Experiences with CollaboLearn

Here, you can read about the co-developers’ experiences with CollaboLearn. The co-developers are teachers and pedagogues from two Danish schools, Langagerskolen and Højvangskolen, who through workshops, sparring meetings, and tests in practice with their pupils have gained knowledge and experience with CollaboLearn. The statements of the co-developers derive from interviews from DEFACTUM’s project evaluation of CollaboLearn.

Outcome for the pupils

Regarding the pupils’ engagement and motivation to participate in CollaboLearn and complete play sessions, all the co-developers say that the students are mostly motivated to participate. In relation to why the pupils experience motivation, a co-developer points out:

Because it is not called school. As one of the reasons. And also because it is an informal learning environment, so there are not the same requirements as in a normal teaching situation. And then it is much more engaging. We get their perspectives. It is such an open-ended task that they can do it their way or at their level, and their creativity is not limited. A house can look many different ways.

Co-developer at Langagerskolen

Another co-developer can also feel that it drives the pupils that they can be allowed to put their mark on the activities in the play sessions and thus have some influence.

…when the pupils themselves have helped to choose what they should do, you can really feel their inner motivation. Because they have chosen something that they are passionate about building. Subsequently, we have observed that they have had an easier time putting the session into words, how it has been, because they themselves have helped decide what they should do with guidance from us.

Co-developer at Langagerskolen

A third co-developer describes how the pupils are motivated when they experience ownership within the activity and what they are building:

I think it is because it is a mix of something playful. It is not ass to seat with a math book, but it is something where we use some material like LEGO or building blocks and a product comes out of it from which you can get a sense of ownership. And the fact that it is something different, something they may not be used to doing, but which they may be used to doing at home and are then allowed to do at school.

Co-developer at Højvangskolen

The co-developers emphasize that the pupils get a safe environment in which they can express themselves, which has meant, among other things, that a pupil developed from having sessions alone with an adult to being part of it with another pupil.

The pupils’ engagement is, however, influenced by whether the activities that they have to go through are framed properly:

I think that the pupils often are engaged in participating in the play sessions, but it depends a lot on whether we have framed the exercise correctly. There are many factors such as time and setting etc. and whether you succeed in framing it so that it fits the pupil you have, but I generally think yes.

Co-developer at Højvangskolen

The outcome that the co-developers report is, for example, of a communicative nature. A co-developer says, among other things, that the focus of the sessions is to train the pupils’ communication skills, so that, for example, they learn to look at each other when they talk to each other. She elaborates:

But I also find that they are trained in communication, because that is what we focus a lot on. What to say and what can be said. That you must remember to look at each other and you must remember to agree on things. So just in that situation when they sit there, they become better at it.

Co-developer at Langagerskolen

Another co-developer also says that her pupils have become better at speaking up if their boundaries are violated. A third co-developer finds that his pupils learn by having to relate to each other and what it means to collaborate.

In relation to the communicative aspect, a co-developer also experiences that it creates something relational between the pupils, as they meet outside the CollaboLearn context to spend time and energy talking about the CollaboLearn activities. She elaborates:

They bring something with them after being seen and heard in that setting. And it’s something they think about during the week in relation to the activity. There are at least some times, if it is an activity that we have put on hold, and they have to build on it later, then they can go and spend time and energy talking to each other about it. So, it also provides some communication between the sessions. The thing about being seen and heard and being something special, it gives something to their self-esteem and the relationship between them.

Co-developer at Langagerskolen

In relation to the question of whether the pupils transfer social learning, several co-developers mention that it also requires something from the role of the educator. In situations, the educators can help and remind the pupils that the specific situation is reminiscent of something from the CollaboLearn room, and in this way support the pupils in transferring some of the learning:

I think it is important – especially with our target group – to be there to help and guide them. Maybe make them remember what we did in the CollaboLearn room. E.g. by saying, “could you maybe use some of what we did there?” or “do you remember when we talked about that?” So, we are there to open those doors because they can’t do it themselves. That, I think, will enable them to perhaps carry their learning on to other contexts.

Co-developer at Langagerskolen
Outcome for the educators

Several co-developers say that they have gained a greater perspective on where social learning occurs and how it can be organized. For example, a co-developer says that, in connection with her participation, she has noticed what influence the degree of structure can have on the individual pupil:

I think that when I have sat down to plan, I have taken into account how high or low the structure should be for the individual pupil, because it has such a big influence on their motivation. I try to find a balance in how the pupil should be included in the teaching and how much I should bring.

Co-developer at Langagerskolen

A number of the co-developers also say that through CollaboLearn they have become aware that social learning can occur and can be seen in many contexts. In relation to this, a co-developer narrows in on his own learning:

When being reminded that maybe it does not always take that much and that it is really just about finding some toys, creating a space, and then just taking it from there. That you will see what happens.

Co-developer at Langagerskolen

A co-developer also mentions that participation has given her a more qualified language when it comes to social learning:

Here, it is easier to come up with the concrete language of what we do, how we do it, and where they have moved. So, it becomes more measurable, and it gives us a tool to put into words where the child is right now, and where it is, of course, that we would like to go. But also, where is it that you at home see that the child is? So, you can talk about it in the differentiated arenas that exist. I think that the material has helped to provide that qualified language about social learning.

Co-developer at Langagerskolen

A co-developer also says that he has gotten to know his pupils differently. He mentions, for example, that he better understands the difficulties one of his pupils has:

There is also this thing about being forced into paying attention to our pupils. Forced to get to know them in a different way. There is one pupil in particular that I was very surprised by how much difficulty he actually has with social stuff. I knew that he was challenged in that, but it has become very clear to me, and it gives me as a professional a greater knowledge of my pupils. There are all of a sudden some other things and some other contexts in his school life out here, where it becomes clear that of course we are going to get into trouble here.

Co-developer at Langagerskolen

Another co-developer recounts a situation where he had to play a game with a pupil who is not normally comfortable with playing games:

I transfer it to a large extent to some of the activities I have up in the group. Yesterday, we actually had a situation where we played a game, two pupils and me. One of them is very afraid of losing. It’ is overriding’s paramount and it takes up a lot of capacity for her and usually she can’t really play games. So, some time passes before I talk to her about what is at stake. Along the way – we play 3-4 rounds – we also talk about what is happening, how we help each other etc. And in the last two games, she feels really comfortable. So, the whole idea of ​​sitting and doing something, talking about it and then sitting and doing something again. Interplay between that and trying to put things into play.

Co-developer at Langagerskolen

A third co-developer says that he has been given some tools and some theoretical background that enable him to better argue why he does what he does. He also says that CollaboLearn has given him a professional boost:

It has given me a huge professional boost to implement social learning and an inductive way of teaching. That experiential learning. So, I definitely think that I have become more aware of what I can present to some pupils and in that way get some indicators that I can look for.

Co-developer at Højvangskolen

In relation to what the co-developers transfer from CollaboLearn to other learning environments, one co-developer says that he can transfer some of the learning he has acquired to his general classes at Højvangskolen:

In the classes in general, we have tried to take many of these exercises with us and tried to work with them in the classes. We have tried to add some education as well. For example, I held a workshop recently, where we tried to let our participants in the workshop discover things for themselves first before we came up with the theory behind it. So. I have taken the method of experiential learning with me.

Co-developer at Højvangskolen
Anchoring in the schools

Co-developers from Højvangskolen report that they will continue to use the CollaboLearn material. A co-developer tells why:

Over time, I have seen enough positive outcomes to believe it has its right. I definitely think I will keep the material as a template to lean on. 

Co-developer at Højvangskolen

In continuation of this, a co-developer points out that CollaboLearn can in the future be used in general classes, for example in well-being courses:

I think it will stay and be used both in Børnefællesskabet [The Children’s Community], where we have pupils with diagnoses and other challenges, but also as well-being courses in the general classes, where we have already used it. And also for social play in the merged classes when they are brought together. As a kind of collaborative exercises. So, I think it will be used in many ways.

Co-developer at Højvangskolen

To implement CollaboLearn in schools, the co-developers point out that time is essential to plan, implement, and document the play sessions. A co-developer explains:

One thing I wish was that it was prioritized better in the schedule, because then we would have had our hands on it way back in February when I started. That you were told that it was a priority, because I really think that is crucial for this. And that is what has challenged us. That it has been de-prioritized.

Co-developer at Langagerskolen

Another co-developer says that he also experienced that it was given a lower priority at the start, but that the play sessions are now fixed in the schedule:

I can nod in recognition to that. Now, I started a little before you but that was also where we started. But now ours is fixed in the schedule from 10-11 every Tuesday. The problem is when there is staff sickness. That is where it is vulnerable, because then we will get nowhere.

Co-developer at Langagerskolen

The fact that the possibility of carrying out play sessions is challenged by, for example, illness, vacation, or other tasks in the team is something that several co-developers mention as having significance. A co-developer mentions that it is problematic because it limits the pupils’ outcome:

… so the number of times is just not enough to be able to build up something resembling a common language, and certainly not among the pupils. And it is a huge challenge to get this widely spread out in their daily life. Because there are so many considerations to make.

Co-developer at Langagerskolen

Several co-developers also mention that if the future work with CollaboLearn is to be secured in the schools, it is necessary that more people gain knowledge of what it is and what it can do. A co-developer points out, among other things:

If you want to ensure that it continues to live, then there are more people who need to gain knowledge. Then you must have more people trained in what it is all about, and to have created that common language, so it becomes a common theme, that the whole school has a little knowledge about it. Then, there are some who have more knowledge, so it may well be differentiated. But everyone needs to know what it is. Otherwise, it will be some hocus pocus, which few know what it is and have to spend time on. It must be understandable to everyone why it is important to spend time on.

Co-developer at Langagerskolen

In addition, it is pointed out by a co-developer that it is also important that the school’s leaders are involved. She elaborates:

I think it is important to be able to get everyone involved from the start. For example, the pedagogical leaders. That they see how important this project is. That those who have a lot to say are involved much earlier in this process, so that they see the importance of the project. That, I think, is really important so that it can succeed even better.

Co-developer at Langagerskolen
Play sessions

One of the co-developers says that the material works well, as it concretizes social learning and gives the pupils something visual they can connect the learning to:

… these are quickly fleeting concepts that we are talking about, which are defined by the context or situation that is present. So, for the students, it helps to have something that can show what it is we are talking about or doing right now. Thus, those concrete things definitely help visualize things for them. So, the pupils have a point of reference or something they can tie it to. The visual reinforces what we are talking about right now.

Co-developer at Langagerskolen

Specifically, the co-developers mention that they have become more experienced in creating reflection routines with the pupils and developing their own activities.

I have probably gone from doing playful learning activities without being completely clear on how I should create reflection routines and how I should document it, to being much better at both creating playful learning exercises, to being able to set up reflection routines, to being able to document it and pass it on to others and for it to actually become a regular part of everyday life and what you do. So, in that way, a great development has taken place.

Co-developer at Højvangskolen

The co-developers indicate that the material works well because it is something that captures the pupils:

You can feel that they are into it. And I can feel their level of experience, the way they are participating. That, I think, is one of the things that is really exciting about it. I can feel that it catches their interest.

Ce-developer at Højvangskolen

While the co-developers think that the material is working well, they also find that there are some challenges associated with the material and the play sessions. A co-developer says that what challenges her, among other things, is the documentation part with reflection routines and evaluation.

It is not so much to create a playful process with the various challenges and adaptations that there may be. I actually think I’m quite experienced with that part. I think it’s more the part where we get the reflection and the evaluation. The part where we can make it concrete or more eatable for our target group. That, I think, is really difficult. The evaluation part can easily become super superficial. It is difficult to get them a deeper into or even to create reflection at all. Not all of them are actually capable of it. And how do I bring it into play, support them in it, and make a training ground of it? That is the part I think is really hard.

Co-developer at Langagerskolen

In relation to how the co-developers reflect on the play session afterwards and how they prepare before a play session, it is clear that their use of hypotheses and pupil folders is a large part of both the reflection and the preparation. The co-developers set up hypotheses before the play sessions and after the play session looked to see if there was agreement between what was expected and what actually happened during the session. A co-developer tells:

You need to go in and write this form afterwards, because sometimes you can be a bit lost as to what it should actually be about and what the actual goal was – if there was an actual goal.

Co-developer at Højvangskolen

Another co-developer explains that his reflection takes place with the pupils after a session has ended. Among other things, he talks about a specific learning metaphor that is used in the reflection routine:

I have a colleague, she actually just built a LEGO board with three LEGO men on it, where she was the one in the middle and then there were two LEGO men out on the sides. She had built it because she experienced that the two pupils talked through her instead of talking to each other. Then she basically just asked the students what would happen if she took away the LEGO figure in the middle. Then, fortunately, one of the pupils said: “Then we would talk to each other”, and such a reflection figure should not be any crazier, as long as they can see and understand the message within it.

Co-developer at Højvangskolen
Here, you can read about the co-developers' experiences with CollaboLearn. The co-developers are teachers and pedagogues from two Danish schools, Langagerskolen and Højvangskolen, who through workshops, sparring meetings, and tests in practice with their pupils have gained knowledge and experience with CollaboLearn. The statements of the co-developers derive from interviews from DEFACTUM's project evaluation of CollaboLearn.