Software Freedom/Collaboration

The goal of this section is to introduce students to the idea of collaboration and its alternatives.

Clearly, students will have collaborated in the past. This section aims to get them to think explicitly about the choice to collaborate or to work alone and the impact that this choice might have on process and product of their activities. It aims to get students to think of collaborative and non-collaborative creative production more generally and to understand the benefits and difficulties that each introduces.

Explorations and Activities edit

The following activies or explorations might help the students explore and discover the key concepts in this section. Each is framed in terms of the key questions it raises.

Activity: Collaborative and Non-Collaborative Work edit

An activity where students are given, or asked to create, a set of tasks that they believe could be done better by individuals and by groups.

These tasks can, but need not, involve the computer and may involve other projects that the students are working on as part of their studies.

The students should also be asked to come up with metrics by which the group and individual progress can be measured. Upon finishing their projects they will evaluate their projects and process and discuss what they've learned. Important questions might include:

  • What was difficult about working alone? In a group? What was easy or beneficial in each?
  • In what situations and for what types of tasks is collaboration better than individual work?
  • How were decisions taken in the groups? How could this have been improved.

Activity: Control and Collaboration edit

An activity where students are asked to work in groups to accomplish tasks but are asked to do so under different decision-making systems (e.g., democratic, hierarchical, dictatorial).

Students in groups with leaders are each asked to choose a leader and run an experiment. They are then asked to present, compare, and discuss their "findings." Important questions raised might include:

  • What are the ways that decision-making and control affect the collaborative process?
  • Did the decision-making system have any effect on the quality or time in which the group finished their work?
  • Which groups had more fun or felt more motivated? Which groups were more productive? Did some people feel more invested in the product or proccess than others? Why?

The goal with this questions is to prompt students to notice and to think critically about collaboration as a choice and about decision-making systems and control structures in the context of collaboration.

Key Concepts edit

Students could walk away from this section with:

  • An understanding of the way in which collaboration can increase both the quality and quantity of goods and ideas produced and can allow groups of individuals to produce more than any single person would be capable of.
  • Examples of places where collaboration does not work well and ways in which collaboration can be hindered, stunted, or blocked.
  • Knowledge that changes to the control and decision-making structure under which a collaborative project or enterprise is executed can effect the nature of the project's ultimate product and the motivations of the collaborators throughout.

Additional Readings edit

  • "Why Write ... Together: A Research Update" by Lisa Ede and Andrea Lunsford in Rhetoric Review (1986) 5.1 pp. 71-81.
  • "Do 1 and 1 Make 2?" by Collette Daiute in Written Communication (1986) pp. 382-408
  • "Successful Collaboration: When Two Pens are Better Than One" by Leonard Felder in Writer (1983) v96 pp. 20-221