The Value of Collaboration & Considering a Summer Program that Promotes Collaboration
Initial Questions about Collaboration and the Future
- Do you have a 2020 vision for what you will do in these next ten years?
- Have you thought about the importance of collaboration in your plans?
- Are you considering attending an educational summer program or participating in an extracurricular activity that promotes collaboration?
As a former high school math teacher, I had the good fortune to ponder numerous questions as we welcomed in a new decade. I was faced with many momentous decisions that would impact the way I prepared my lessons. As we enter the year 2020, how will you develop your academic and career goals in a new decade that will most likely be filled with technological advances not even developed yet? What do you really need to know right now that will be relevant to your future career? Have you considered expanding your learning beyond the academic year by exploring summer educational camps or programs? Will you be taught by a robot? Would a robot do a better job of advancing your ability to learn?
These questions are difficult to answer; however, I decided that I could help answer the last two questions with a “no way, no how” attitude, since I believe productive human interaction is the key to preparing students for their life’s journey. Collaboration will need to be your 2020 Uber!!
The Importance of Collaboration
There were many topics in mathematics that were established as universal truths way before the invention of smart phones and other portable devices. Can you imagine living without technology? Think about how the ancient Greek mathematicians like Pythagoras, Euclid, and Aristotle developed their theories without the use of even a calculator! Imagine how you are just a click away from inventing or discovering new theories that will help better our understanding of the world.
I think this is all very exciting and want to reiterate that I do not think these can be achieved in isolation. I am not saying you will need to dress in a toga and share your ideas in a forum, however, I think the latter is more likely in your future. We still need to work and play well with others to have our ideas heard and used. Even robots will need to be programmed to interact with humans! Once again, the attribute that will transcend this new decade and add to global productivity is collaboration.
Student Excels in math through Collaboration
When I developed lessons that involved collaboration, I was awe struck by how well certain students performed when they could speak with others about their ideas. I also noticed that students who participated in extra curricular activities were more apt to take on leadership roles during these collaborative lessons.
One student I vividly recall came up with a creative way to remember geometric definitions. I had put students into eclectic groups to create study cards for the upcoming chapter test. My student was not a strong math student but excelled in theater. He helped his group to create a stage scene where characters and props were named based on a geometric figure with lines containing their appropriate definitions. It was a comedy to say the least as we all enjoyed hearing from Rhonda the Rhombus and Pete the Pentagon.
He ended up acing his exam and we all celebrated with Squirrel the Square – they were all high school students so fun can be had at this level too!! It was working in collaboration with his group members that helped him to remember all of the definitions. He ended up attending a liberal arts college and became an attorney – he shared with me that he used his theatrical memorization technique from our class to study for the bar exam. Imagine how well you can do if you just study with others and create your own learning stages!
Summer Educational Camps can enhance Collaborations Skills
After using collaborative learning activities for many years, I have concluded that students who participated in extra curricular activities or attended summer educational camps were more successful during these activity-based lessons. They just seemed more prepared to delve deeper into a concept and actively listen to each others’ ideas. I then took some time to find out why.
I interviewed these students and they shared with me that they always like group activities better than working on their own because they were able to solve bigger problems with the use of more minds and productive use of time as they worked together (i.e. solve a problem, compose music, create a video game).
The students who attended summer educational camps said that collaborative activities have more of a focus like they experienced at their summer camps and enjoy having time to focus on one thing. They also shared that they liked residential learning models where they could continue discussions at night that were centered on a daily workshop.
In addition, students were able to clearly identify the leadership skills they gained from these summer experiences and were excited to share what they learned about themselves in these settings. Yes, this helped me to create lunch and after school discussion groups where we spent time looking at ideas more closely. Collaboration opened my eyes to many interesting findings and changed the way I approached teaching new topics.
Collaboration Impacts a Career Decision
At the university level, I worked in nationally funded programs to provide students with hands-on math activities. I would constantly hear excitement, laughter, and affirmations from children yelling “I got it” with genuine enthusiasm. This positive energy also was contagious for the instructors who then simulated these exploratory lessons in their own classrooms during the academic year.
One student who participated in this program as a seventh grader said that she remembered meeting me and my students who were studying to be teachers. The way we studied math was really fun. She also commented on how the group work centered on kinesthetic and artistic activities made such a positive impact on her learning in high school and later in college. She then entered one of my education classes and said “do you remember me, I was the first one who got the answer right and it has helped me to love math and be here today to learn how to be a math teacher”. My day was made and my question once again answered – collaboration leads to confidence which ultimately leads to a career choice. We are not ready for robots, yet!
The Potential Benefits of Collaboration Skills and Summer Programs
As summer programs have progressed over the decades, I am pleased to see more innovative opportunities for students to explore STEM related fields and work with experts as they learn to appreciate research. I have always encouraged my students to achieve their personal and academic goals because my future as an aging citizen depended on their successes!! I truly believed that nurturing their collaborative abilities would enhance my quality of life, especially as it relates to medical care.
I also wanted them to create a better world for my grandchildren and stressed the importance of research that would positively impact society and the globe. There are many summer educational programs that are dedicated to these specific issues and allot plenty of time for students to collaborate on research projects centered on issues related to health, social challenges, sustainability, and future careers. These are truly exciting and promising times.
Concluding Notes about Collaboration and Summer Opportunities
So let’s make your new decade a productive one! Ring in 2020 and explore summer programs that are based on a collaborative curriculum. You can visit one of the following links to read about specific summer programs and determine if they use collaborative activities.
As a note, a student or parent can contact a representative of a program directly to inquire about the type of collaborate work is that is a embedded in a summer program or camp.