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4 Ways Collaboration Drives Kids’ Coding Achievement
collaboration, ed tech, parents, teachers

Collaboration is one of those words that you hear everywhere, whether in parenting, teaching, or business circles. But what does it really mean, and why is it great for kids?

Collaboration means working together to create or produce something. In true collaboration, the end result is greater than the sum of its parts, which leads to increased performance and achievement of both the group and individual students.

While collaboration is key across all subjects, it’s particularly important for computer science.

Here are four ways that collaboration drives achievement in coding:

1.  Challenges Mindsets

In CS, there are often many solutions to any one problem, which means that multiple approaches and mindsets are equally valuable in a coding environment. Kids working in groups discover ideas and mindsets that challenge their own, which can lead to deeper understanding and faster acquisition of coding skills compared to children learning on their own. For example, two students may disagree about the best way to program a robot. Listening to  and evaluating both ideas means that students are able to choose the better solution while building their problem-solving skills (and a better robot).

CS Classroom Activity: Design Challenge: Pick a common challenge that kids face (e.g., getting to school on time or keeping focus during class) and ask small groups to design and present a solution. Give the groups time to revise their solutions based on what they’ve heard from their classmates.   

2.  Creates Models for Success

Kids compare themselves to their peers - especially when working together. To use some teacher-talk, kids use each other as mirrors and windows, which help them see possibilities beyond what they can currently do. So, when kids see cool or advanced things their peers are doing with a computer, they realize that they can do it as  well! They feel an increased sense of self-efficacy, which can lead to higher performance.

CS Classroom Activity: Pair your advanced students with their peers after a coding project, and ask them to do a Reciprocal Think-Aloud.

3.  Increases motivation

Collaboration and teamwork are positively correlated with increased motivation and performance in kids. Furthermore, children participating in collaborative projects of any sort demonstrate an increased willingness to ask for help and receive feedback compared to peers working on individual projects. This all applies to coding projects as well!

CS Classroom Activity: In any group coding project, include multiple feedback checkpoints, in which each groups presents their project to other groups in the class to receive feedback to incorporate into the product/design. This is integral to the prototyping process!

4.  Builds broader and deeper skillsets

Larger coding projects require  everyone to help with various parts of the project (e.g., the design, development, and time management), but there is generally one person who “manages” the team. This project style allows students to remain peers and learn while also building their leadership and followership skills.

CS Classroom Activity: Have groups of students do a jigsaw project in Scratch to make a music video, with one student managing character creation, another the music, a third the dance, etc.

Oftentimes, coding projects end up being greater than the sum of the skills of the people working on it. Kids can create amazing things when working together. Collaboration allows kids to see results more quickly than they otherwise would - while also achieving real learning.
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