Collaborator Module


Explore: Why Collaborate?

Being open to collaboration is a key to building personal or professional learning networks.

In his book,  Too Big to Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now That the Facts Aren’t the Facts, Experts Are Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room Is the Room, David Weinberger proposes that “knowledge is becoming inextricable from—literally unthinkable without—the network that enables it”. He goes on to say:

We used to know how to know. We got our answers from books or experts. We’d nail down the facts and move on. But in the Internet age, knowledge has moved onto networks. There’s more knowledge than ever, of course, but it’s different. Topics have no boundaries, and nobody agrees on anything. Yet this is the greatest time in history to be a knowledge seeker… if you know how.

Steven Johnson also contributes to the discussion of the importance of collaboration in the video Where Good Ideas Come From (Riverhead Books, 2010) retrieved from:  noting that networks are needed to germinate and spread ideas.

Where Good Ideas Come From Video by Steven Johnson

Your own network of collaborators might be made up of dozens or even hundreds of people with different interests and areas of expertise. You probably engage with them through a variety of modalities: face-to-face conversations, texts, email or over a multitude of social media outlets. Consider all of them as members of your PLN.

While PLNs are not new, the platforms they are built on today have changed. Many teachers use social media to create their digital PLN. In these informal professional development networks, Twitter is often the platform of choice because of its immediacy in finding practical solutions, answering questions, and identifying resources related to teaching. Project collaboration tools such as RocketChat, Slack, and Microsoft Teams may also be used for more focused, yet private, conversations and workspaces about teaching and learning.

Extend Community

From highlighting passages in a reading to scribbling notes in the margins, annotation has a familiar place in our roles as students and academics. Web-based tools such as provide a new level of collaboration to that process by giving us the ability to attach notes, commentary, and discussion to any document that exists on the web.

Visit the Extend Community Space in the #collaborator channel to share some thoughts below of how you might see a use of web annotation as a collaborative activity, or share what kinds of ways you already use tools like (e.g. comments on Google docs is a form of annotation, as are things like Vialogues for annotating / discussing video).

Ways to Collaborate

In this module we focus on online opportunities to collaborate. The Internet distributes connections and ideas more effectively than most of us could have imagined just a few years ago. In fact, the earliest online communities shed light on the promise of how collaborative online spaces could become the locus of rich and vibrant experiences in learning together.

You can create an online space that allows for this exchange within a teaching and learning context in one of two ways: through participating in digital communities for learning that already exist, or by building your own learning network. In the meantime, you can visit the Extend Toolkit to learn more about options for online collaboration tools.

A good collaborative community may reflect the guiding principles found within a “community of practice,” which has been defined as a group “of people who share a concern or a passion for something (domain) they do and learn how to do (practice) it better as they interact regularly” (Lave & Wenger, 1998). To better understand the role of communities of practice, read the post from Dr. Tony Bates: The Role of Communities of Practice in a Digital Age (Tony Bates).

Communities of practice generally have three main characteristics:

  • Domain: a shared knowledge and skill within a focused area.
  • Community: individuals converging and learning together.
  • Practice: sharing strategies, tools, resources and examples through a knowledge exchange.


A Circle of People, representing a community of practice illustating that a community of practice spontaneously comes togehter under a common/theme/purpose to build trust among members in order to share tactic knowledge thereby developing shared practice. This creates collective intelligence which becomes implicitly held knowledge with each other.

The aim is to broaden your network to include diverse, cross-disciplinary skills and insights, and the online world affords just that. You will find that you can often meet peers and potential collaborators through chance online meetings in discussion groups or by using social networking tools such as Twitter.

Extend Activity 

The Power of Twitter

Watch the video Using Twitter Effectively in Education (Teaching and Learning in Southern Australia, 2013), with Alec Couros who is a professor at the University of Regina. He is a leading thinker about digital skills for educators and the development of PLNs. Couros explains his thinking about Twitter in the video and why you might want to “follow” particular educators or monitor specific hashtags.

Using Twitter effectively in education Video with Alec Couros

If you do not have a Twitter account, you may want to sign up for one ( and to spend some time exploring and experimenting. If you are not sure who you should follow as a Twitter user, ask your colleagues for suggestions.  Here are some guidelines to get started.

Tag @ontarioextend in a tweet commenting on one thing you learned with regard to using Twitter effectively in education.

As evidence of completion, please plan to provide the web address to your tweet in the Collaborator badge submission form.

Extend Activity

Think about the past year of your professional life. What types of projects or ideas have collaborated on with others?  Now, on a piece of paper, or using one of the Image tools in the Extend Toolkit, draw a dining table or modify an open licensed image of one.

  • Choose one of the projects you identified (successful or otherwise) and draw or indicate a place setting for each person involved at the table. Describe each person you worked with. Consider the following questions:
    • Were they part of or outside of your discipline?
    • How did your skills compare with theirs?
    • Do they offer a diverse perspective that is different from yours?  If so, how does this help improve your teaching?
  • At the centre of the table list the modes and communication tools you used to collaborate. Note which ones worked better than others.
  • Identify patterns and gaps:
    • Highlight the type of people and processes that you know work well for you and which ones do not.
    • Identify anything that is missing from the table—anything you need to consider for future collaborations.
    • Take a photo of your “collaborative dining table” or export it as an image file. Then share it on twitter with a mention of @ontarioextend and the hashtag #oextend.

Include the web address for your tweet in your response to the Collaborative Dining Table activity. As evidence of completion, please plan to enter the web address for your response in the Collaborator badge submission form.

ENGAGE: Personal Learning Networks

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