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Hotchalk Global

news & tips

A collection of helpful articles on teachers and teaching

Holly Clark: Computers and Mobile Devices can be Awesome Collaboration Tools

Holly Clark has been in education technology since before it was hip.

The consultant, speaker and San Diego-based teacher earned her master’s in 1996 — two years before Google was founded.


Holly Clark

She knew early on that bring technology into the classroom meant more than wheeling a computer into the corner. Clark quickly saw that her students were sharing their learning with one another.

“As far back as 2000, I saw my kids collaborating to do homework,” Clark said. “They were excited to do that. They would ask and explore questions with each other that they didn’t in class.”

Clark had struggled in non-collaborative classrooms as a student. The revolution going on before her eyes — from lecture to working — excited her.

“It gives me goose bumps when I talk about how classrooms can work now. I hated it when I had to do anything in isolated way, as student or a teacher,” she said. “I’m dying that I’m not a student right now.”

Her classes share Google docs with students from around the world. And they bring the world into the lives through special Skype presentations — be it an author of a book they are reading or a classroom from the other side of the country. (Check out her tips for collaborating with another classroom.)

Tips for Making Classrooms More Collaborative

For teachers who want to adopt collaborative classrooms with the tech smarts to bring in the real world, Clark has some easy tips:

  • Start tweeting: The first is one we’ve heard a lot about: Twitter. Clark suggests that budding technologists and teachers of all sorts check out the conversations going on at #edchat and find a mentor or a teacher to team up with.
  • Learn etiquette: Before launching any collaborative project, teachers should review digital citizenship. They should ask students to think about the impact of commenting, what it means to work together and about the power of a digital footprint, Clark said.
  • Involve parents: Teachers can’t forget to bring parents along for the ride. They may want to know why their children aren’t learning cursive, Clark said. Teacher will need to talk about 21st century learning and reducing fear of screen time. If parents think their child isn’t writing, show them the blogs and presentations you plan.
  • Embrace devices: Teachers should also demystify the machines — tablets, computers, and smartphones — for parents. When teachers hold parent conferences, they should talk about how to find homework online and other basic how-tos the parents may need.
  • Dare to fail. Finally, lighten up. Clark urges teachers to drop any fear of failure. “Don’t be afraid of the mess. If you are experimenting, it should be messy,” she said.

“We are starting 2014,” Clark said. “People have to start doing this. Our kids and future learners need to be people able to work in a digital community. Teachers became teachers because they care. This can’t be ignored. Students have to be able to work with people they can’t see or know.”

Want to know more? Check out Clark’s blog at or follow her Twitter handle @HollyEdTechDiva.

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