I have done a fair bit of reading lately about the differences between collaborative and cooperative learning. Both involve active learning as opposed to passively receiving knowledge, however cooperative learning is more about students working together in groups to achieve a specific end product or goal determined by the teacher, whereas collaboration gives the responsibility to the students to determine what the final product will look like, with guidance by the teacher mentors of each group. The PYP Exhibition is truly collaborative learning as students first choose issues that interested them, and are then put in groups across all the 5 Grade 5 classes with other students who share their interests. Learning comes about through dialogue among the students and with outside "experts" and they decide themselves what the final product will be. This dialogue also helps the students to appreciate multiple perspectives.
In the PYP Exhibition it is the process that is most important (the final product is only started in the last 2 weeks of the unit). Because it is collaborative learning, the teacher mentor transfers authority to the group and the investigation is open-ended - this truly empowers students to work as a team and ensure all group members learn, but it also encourages them to be independent as each student's performance is monitored and assessed by the mentors.
This year the students are blogging about the process. The class teachers have also set up Netvibes where resources can be shared and a calendar posted with deadlines. As an IT teacher I am not going to mentor an individual group, but instead I will mentor all the groups that decide to use technology as part of their final product. Maybe some groups would like to make a movie or a podcast, others might like to make a web page, a Glog or a Prezi. Some students may like to use VoiceThread. I anticipate many groups will chose to use Web 2.0 tools this year and I'm excited to see what they choose.
Photo Credit: Collaboration by ChrisL_AK