Online Collaborative Learning

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Welcome to the premier of "EduHound Extra!" Each month I'll explore a different topic dealing with technology in education. I'll point you in the direction of some excellent resources and provide as many tips as I can. I'm of the mind-set that while technology can be complex, challenging and even frustrating at times, it can also be rewarding, timesaving and enjoyable. So, let's get to this month's topic: online collaborative learning.

What is online collaborative learning? The term "collaborative learning" refers to an instructional method in which students at various performance levels work together in small groups toward a common goal. The students are responsible for each other's learning as well as their own, and the success of one student helps the others' success. Thus, by including an online component, you now have a traditional group model combined with an online learning environment.

Considerations:

  • Your project goals should fit your technology resources.
  • Look for projects that suit your class size and group needs so everyone can actively and productively participate.
  • Any project should fit into your instructional time frame.
  • Be cautious of any project that solicits personal student information.
  • In terms of technology requirements to participate in an online project, most often all you'll need is the e-mail address of the adult in charge and an Internet connection. However, carefully review any additional requirements before making any commitments.
  • Tips:

  • Solicit online project references from friends, colleagues, educational organizations and/or publications you trust.
  • Working in groups gives tech-savvy students an excellent opportunity to share their knowledge with fellow group members as well as their instructor.
  • Visit sites such as NCREL's "Learning With Technology Profile Tool" (www.ncrtec.org/capacity/profile/profwww.htm). This profile questionnaire helps you compare your current instructional practices with a set of indicators for engaged learning and high-performance technology.
  • Try not to do too much, too fast. By starting simple and knowing what you can do with your resources at hand, you'll have a successful experience.
  • Join an Online Project:

  • Global SchoolNet's Internet Projects Registry
      www.gsn.org/pr
      Projects hosted by the GSN Foundation and other reputable organizations, as well as extraordinary online projects conducted by classroom teachers worldwide.
  • Blue Web'n - Learning Sites Library
      www.kn.pacbell.com/wired/bluewebn
      This searchable database of outstanding Internet learning sites categorizes entries by content, audience and type.
  • ThinkQuest
      www.thinkquest.org
      Provides an opportunity for students and educators to work collaboratively in teams to learn as they create Web-based learning materials and teach others.
  • Create an Online Project:

  • NickNacks Telecollaborate!
      http://telecollaborate.net
      This comprehensive site includes project how-to's, samples, a project template, a project planner and much more.
  • Until next month - good luck! In the meantime, please feel free to send your questions or suggestions to EduHoundExtra@thejournal.com.

    Judith B.Rajala, president and founder of EduHound.com, is an independent education technology instructor and former K-12 educator. She is also a consultant for several Connecticut-based state technology organizations.

    This article originally appeared in the 08/01/2002 issue of THE Journal.

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