AIM OF THIS SESSION: To discuss ideas for online collaborative projects

What is Collaborative Learning?
According to Wikipedia, collaborative learning "refers to methodologies and environments in which learners engage in a common task where each individual depends on and is accountable to each other." Working collaboratively is about acheiving something that you could not necessarily acheive on your own.

Why is collaborative learning a good idea?
The University of Adelaide's Leap in to Collaborative Learning document outlines that collaborative learning is a good idea because it emphasises student-centred tasks and student decision making by encouraging a focus on student-centred learning as well as fostering teamwork and the development of interpersonal skills. Collaborative learning for students learning another language is a great idea because it provides:
  • authentic reasons for communication which can motivate students to learn and use new language
  • opportunities for students to practice new language
  • opportunities to engage with and share their work with peers, nationally or internationally
  • opportunities to learn how to use new technologies


An example of a successful online collaborative project for languages students:

The Lunch Box Project saw students take pictures of what they had for lunch and share them with a partner class in Turkey and one in China. This project was for Grades 2 and 3 students, although the students in Turkey were in Grade 1 and the class in China was an English language class made up of students from different year levels of primary school. Each class had their own page where they uploaded images and videos they created. The other classes then recorded a comment about their videos etc, and posted this below. You can see an example of that here. One of the aims of the project was for the students to create their slideshows or videos in their own language as well as the language they were learning - for example the class in Turkey used Turkish and then English to present their lunches. The Australian students particularly enjoyed a slideshow the Turkish class created where they had to figure out what the turkish words were. The Australian students then recorded what they thought the correct translations were and uploaded that underneath the Turkish students presentation. You can see and listen to that on this page.

The overall aim of the Lunch Box Project was for my young students to see that students in other countries learn a different language too, as well as to interact with students from another country. I wanted them to also be keen to show that they learn a second language, what that was and how they were going with it. I had set out certain vocabulary I wanted them to learn, and we did that through flashcard games and other activities in class.

Due to the age of the students and the restrictions of class time, it was me who did the video editing, the putting together of the slideshows and all of the uploading to the wiki. Older students would be perfectly capable of doing all of this themselves, meaning less work for the teacher.

The Lunch Box Project was one of the first collaborative projects I ran and so there were a lot of things I learnt from it. Here are a few things I would do differently next time:
  • had more structured introductory tasks
  • had clearer goals at the beginning to make sure that all classes presented in two languages
  • created a more definite 'end' to the project
  • made assessment a more integral part

Examples of other online collaborative projects:

Little Language Experts (another one of mine) - class from Australia and a class from New Zealand. Students teaching each other the second language they were learning at school.
Voices of the World - connecting children all over the world using their voices by completing different monthly tasks
Flat Classroom Project - a huge award winning project run by Julie Lindsay and Vicki Davis.
Student Blogging Challenge run by Sue Wyatt in Tasmania.
Flat World Tales - an international story writing project

To create an effective and successful online collaborative project you need:
  • to set clear and measurable goals for what you want to achieve
  • to have someone to work with and set the project goals with them. Networking with other teachers will be covered in the last session, where there is a list of educational networks you might be interested in joining.
  • a reasonable idea of the different technologies you can use to achieve your goals

Kim Cofino (and Digital Literacy Specialist working in the international school system) has written a very clear and informative step by step guide to global collaborations that is very helpful when thinking about starting a project. Another one of her blog posts, How to Connect Your Students Globally, is worth a read too.


What sorts of things you can do with the technology:

There are lots of Web 2.0 technologies that allow these sorts of online projects to be rich, interactive learning experiences for students. You can
  • make and upload videos to a wiki (or to YouTube or TeacherTube and then embed them in your wiki)
  • upload video or images to Voicethread and have students comment on it. You could create a Wordle and add it to Voicethread.
  • create powerpoints and upload them to Slideshare, then embed them in your wiki to share them
  • have students communicate with each other through video chat using applications like Skype, or TokBox
  • have students work on documents together using Google Docs
  • have students work on online whiteboards together - here are some online whiteboards to try: CoSketch, Imagination Cubed, Scriblink, Dabbleboard.
  • have students create instructive screencasts to teach each other new words, sentences, concepts etc
  • have students join a network for the project using Ning, presenting their work there and leaving feedback for other students. technoChinese is an example of this - it's a work in progress! If you would like your class to join it, please email me: mcculloch.jessica.l@edumail.vic.gov.au


PROJECT IDEAS:

Here are some ideas for specifc collaborative projects. Please feel free to add your own to the list - it might be just what another teacher has been looking for!

  • students record and share videos about what their favourite sports or foods etc are - asking and answering questions.
  • students make a video of a fashion parade, asking the partner class to provide the commentary
  • students share images of their homes - asking and anwering questions in link ups with partner class. Each student could be individually matched a student from the partner class, creating a sort of 'penpal' project
  • students create games and other resources to teach a partner class some Chinese, nationally or internationally. Students then assess each other through the wiki, through live link-ups etc
  • students could collaborate on an extended piece of writing - one students writes a sentence, passes it on to the next etc. to write a story about a particular topic or character.
  • briefing students in China about things in Melbourne - making video of being out and about in Melbourne
  • Chinese new year - what it looks like where we are and where you are.
  • What happens at our school - making videos talking about things at school

YOUR FINAL PROJECT:

Please fill in the table with details of the project you have decided to run in Term 1:
Project Details: (idea, topic, tools, timeframe, link etc)
Year Level
Teacher's Name
School
Contact
The Lunch Box Project - students from China and Australia share and talk about what they eat for lunch. Using: wiki as project base to upload images, audio, videos etc, powerpoint and slideshare to share images, skype to chat to students, audacity to record audio to upload to wiki
Project link: http://lunchboxproject.wikispaces.com
Grades 2-3
Jess McCulloch
Hawkesdale P12 College
mcculloch.jessica.l@edumail.vic.gov.au