Using Technology to Enhance Group Collaboration in Blended Learning

Workshop Session 1

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Brief Abstract

This workshop is geared for anyone desiring to utilize technology to enhance group work in blended learning classes. Google Applications such as Google Docs and Google Chat, Pinterest, Youtube, and Padlet will be highlighted. Presenters will demonstrate how specific technologies can be implemented to enhance group projects.


Laura Terry has worked in the field of education for fifteen years and is currently a Full Time Faculty at Grand Canyon University. Laura has experience teaching in a variety of modalities including face to face to face, online, and blended learning. She teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in psychology and writes curriculum for the discipline as well. Prior to working at Grand Canyon University, Laura was a high school counselor for three years and taught American Sign Language courses at a local community college for five years. She also worked as a special education teacher focusing on students who were deaf and hard of hearing for eight years.   Dr. Terry is originally from Pennsylvania; however she moved to Arizona in 2000 to escape the cold weather, snow, and rain. She is a huge fan of the HOT Arizona summers. She enjoys spending time with her husband and three children.
*Education and Employment Experience: I graduated from Arizona State University with a bachelors degree in psychology and was immediately hired by a local law firm. After a year of paralegal work, I dove into the exciting but challenging world of criminal justice. Working as a probation officer for sex offenders, drug addicts, white collar criminals, and gang-members over a ten year span really opened my eyes to the complex and mind-boggling determinants of human behavior. During this time I pursued a masters degree in Education, with a concentration in Leadership from Northern Arizona University. My maturing interest in understanding life-crippling addictive behaviors drove my pursuit of a doctoral degree in Psychology, with a dual specialization in addictions and education. *Teaching Experience: Teaching has always been a passion of mine! Prior to teaching at the college level, I instructed budgeting classes to financially delinquent and challenged probationers. I also trained probation officers on methods to improve communication, defendant compliance, and motivation. I have been instructing college-level courses since 2007 and have taught at four major universities (online, ground, and blended modalities). I currently teach at Grand Canyon University, located in Phoenix, Arizona. I primarily teach General Psychology, Social Psychology, Abnormal psychology, and Human Sexuality. I also teach a variety of sociology, humanities, ethics, and criminal justice courses- both undergraduate and graduate level. I'm thankful to instruct diverse disciplines, as I believe it is important to view human behavior from multiple theoretical lenses in order to have a more balanced perspective on it. its amazing how psychology, sociology, criminology, and other disciplines are intricately linked to one another. Humans are quite complex!
Jessi Farmer is an Arizona Native and an ASU Sun Devil. She graduated from Arizona State University with a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in Communication Studies. She is currently a Lope as she is working on her Doctorate Degree in Educational Leadership with an emphasis in Organizational Development at Grand Canyon University. Her passion is studying communication within organization settings. She started her teaching career in 2009, as adjunct faculty at Glendale Community College. While at Glendale Community College, Jessi became a Young Life advisor so she could to help mentor students. She now serves as the club advisor to two different student clubs at Grand Canyon University, COM Club and Her Campus. As a professor, Jessi enjoys making abstract theories applicable for students. Furthermore, she challenges students to become well-rounded thinkers by introducing situations and perspectives where theories become pertinent. Born and raised in Peoria, Arizona, Jessi now resides in Phoenix. In her spare time she enjoys ridding her horses and most importantly spending quality time with her family and friends.

Extended Abstract

Instructors across disciplines are using group work to enhance their students’ learning. Whether the goal is to increase student understanding of content, to build particular transferable skills, or some combination of the two, instructors often turn to group work to capitalize on the benefits of peer-to-peer instruction. Group work does not have to happen in face to face settings. Technologies provide the opportunity to learn in peer groups from a distance. Students can chose what type of technology to use to best illustrate learning based upon comfort, learning style, and topic. This presentation will explore the benefits of technology to enhance group work in the blended learning environment. Student feedback will be included to illustrate how students felt about the use of different technologies presented.

Presenters will share various ways to use the free of cost Google applications in their classes to facilitate  positive group interdependence, effortless and efficient collaboration, and  individual accountability. A focus will be placed on Google Docs, Google Slides, and Google Hangouts. In addition, ways to enhance group work using Pinterest, Padlet, and Youtube will be demonstrated. 

Google Docs: Presenters will show attendees how to use Goggle Docs, which allows students to work collaboratively and simultaneously with group members on the same presentation, report, or document. Ways to contribute ongoing and simultaneous feedback among group members and instructors will be demonstrated in addition to using revision history to hold group members accountable for their work.

Google Slides: Presenters will demonstrate how to stimulate group collaboration using Google Slides.   Google Slides works seamlessly with the other Google applications (e.g. data collection) and allows learners to develop and simultaneously modify presentations and other collaborative assignments. Similar to GoogleDocs, each group member can effortlessly modify or add to the existing presentation, making it less cumbersome than PowerPoint. Participants will learn how to create, edit, and share slideshows. Video integration will also be demonstrated.  

Google Hangouts: The possibilities of using Google Hangouts in education are endless. With group members just a video call away, students can work on projects, discuss course concepts, share ideas with one another (even those out of state or country), and so much more. Body language and facial expressions are significant aspects of communication that can be lost in written communication. The face to face connection offered by hangouts allows students to forge more meaningful connections while sharing ideas simultaneously. This piece of the workshop will impart ways this medium can transform the group learning experience. Attendees will leave the workshop with realistic ideas and step-by-step instructions for setting this up in their online or blended classes. Online tutorials will also be shared.

Pinterest: Pinterest is a social media tool that provides the ability to save links to resources discovered on the Internet. The articles, images, or videos that are pinned all link back to the original source. A comment can be added to the pin to serve as a reminder of why the resource was selected and pinned. Students can work together on a group project by adding resources such as research articles, videos, and other web-related resources. This can be done together or independently by locating and pinning ideas onto a shared board. Students in the group and the teacher can add comments to the board or to individual pins that have been added.

Padlet: Padlet is an optimal tool for enhancing engagement between instructor and students. Furthermore, students can work individually, in dyads, or in groups in the classroom or outside of the classroom. This private online tool allows students to collaborate effectively, see what other students are doing, and share their ideas with the instructor. Using Padlet allows instructors to stay FERPA compliant while still moderating their classroom in a third party platform conducive to group work. Padlet allows users to enter and exist easily once the instructor has been shared the link with their class. Using Padlet instructors can post critical thinking questions, scenarios for application, pictures, documents or videos and invite students ‘responses. Padlet allow instructors to customize the background and other features to reflect their personality and/or the personality of the class, further increasing course community and building cohesion.

YouTube: Most students report spending a great deal of time watching YouTube videos. Presenters will explain how instructors can use this popular form of social media in the classroom to enhance students collaboration; formulation, expression, and active discussion of viewpoints and current issues. Participants will learn how to create a class YouTube channel, record lectures, share video demonstrations and content-approved films, embed links, and set up creative ways to elicit student comments.

Takeaway: Presenters will share ways that the technologies listed above can be implemented to enhance group work in  blended learning classes. Participants will be provided the opportunity to set up accounts to use Google Applications, Pinterest, Padlet, and Youtube. Participants will also have the opportunity to participate in activities that utilize the presented technologies and will leave with resources and step-by-step tutorials to continue use after the presentation.