A reflection on collaboration.

col·lab·o·ra·tion  /kəˌlabəˈrāSHən/

Noun:
  1. The action of working with someone to produce or create something.
  2. Something produced or created in this way.

The Writing Spaces articles we read this week are all about collaborative writing. The first article, A Student’s Guide to Collaborative Writing Technologies by Matt Barton and Karl Klint, presents two students in a hypothetical situation involving collaborative writing. The second article, Writing “Eyeball To Eyeball”: Building A Successful Collaboration by Rebecca Ingalls, is about the steps you follow to have a successful collaborative writing experience. The third article, Collaborating Online: Digital Strategies for Group Work, shows you how the different online tools for collaborative writing, and the benefits of each. Collaborative writing is important because much of what you do in school, on the job, and in your everyday life involves the ability to work well with others.

These three articles all have things in common. They all stress the importance of collaboration as a valuable skill, especially in a professional career. Collaborative papers written in college prepare you for teamwork in your professional life. This is especially true for the job I wish to have, because I’ll have to do collaborative writing with others to prepare myself to testify in court, and when I prepare the files for the children I’ll be working with. All of the articles also present the problem of making sure that every member of the group has an equal work load. I was always the smart kid who got stuck doing all the work, while everybody else chilled. And then we all made the same grade, even though everybody else put in no effort. I like the idea the third article presented. Anthony Atkins proposed the idea of using a wiki page, and the main wiki page is the house, and the smaller pages are the rooms. Each group member would work on their own room, and the website can be shared with the teacher, that way everybody does an equal amount of work. The second article suggests keeping an open mind, which would help me since I have such a negative connotation about group work. All three of the articles also suggest using Google Docs, which means that it must be helpful.

The first article suggested using Twitter for collaborative writing. This is interesting, because I never thought about Twitter being anything more than a social networking or blog site. I tweet a lot, but I never thought about using it for school, other than to tell classmates what they miss if they’re absent. I’ve never heard of the websites Dakota and Madison used to write their paper, but they would be really useful if I was ever in their situation and needed to communicate over the computer. I would definitely try them. I went to Lee High School in Montgomery, but I live quite a ways away. I had to drive to town a lot to work on group papers. I wish I had known it was possible to do them online like this. It would have saved me a lot of time and gas money. It would be so easy to write a paper with somebody from a different city or state… like Oklahoma, for instance.

The second article asks the question “how was the group assigned?” My teachers always assigned the groups, so I never got to work with any of my friends. This could be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how you look at it. Working with friends means more distractions, but it can also mean less arguments and tension. And since you’re working with friends, I’d think you’d be more likely to pull your own weight instead of dumping the work load on your friends. The second article made another good point: you learn from each other whether you agree or disagree. You could learn a lot from people who live in other places (like Oklahoma) because they live in a different subculture, have been taught different ways, and have different experiences. The affinity diagram discussed in the second article can also help me with choosing a topic for my speech in communications class. (Ethos is also mentioned in the second article… there’s rhetoric again.)

The second and third articles differ some from the first article. In the first article, Madison and Dakota didn’t seem to have assigned tasks, they both just worked on the paper here and there. In the second and third articles, the authors say that tasks should be assigned. If you’re working on a huge project, then I’d say you should assign roles. Personally, I like Madison and Dakota’s approach the best and I think it would work best for me. The house analogy with the wiki page would work well, even with people that you don’t know. The Google Docs thing sounds appealing to me for other reasons besides that, though. I’m sure everyone has been in that situation where the project is due, and you’re about to present, but one kid in your group forgot to bring the flash drive. Sucks, right? I’ve been there. But apparently if you use a wiki page and Google Docs, you can do the power point straight from your wiki page on the internet.

After reading these articles, I don’t think I’m quite so against group work or collaborative writing. It wouldn’t have to be a horrible experience, just because I’ve had experiences that didn’t turn out so well in the past. If you strategize right and use the right tools, it could turn out just fine. There are ways to make sure that everybody pulls their own weight, that way one person doesn’t have to do the whole assignment. I can’t always be afraid of collaborative projects, because I will need them for my career choice. Besides, I’m already familiar with Facebook and Twitter, so I would only have to learn to navigate the wiki pages and Google Docs.

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