Teacher Tap


Online Collaborative Projects: Selecting Projects

There are many types of online collaborative projects across all grade levels and content areas.

Select an Internet-based collaborative project. Ask yourself the following questions:

As you select a project, ask yourself. Why is this project important? What does this project do that can't be done in a traditional classroom? How does this project provide a unique experience for my students?

Global connections are one of the best examples of providing a unique experience.

eye means essentialRead Rural Washington Students Connect With The World from Edutopia. Learn about how these children learned about living in a global community.

Project Size

Is the project between teachers, classes, small groups, or individuals? Will many or a few schools be involved? Does the project size meet your needs? Is the project "doable"?

Project Length

Is the project a one-shot, short term, long term, ongoing, or flexible environment? Does the timeline and schedule fit the needs of your class? Does the length fit your needs?  

Participant Background

Does the project include people from similar or different backgrounds? What about the location of the people? Are there other considerations such as socioeconomic, age, gender, and personal interests? Does the project fit your grade level? Are the materials and activities age appropriate? Will students find the project interesting and motivating? Do the participant backgrounds fit your needs?

Content Area Focus

Does the project focus on your content area needs? Does it include cultural connections, scientific observations, real-world writing, multiple perspectives or other good reasons for an outreach project? Does the project match your learning outcomes? Are effective assessments included? How does the project disseminate information, share results, and discuss the project: email, web discussion, chat, video conferencing?

Social Studies projects can involve cultural understanding, community, country, world, past, present, future, time, movement, people, places, ideas, and multiple perspectives. For example, students might exchange information about flags or manners. Discussions might be on topics such as war and peace, homelessness, intolerance, gangs, violence, drugs, or the digital divide. People projects can involve oral histories, famous local people, historic country leaders, unsung local heroes or biographies of pen pals.

Math and Science projects can involve topics such as life, physical and earth science, scientific inquiry, math in everyday life, weather watches (chart temperature, precipitation, humidity), share season and cloud pictures, or weather stories. Natural area projects might include native and nonnative plant and animals, plant and animal studies, and temperature and weather in local areas. Math topics include monetary systems project such as currency, money, barter systems, currency conversion, cost of living, and retail outlet exchanges.

Reading and Writing projects involve students in sharing book reviews, discussing chapters of books, and writing alternative endings. Students can collaborate on a wide variety of writing projects such as poetry pals, creative writing, and descriptive projects. Some projects cross content areas such as myths and legends which are often associated with history projects. Students study local myths and legends, then share their traditional or modern myths with global pals. For example, Cinderella Around with World projects are popular. Many teachers provide story starters such as "through my eyes" or "if I were a..."

 Interdisciplinary projects are a great way to work with teachers within the building as well as around the world. These may combine subject areas such as the geosciences or reach outside the schools for community involvement like grandparent or recycling projects. For example, community projects may include cross-generations, parents, community workers, local experts, museums. After school projects might include pen pals, global friendships, homework support systems, and year-end reviews.

Project Relevance

Is the project relevant for you and use students? Does it focus on authentic sharing including resources, activities, and experiences? Is the project motivating, meaningful, and authentic. Does the activity match your curriculum outcomes?
Authentic Sharing involves students in using real-world resources, activities, and experiences. Students may collect the data themselves or use existing data sets. For example you can find good realtime data and primary resources on the web.
Information Processing asks students to collect, organize, analyze, write, and share information. The M&M project and Watt's Up, and Scienceathon involve math and science skills.
Question and Answer projects may involve interviews, ask-an-expert activities, and impersonations of a famous person or literary figure. Students might hold a debate or a discussion after answering a series of questions. Ask an expert sites include Steven's Institute Index, Mad Scientist, Expert Central, Ask+ Locator, Ask-An-Expert, and Ask Thomas Jefferson.
Interactive projects involve students in exchanging information or ideas. Students might send a story and another class might illustrate. One class might send a description of an invention and another set of students might create it. One student might send a recipe that another student might create. For example, the Monster Exchange involves students drawing pictures and writing stories.

Appropriate Technology

Do you have the hardware and software needed to implement the project (traditional mail, email, forums, chat, video conferencing, productivity tools)? Does the technology match the outcomes of the project? Does the technology make good use of time? What type of data would be collected and shared? Why? Is this a good reason for using the Internet?
Traditional Mail projects involve old fashioned surface mail or snail mail. Flat Stanley projects are very popular. These are based on the story of a boy who is paper thin and can be sent through the mail. These projects have extended to include sending all kinds of things through the mail including stuffed animals, models, fossils, artwork, videos, and all kinds of other products and objects. Students often read books and write in journals before sending the materials to the next school on the list. Information is often posted on an Internet site so students can track the movement of the project. The Farms Around the World project is a Flat Stanley project were Stanley visits farms. In the Sands project, students share vials of sand.
Email is one of the most popular technologies used in projects. Although you may think of email as text, students can also send attachments including sound, graphics, and video files. Files made in Kidpix, HyperStudio, Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and other formats are common. With the growing interest in digital cameras, you'll find increasing numbers of photos being sent over email. Kidlink contains many email projects. Use the 42explore Charts and Graphs page for ideas. The Geoanimals project is another that involves sharing visuals.
Online Discussions can be live or delayed. For example, chats and live video discussions are an excellent way to maintain the flow of a discussion, while threaded discussions and forums let students think about their responses. The Underground Railroad project contains a threaded discussion. If you want to build your own threaded discussion, try NiceNet.
Video Conferencing can bring both video and audio into your classroom through meetings and other events. You can include experts in your classroom activities from around the world. Consider holding online debates using this format or sharing live presentations, experiments, and skits. Check out the video conferencing directory and classroom conferencing page for ideas.

Select A Project
Select a project to explore. Evaluate the project in the following areas:

Project Size
Project Length
Participant Background
Content Area Focus
Project Relevance
Appropriate Technology

| 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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