book The Anti-Education Era and says that human minds are not meant to think by themselves. Rather, we are meant to “integrate with tools and other people’s minds to make a mind of minds” (p. 153). He calls this network of minds a “Mind” (capital “M”) where the sum is greater than the individual parts. Many businesses agree with this assessment and therefore today’s jobs rely heavily on collaboration. As a result, employers are looking to hire employees who already know how to successfully collaborate with their co-workers. Since using collaboration tools can increase student engagement and performance while also helping to prepare students for future jobs, we as teachers must do our part and provide these collaborative opportunities. While there are many great collaborative tools out there, I will focus on Google Drive, Padlet, Popplet and an organization (and collaborative) tool called Trello.

While many of you have been requiring your students to use their Google Drive there are always new things to learn! To start, when students are beginning a collaborative project, instruct them to create and share a folder. Then anything they create in (or add to) this folder will automatically be shared. This may include research articles, PDFs, Google Docs, etc. In addition, if they are writing a collaborative paper, lab report, etc in a Google Doc, they can also take advantage of the “Suggesting” mode. When a student edits by adding to or deleting from the Google Doc, this information is automatically assigned a bright color and a comment box appears to the right of the text. This allows the rest of the group to clearly see the proposed changes at which time they can “Accept suggestions” or “Reject suggestions”. Once they choose to accept or reject, the new text reverts to the normal color (or the deleted text disappears) and the comment box disappears (however, the history of these changes is still available). While this “suggesting” mode is not available in Google Sheets or Google Slides, students can still make their own edits and leave comment boxes along the right hand side. More information on suggesting, editing and collaborating on Google Drive can be found by watching the embedded video below.

Padlet is an online noticeboard. Students can create a collaborative Padlet and use it to brainstorm ideas, post research, display possible quotes, etc. In addition, a teacher could create a Padlet with many slides on it, make copies to share with different groups and ask each group to discuss and organize the slides in a way that makes sense to them. To learn more about Padlet and how it can be used to provided collaborative opportunities in your classroom, watch the embedded video below.

Popplet is essentially a mind-mapping tool. Similar to Padlet, students can create a collaborative Popplet and use it to brainstorm and/or organize their ideas and research. They can even add comments to each box. According to the Popplet blogPopplet Comments lets you add extra information in text form to individual popples, storing this information discretely behind the main popplet board and adding a whole new dimension to your collaborative work.” In addition, teachers can share already (or partially created) Popplets for students to work with. Want to learn more? Watch the video embedded below.

Trello has everything you need to organize projects of any size. Well, at least that is what they say! Trello allows the user to create a board (kind of like a project). They can then add cards of things to do while inviting other Trello users and dividing up the tasks. Checklists can be created, tasks can be assigned, due dates set, comments shared and attachments (from files, Google Drive, Dropbox, etc) and links added. Overall, it is a great way to organize a project! Learn more by watching the video embedded below.

Still looking for more collaborative tools? Check out these websites!


Gee, J. P. (2013). The anti-education era: Creating smarter students through digital learning. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

Horizon Project. (2015). NMC Horizon Report Preview 2015 K-12 Edition. Retrieved from


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