Digital Collaborative Literacy Teams
Timothy G. Weih, Ph.D.
University of Northern Iowa, USA
October 2016

Collaboration and Technology

In today's careers, people are required to work more collaboratively in a workshop format on projects than in the past. This expectation presents many challenges including getting along with each other despite personality differences, the ability to communicate, organize, schedule, and stay on task. These areas require prerequisite skills that in many people do not come naturally; therefore, it's up to the schools to prepare students to be successful in a collaborative, team workshop environment.

In addition, employers are expecting people to have abilities with technology of many different types, and to be able to collaborate with others through the use of technology. Teachers seem to be faced with the daunting task of not only preparing their students to work together on projects, but also to implement the use of technology into the work they are doing, along with communicating through digital means.

Teachers can help their students be prepared for today's challenging work environment through the implementation of the instructional method of Digital Collaborative Literacy Teams, which is a method that provides students the opportunity to build not only their collaboration skills, but also their technology skills.

Team Building

The teacher creates the Digital Collaborative Teams that students will be working in for project development making sure each team has a diverse mix of students in regards to academic ability, language, race, and gender, so that students can draw from each others' strengths. Teams of four students each work best. Before digital projects are assigned, the teacher needs to help the teams to begin to work together by teaching them some team building strategies such as Discovering Similarities and Magnetic Poems (see Weih, 2016a; Weih, 2016b).

Team Captains

Following the team building strategies, students vote on a team captain. There can be a different team captain for each project assigned, or the captains can remain the same across multiple projects. The team captains are responsible for collecting each team member's portion of the digital work and developing it into the final format that the teacher has specified for the project. Once this has been done, the team captain submits the digital project to the teacher.


The method involves the use of technology for teaching, and the implementation of technology by students for learning. The method is not dependent on any certain type of technology, but instead, teachers and students make use of ALL the technology that they have available to them. Moreover, the method and accompanying digital project are situated within whatever technology will be appropriate depending on the age level of students.

Students may need to learn the prerequisite skills necessary for designing, developing, and creating whatever digital project the teacher has assigned. However, students learn best when they can immediately apply what they have learned to an authentic and hands-on production.

Benefits for Students

The instructional method of Digital Collaborative Literacy Teams holds many benefits for students. Not only will they learn crucial collaborative working skills, they will also learn how to use technology for product development as well as for communication purposes in a collaborative work environment. Students, along with teachers, will benefit from the intrinsic motivation associated with the implementation of technology for teaching and learning.

In addition to gaining team working skills, students also develop a team work perspective and attitude as they learn to share responsibility and realize the importance of reliability to their team.

The method is applicable with primary, secondary, and college students. Moreover, students are not restricted by location, but instead, can be anywhere they have Internet access, such as the library, school resource room, or out of school at a location that is project related. If the project is part of a college course which does not require the teacher to be physically supervising the students, students could be meeting either virtually or in person at a location that is either project connected or is convenient for the students. The teacher could then "hold class" virtually or digitally with the teams.

The content subject areas of social studies, science, technology, engineering, and math; in addition to literacy (i.e., reading, writing, listening, speaking, viewing, and presenting) are more easily integrated together using the Digital Collaborative Literacy Team method for instruction and curriculum development.

Closing Comments

It works best to have teams stay together thorough multiple projects despite any differences they may encounter with each other. The teacher acts as a facilitator and a mediator to help the team members learn to work together. This is what it's like in the real world. Adults usually do not have the luxury of choosing their work partners; but instead, work to overcome their differences for the sake of successfully completing the project at hand.


Weih, T. G. (2016a). Classroom relationships: Laying the foundation for a teamwork perspective with elementary students.

Weih, T. G. (2016b). Teaching poetry: Learning to understand and appreciate our differences with elementary students.

Copyright © 2016 Timothy G. Weih, Ph.D.
University of Northern Iowa, USA

About Author / Additional Info:
Timothy G. Weih is an associate professor of education at the University of Northern Iowa, USA, and teaches elementary teaching methods courses.