There’s a reason why employers rank collaboration as one of the top traits they expect in their future employees. Technology has provided people with opportunities to work together across time zones and cultural boundaries. And the large scopes of many projects — especially in high-paying, computer-related fields — require more than one person to complete them.

Educators teach students information and help them to turn that information into knowledge, preparing young minds for future employment. For this reason, schools are embracing technology in the classroom not only as a means of improving academic performance, but also as a way to provide experiences that improve students’ soft skills, such as creativity, entrepreneurship and collaboration.

Group projects are a great way to foster collaboration skills among students, but they’re often met with resistance from students because of the challenges associated with group work, such as communication outside of the classroom and peers who don’t contribute an equal share. Fortunately, a new generation of technology tools is making group projects easy to coordinate and fun for students, while giving teachers the ability to hold each student accountable for their portion of group work.

Mobile Devices Help Students Collaborate

With access to tablets or Chromebooks, students have the flexibility to complete research, write notes and add information to group projects at their own pace — whether they’re in the classroom or at home.

SMART Technologies, a leading provider of interactive educational technology solutions, offers a collaboration workspace called SMART amp, which works for students at all levels. SMART amp provides a shared space in which all group participants can create and add media, notes and other elements to their group project.

One of the biggest benefits is the solution’s ease of use. According to Jeff Lowe, vice president of marketing at SMART Technologies, “the kids are up and running in less than a minute” with the SMART amp workspace. And, because it allows for a variety of media — such as drawings, messages, Google search results, YouTube videos and more — it can be used effectively by young students without being too juvenile for older ones.

Technology in the Classroom Makes the Teacher’s Job Easier

The process of setting up and assigning a group project is a snap, says Lowe. Teachers simply sign in with their Google Apps for Education login credentials, create a class and add lesson content. In fact, he continues, the tool itself is so easy to use that “the professional development piece is not really training on the software. Instead, it’s about showing how to do lessons and teach collaboration.”

Additionally, SMART amp helps teachers monitor students’ progress and complete final assessments. Each student’s contributions to the project are tracked individually, so teachers can see if students are having difficulty and can take action to engage those students and ultimately make them more successful. This crucial insight can help to make the learning experience positive for everyone.

Given the potential for this technology to help students work together, SMART amp will be available as a bundle with Samsung Chromebooks, giving teachers access to these effective tools for making group work function smoothly in their classrooms. And Lowe couldn’t be happier. “A bundle is an effective way to bring together hardware, software and professional development in one easy purchase.”

Tell us about your approach to promoting collaboration in the classroom in the comments below.

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Jennifer Roland

Jennifer Roland is an experienced ed tech writer, having worked on various ISTE publications for 12 years before striking out on her own. Her work has appeared in Ed Tech: Focus on K-12, NPR-affiliate KQED’s education blog MindShift and edCetera. Jennifer’s first book, "The Best of Learning & Leading with Technology," was published by ISTE in 2009. Follow her posts about ed tech and marketing at Follow her on Twitter: @jenroland

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