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Online Collaborative Projects: Exploring Projects

Before joining a project, you'll want to explore the possibilities. There are many different kinds of collaborative projects available. Judi Harris at her website called Virtual Architecture identifies three types of telecollaborative projects. The discussion below highlights Harris's categories and project areas. What kind of project would meet your need for interpersonal exchange, data gathering, or problem solving?

When possible look for projects that contain archives so you can look at past projects. For example, JASON contains all their past expeditions online.

Go to the JASON expeditions. Spend some time exploring one of the previous expeditions. What can you learn by reading through the archival material?

Interpersonal Exchange

You've probably heard of projects where students around the global communicate through traditional mail, email, chats, forums, video conferencing or other means. By designing activities that match specific subject area standards, these projects can go beyond simple pen pal exchanges.
Keypals involve students in discussing a range of ideas and issues from book discussions to cultural exchanges. Try theePALS Classroom Exchange, and International E-Mail Classroom Connections (IECC) sites for bringing together cross-cultural learning partners and friends.

Global classrooms encourage groups of students to share their ideas and experiences through a worldwide exchange of ideas.

Electronic Appearances often involve experts answering questions. For example, you might chat with an astronaut online.

Telementoring involves students and teachers in becoming coaches and mentors for others. For example, your class might teach another class what they've learned about electricity through a video conference demonstration.

Question and Answer Activities ask students to formulate both questions and answers as part of a content-rich activity. For example, one class may send a picture of a local plant and ask the other class to identify it and list possible uses. Math story problem exchanges are another popular question and answer activity. Many websites such as How Stuff Works have options for asking questions and sharing ideas.

Impersonations are a fun way to learn about people. Your class might take on the role of a character in a book and write to another class in that voice.

Information Collection and Analysis

Many projects involve the collection, analysis, and sharing of information. Consider projects that reach out to people and places that might have information unavailable in your area. If you live in a rural area, connect with an urban school. If you live in the mountains, exchange ideas with people who live on the coast. At CIESE (Center for Improved Engineering and Science Education), you can find lots of great data collection science projects. Mrs. Silverman has been sponsoring primary grade projects for many years. Check out her projects at Kids-Learn.
Information Exchanges involve students in sharing all kinds of data. For example, students might exchange information about the cost of living in the place that they live.

Database Creation asks students to collect and organize information in some way. For example, your project might involve the creation of a database of recipes from different cultures, books reviews, or recycling information.

Electronic Publishing involves students in sharing information with the world through the creation of web pages and other forms of electronic publication. For example, you might create an online project where students share modern folktales.

Telefieldtrips allow students to share their real-world field trips with others who might not be able to experience a field trip. For instance, students visiting a local factory could take photographs and share these pictures with others on a web page. They might even communicate with other schools during the field trip through email or video conferencing. A class could also participate in an ongoing professional field trip such as a scientific expedition to a live volcano.

Pooled Data Analysis projects enable students to collaborate with others on social and scientific inquiries such as water testing, soil analysis, or local history. Information is brought together, analyzed, and shared.

Problem Solving

In many projects, students are faced with a problem to be solved. In solving the problem, students may need to organize information into charts or graphs, make notations on maps, or analyze data. National Math Trail involves problems with math and Classroom Anatomy involves human body science projects.

Information Searches involve students in seeking out data in order to solve a problem. Students might ask questions, use websites, or collect data live.

Peer Feedback Activities ask students to collaborate through sharing ideas and providing peer review or clues in solving a problem. For example, one student might create a picture and another child could write a story to go with the picture.

Parallel Problem Solving allows students to work on similar problems at the same time and share their results.

Sequential Problem Solving involves students in a series of problem solving activities over time. Each problem may build on others. Some travel buddy projects involve sequential activities. For example, a stuffed bird is sent from place to place and students follow it's experiences.

Telepresent Problem Solving involves students working through problems live. For example, students at different locations may conduct the same experiment at the same time and share their results live.

Simulations let students have a virtual experience with a real world problem. Students explore real-world issues without the consequences of impacting the world. For example, they may pretend to experience an earthquake or other disaster. Or, students follow a reenactment of an Oregon Trail trip.

Social Action projects let students have a real impact on the world. In the Grocery Bag project, students decorate paper sacks as part of an Earth Day Project. Grandparent projects might help seniors with a particular community problem.

As you explore a project, think about the time and activities that will be involved. Will the activities address your learning goals?

eyesRead Rollin' Down the River from Edutopia. What kinds of knowledge, skills, and attitudes will this project instill in students? Why is this type of project important for the learners?

Explore A Project
Brainstorm questions and problems related to your content area. Consider problems that might require information exchange, data to be collected from remote sites, or problems to be solved. Would the perspectives or data collected from people from different places, cultures, or background be useful? How?

| Exploring Projects | Locating Projects | Selecting Projects | Adapting Projects | Creating Projects | Creating a "Call for Participation" | Implementing the Project | Doing a Travel Buddy Project | Online Collaborative Projects |

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