A Framework for Electronic Communication and Collaboration


 Finding Collaborative Online Projects

 Online Project Sampler


In this section of the Internet Primer, we are going to look at using the Internet in the classroom for collaborative purposes and suggest criteria to help you answer such questions as what makes for a good online project, and why you should -- or should not - - join a particular online project. We will:
  • Explore existing online collaborative projects that fall into three basic categories -- Person to Person, Person to Group/Group to Person, and Group to Group.
  • Explain step-by-step how you can find and implement online projects for yourself.
  • Look briefly at a selection of some of the numerous online projects that exist on the Web.
Before we delve into specific projects, let's look at the three categories of collaborative projects -- Person to Person, Person to Group/Group to Person, and Group to Group. In practice, the scenarios in which you, your students, and the projects will operate are not always so neatly categorized. Much will depend on your technological setup. How many computers you have in a classroom, how many of them have Internet access, how many email accounts you have, and who has permission to send and access email are all issues that will inform projects involving electronic communication.

Person to Person:

Communication in this scenario will take place via email, with a pen-pal, or key-pal. This kind of one-to-one interaction is relatively easy to set up, provided your classroom situation allows individual students to have email accounts. One-to-one interactions may be more difficult to monitor and manage than activities where a group or class is collaborating: person-to-person communications are clearly more likely than group efforts to be personal, and it may be difficult to ensure that specific educational goals are being covered. However, using the immediacy of a computer and email to facilitate an updated version of traditional pen-and-paper correspondence is a great demonstration of the reach and power of this medium.

See an Example

Person to Group/Group to Person:

In Person to Group communications, a student or teacher addresses more than one person on the other end of the modem line. Group to Person interactions are the converse of this. Communication in both situations could be via email, video conferencing, or newsgroups, or even via published Web pages. Examples of this type of interaction are Ask-the-Expert sites and sites that provide online mentoring. In these situations, much of the work -- and a lot of the collaboration -- takes place offline, as an entire class or group works together as the single "Person" in the Person to Group equation, for example formulating one question or piece of writing that can be sent from a teacher's email account, or published on the school's Web site. Students must work together to deduce what is most important to say or ask, create a message, check for spelling and grammatical correctness, and so on.

See an Example

Group to Group:

Probably the most practical and easiest to manage of the scenarios, this arrangement works well with an entire class or group of students communicating with another class or group. Two or three students in one class could work with two or three students in another class on group projects such as precipitation amounts, temperatures, inclination of the sun at certain times of the day, appearance of the moon, and so on. Again, such communications are facilitated by email, videoconferencing, newsgroups, and published Web pages. In this scenario, students may also contribute to existing collections of information -- for example, contributing information they have researched to an existing site's database.

See an Example

Internet Primer
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