A Framework for Electronic Communication and Collaboration


 Finding Collaborative Online Projects

 Online Project Sampler

It wasn't long ago that the greatest contact students had with the world outside the classroom was a field trip two or three times a year. If they were lucky, their teachers set up a pen-pal program with a sister-school or community halfway across the continent or in a different country. But the turnaround time for sending and receiving letters could be weeks, sometimes months, and by the time a letter was received, most of the students had probably forgotten the names of their pen-pals! Well, that time and distance problem can finally be put to bed: Welcome to the world of electronic communication.

Electronic communication is a discourse, the giving and taking of information. What makes electronic communication so important and of such added value in the classroom?
 Two words: Immediate gratification! No more waiting two months for a letter to get back from Paris or Sydney: Now you can reach halfway around the world in a matter of seconds.

 Besides being "real-time," electronic communication is "real-world." Many major industries conduct much of their business-to-business communication electronically; now students and teachers can get in on the act. The use of electronic communications in the classroom allows students to visit astronauts at NASA or travelers in Peru.

 The use of electronic communication in the classroom promotes the philosophy of "teacher as facilitator." As educators, we know that we don't always have all the answers. However, with the resources available today, students can search for, and solicit answers from, practicing professionals in just about any field. (See Finding What You Need on the Web in the Searching Smart section of this primer for more information on searching.)

 Probably most importantly, using electronic communication reinforces learning that has taken place in the classroom. Students have the opportunity to go beyond stated expectations and explore specific areas of interest, catering to the "Multiple Intelligences" proposed by Howard Gardner.
Now that we know why it is beneficial to use electronic communication in instruction, let's consider how one goes about actually using one form: email. In Getting the Most Out of Email, you will learn how to use email and better manage your messaging. Other topics in this section of the Primer explore types of online projects that utilize electronic communication to foster collaboration.

Internet Primer
Thirteen Ed Online