A Framework for Electronic Communication and Collaboration
Finding Collaborative Online Projects
Online Project Sampler
Let's take a look at some online projects which demonstrate the application of each of the scenarios presented in A Framework for Electronic Communication and Collaboration.
Person to Person: Example
Smart ALEC is basically a clearing-house for students -- and teachers -- looking for pen pals. The site is divided into four searchable areas -- E-Penpal Club for students, Teachers E-Penpal, Tell a Joke, and Kids Recipes. Names are kept in the database for up to a month. There are no prescribed activities or projects. The aim of the site is simply to "promote global communication via the Internet."
A nice feature of the site is the section for teachers that lists classes searching for partners and teachers searching for colleagues to correspond with. The site also has a much more global usership than many pen pal sites, with entries from Singapore, Malaysia, India, Australia, Sweden, Finland, and Great Britain, in addition to the many from the United States.
NOTE: Smart ALEC does not warn students about the potential dangers of giving out personal information over the Internet. It is important to make sure that you and your students exercise caution and common sense when doing so. Try to monitor all outgoing and incoming email in your classroom.
Person to Group/Group to Person: Examples
The SchoolWorld Zoo
The SchoolWorld Zoo is a virtual wildlife site that is broken up into four areas: SchoolWorld's Adoption Center, Ask An Expert, Letters From Around the World, and The Endangered Species Project.
It is The Endangered Species Project that best exemplifies the Person to Group aspect of online collaboration. After choosing a specific species from a list, students conduct research, analyze and interpret information about the species, and write reports. Reports submitted to the site may be published. Students whose reports are published may be contacted by other students visiting the site with questions and requests for information. Reports are submitted via email, and then published on the SchoolWorld site. This project is ongoing and designed for all grade levels.
By researching, writing, and submitting their own reports to the site, students place themselves in the position of experts. A student communicates with the "Group" -- other students visiting the site -- who in turn may communicate with the individual student. This project offers an excellent opportunity for a student to act as a distance-learning tutor.
Ask a Volcanologist
Ask a Volcanologist provides students with an opportunity to ask questions of volcano experts. There is a specific set of guidelines that students must follow before submitting a question. Unlike many other Ask-an-Expert sites, here students can't arbitrarily ask the first thing that comes to mind. If a question is valid and has not already been asked, it will be answered by Scott Rowland and John Dvorak in Hawaii, Chuck Wood in North Dakota, or Steve Mattox in Australia, or, if they get stumped, by other volcano experts from around the world.
As previously stated, students must be deliberate in creating and asking their questions. As they formulate questions that will carry the most weight and yield the greatest amount of information, students practice analytical, inductive, and deductive thinking skills. If answered, their question will be published on the Web site for others to view. Questions are submitted via email, and answers are published on the site.
Group to Group: Example
Student Allele Database
"The Student Allele Database involves students from around the country in a research project that illustrates many facets of the Human Genome Project. The project is centered around a hands-on laboratory that enables a student to produce a personal 'DNA fingerprint' of a polymorphism on chromosome 8 (TPA-25). In the schools, students isolate their own DNA from cheek cells obtained using a safe and simple mouth wash procedure... Students then have the option of submitting their genotypes to the Student Allele Database maintained at The University of Chicago. Via computer, students can perform Hardy-Weinberg calculations and statistical tests to compare their allelic frequencies with those in the growing database. The addition of student populations from other parts of the world will allow American students to compare allelic frequencies in divergent populations and see evidence for genetic drift and evolutionary patterns."
This project allows students to use results from their own bodies in a worldwide project and have their results used by others around the globe. The site also allows visitors to perform comparisons and calculations, and devise hypotheses.
In addition to submitting data gathered in their own classroom, the site has a Student-to-Student bulletin board that encourages students to communicate with each other about the data.