The greatest criticism that can be leveled against digital collaboration, at least in terms of the 20th Century educational paradigm, is that it does not foster rich and meaningful social interactions. In the words of keyboardist/engineer Richard Hilton “We signed up for a business that was very social, where people would get together in rooms and make music, and other people would be in the control room recording them. We’d all have lunch together and it was a very social business. We now work in an extremely isolated business, so if there’s a downside it’s that the cloud-computing aspect facilitates something that’s a symptomatic byproduct of what is the problem, which is that we no longer work in a social business” (Jackson 18).
Hilton is lamenting the consequences of asynchoronous collaboration: there is no simultaneity to the collaboration as each participant works when it suits them individually, not the group. Synchronous environments (Adobe Connect, Mikogo, Skype), where the collaboration is simultaneous with either text, audio or video interaction, is a remedy to the socialization concern, but perhaps socialization is an unnecessary element of digital collaboration pedagogy? This begs the fundamental question: where on the continuum from output to interaction will digital collaboration pedagogy situate itself? In Hilton’s world the answer is on the output side.
On the contrary, some feel that this negotiation of the aims of digital collaboration will necessitate a rethinking of what collaboration means in the 21st Century. Literally, to collaborate is “to labour with” and perhaps 21st Century Teaching and Learning will return group work to this strict original meaning. I, for one, find the social aspect of teaching and learning to be most enriching. For example, while teaching overseas I received permission to teach one of my classes of enriched chemistry using a synchronous, online environment. This class was held online, every Tuesday night, for two years (the course of study ran two years). The online environment allowed us to keep our community intact, when one of our class members relocated to Kenya after year 1, much to the benefit of the students and the boy who moved to Kenya in particular. Notably, despite audio and video conferencing, the students’ preferred means of interaction was through the text box. This speaks volumes of how those born into the digital universe interact.
Digital collaboration need not mean an end to socialization in the classroom, nor should it mean that social media norms for socialization would dominate. It may well mean that a change in the classroom social paradigm is imminent. “While some may say that it is impossible to replace the rock ‘n’ roll factor that is the result of getting together with a bunch of like-minded souls in a garage, it doesn’t take much imagination to realise that these are exciting developments that could well see the internet becoming the record label of the next-generation and that the genre that is World music may one day mean something entirely different” (Anderson). The “cloudroom” is still to be negotiated.
Anderson, Vicki. “Virtual Jams; Online Musical Collaboration.” The Press: 0. Dec 04 2007. Web. 16 Jan. 2013.
Jackson, Blair. “Cloud Collaboration.” Mix 35.5 (2011): 16-18. Business Source Alumni Edition. Web. 16 Jan. 2013.
Scott-Heron, Gil. “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.” Pieces of a Man. RCA, 1995. CD.
© K.C. Hoffman and learnersinadangeroustime.wordpress.com, 2013.