Is it possible that collaborative learning be done without any technology at all?

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Collaborative learning is about interacting with others in order to obtain insight on how each person can help one another. As opposed to cooperative learning, which is a facilitating tool, collaborative learning is intended for sharing and analyzing rather than to come together to "complete" a task.  In fact, in a regular classroom where cooperative learning activities are completed, the collaborative moment occurs when students analyze and discuss their findings. Hence, collaboration and cooperative learning are not words that can be used interchangeably.

This being said, collaboration is a philosophy of interaction with a goal of having different people working together. This philosophical approach to learning has been in place as far back as the early 1990's, when it was clear that the world was changing as a result of the imminent advent of technology. Yet, collaborative learning has occurred since before the use of technology became ubiquitous. Let us keep in mind, however, that the literal definition of technology is:

the branch of knowledge that deals with the creation and use of technical means and their interrelation with life, society, and the environment, drawing upon such subjects as industrial arts, engineering, applied science, and pure science.
Therefore, collaboration does not always have to be computer or technology-mediated; everything that can be used as a tool of communication can be technology. Since collaborative learning is primarily about communication, then any communicative tool that exists today, as rudimentary as it may look to the more sophisticated eye, is still viable for collaboration: the telephone, the mail system, pencil/paper clip notes, memos, multi-journals, documentation reviews, data reviews, surveys, and interviews are collaborative tools that do not require advanced technology.

A wonderful example of collaborative learning without technology is the teaching of collaborative Math. Using skills-based programs such as Math through Chess, we get what is perhaps one of the most collaborative learning experiences available for 21st students using, as its main tool, a game that is over 1,500 years old!

If by collaborative learning you refer to remote interaction among schools, or students using VTC, etc., then understandably it would seem that technology is the main facilitator for such experiences. However, pen-pals were extremely popular prior to the 2.0, and so were mail clubs that united people from all over the world who shared common interests.

Therefore, it is possible to collaboratively learn and help one another without technology. Communication is the emphasis of collaboration. Anything that can express any type of message makes collaborative learning possible
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