Online collaboration across the globe


Online collaboration can give classroom lessons new meaning.


In its technology implementation framework, the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) shares standards that staff and students should learn, including skills to collaborate online with different people across the globe. This promotes online collaboration, but also gives a different perspective and potential to classroom projects.

Even though the benefits for this project highly outweigh the setup time and preparation, it is a difficult concept for some teachers in my district to fully grasp. It’s certainly a shift in thinking by extending the classroom walls out to the globe. Some staff members are just not ready for this shift, and some are scared of the problems that may arise in creating and delivering a unit such as this one.

I recently jumped in to an online conference with my Personal Learning Network (PLN), the Seedlings, with guest speaker Cherrie MacInnes, a third grade teacher from Brewer, Maine. Her classroom project started as an online video conference between a few classrooms across Maine and turned out to be a national project. She made headlines when her class was able to Skype with classrooms from each of the 50 United States. Listening to her speak about the project, and the enthusiasm that the students had towards learning from their peers in different parts of the country through online collaboration, was outstanding!

This is exactly why ISTE has encouraged online collaboration and video conferencing in its standards for students and staff. Personally, I don’t know what I would do as a technology integrator without my online PLN’s and the ability to collaborate online with other technology integrators across the state, country, and world.

Online projects are becoming more and more popular with lead technology-savvy teachers and 21st-century innovators. You just have to start with a quick Google search to see what I mean, but there are still those who are reluctant to put in the time to plan a project centered around online collaboration. Project based learning with multimedia is not a new concept. It’s been around since the early 90’s, but in the last five years the internet has grown and allowed any user to become a publisher (Web 2.0).

Ten years ago, when I first started teaching in my third grade classroom, I did not anticipate that students would have their own web presence, web pages, or post pictures, videos, and podcasts for the whole world to view straight from cell phones. For the most part, that was still up to the technology staff to organize these files, or left to a web master to publish classroom work to a web resource.

Kids are doing it on their own, and it is up to educators to instruct them and guide them to use these outlets for high quality educational purposes. We can either grab ahold of this and expand our classroom walls, or sit back and allow kids to play on their own. The latter scares me a bit though, as kids don’t always know what the right decisions are when they are completely independent.

I participated in a wonderful online collaborative project, One Day on Earth. If you haven’t checked out the website yet for One Day on Earth, it’s worth the trip. There are trailers and explanations of the project, as well as video uploads to browse. The thought behind One Day on Earth was to have cameras and people tell stories from every country on all 7 continents on one particular day: 10-10-10. These pictures, mobile uploads, and high definition films will be mashed up and archived on the website, and a select few will be combined to create a global documentary about our One Day on Earth on Oct. 10th, 2010.

Living in southern Maine, I jumped at the chance to participate, and thought that filming the sunrise at the beach would be inspiring and calming. My video, Sunrise at Wells Beach, has been uploaded to Vimeo and YouTube as well as the One Day on Earth website. I also took pictures with my iPhone and created an Animoto slideshow.

As a classroom teacher, I would have loved to have had my students participate in this project. In addition to my film experience, I have met a lot of great educators, innovators, and filmers from all over the world. It was a truly amazing experience for me, and I hope that I can share my journey with this project and inspire others to jump on board with online collaborative projects as well.

Eric Lawson is a technology integration specialist with the York School District in York, Maine.

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Laura Ascione
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