Being at the cusp of the fifth industrial revolution — one which predicts the rising functionality of artificially intelligent computers — the education industry has had to readjust its priorities.
The rationale is that if machines are going to remember, handle and process information more quickly and accurately than humans, then humans must specialise in tasks that machines will most struggle to perform.
Collaboration is one such skill – important because of its central role to the future of globalised employment.
Of course, in classrooms there are many tried-and-tested, face-to-face methods for collaboration, but these are restricted to time and place.
That’s where online collaboration tools have become essential.
Probably the best known collaboration software among educators is Google Docs, essentially a free online word-processing display that allows for simultaneous multiple users.
Teachers can create documents and control them with a vast array of in-built settings, including whether users must give their name, or if they have read-only rights, whether they have time limits on the document’s viability and more.
If users self-identify when logging on, then their names will appear next to the words they type, if not then Google will allocate random animal names to them, which may or may not be helpful in context.
Better known as videoconferencing software, Zoom is a powerful tool that processes video at impressive speeds for mostly smooth and high-quality interaction.
Teachers can show their face, their screen or both, and can allow students to also show their face or screen, as well as communicate via an instant chat box.
Zoom also brings the ability to split students into breakout rooms, which allows for subgroup collaboration before returning to the broader forum.
Microsoft’s OneNote Class NoteBook is an impressive tool that rivals many LMSs. Its collaboration space is a free-for-all canvas, much like Google Docs.
Being a webpage rather than a word-processing display means that you can enlarge or shrink the space at will, allowing for seemingly endless opportunities for multimedia collaboration.
From experience, I recommend using this with structured tasks, such as charts with labelled columns and allocated roles.
This will help students find their duties and understand the expectations of this learning space.
Less commonly used in schools, but a favourite with creative industries, Slack allows users to create multiple, hash-tagged comment streams for discussion.
Each stream allows for versatile multimedia uploads, the establishment of sub-groups and excellent search functionality.
But perhaps Slack’s greatest asset is its design, with the iOS experience being particularly clean and responsive.