There are many resources that serve as guides and tutorials for creating effective online learning and collaborative projects. Several examples in different categories follow.
Experienced teachers have learned that getting involved in an existing online project is more beneficial than trying to start a project of your own. Participating in other projects is one way to meet potential partners and learn about different collaborations initiated by teachers and students throughout the world. It can also help you in developing ideas for how to integrate such projects into your classroom, and how to structure a project as a facilitator for other participants..
Once you are experienced and feel confident enough to start a new project, many different models exist. Below are a few resources for getting started, both in existing projects and in creating your own:
- Step-By-Step Guide to Global Collaborations outlines the basic steps and tools needed before, during, and after a global collaboration project.
- International Education and Resource Network (iEARN) has been facilitating international student collaboration since 1988. iEARN has hundreds of ongoing projects, as well as a comprehensive Getting Started Guide. For further details, visit its website or Multimedia Guide. A detailed overview of a comprehensive model called a Learning Circle can be found here.
- ePals is another established leading provider of “safe collaborative technology for schools to connect and learn in a protected, project-based learning network.” Their support pages address several ways to get started, find partner classrooms, and join projects. A downloadable PDF includes several helpful tips
- Online Exchanges and Global Collaborations for Every Classroom is a 26-page resource packet is designed to make it easier for teachers to get started with global connections for any K-12 class. Programs are listed in a table that includes cost, age or grade level, forms of communication involved, and more. Also included are relevant articles and websites, tips for online international collaboration, and a sampling of project ideas. This is published by the Seattle Foreign Affairs Council with support from the Longview Foundation and the Confucius Institute of the State of Washington. Other teacher resources from the Seattle Foriegn Affairs Council can be found at http://www.world-affairs.org/programs/global-classroom/teacher-resources/
This wiki is a growing compilation of resources for teachers and students to connect. It offers tips not only on how to build your own Personal Learning Network (PLN) or Professional Learning Community (PLC), but also tutorials and lists of tools useful for doing so.
Which tool to use?
Wiki or blog? Twitter or Skype? Web forum or instant message? Finding and using the right tool for the learning task is fundamental to any collaborative project. Learn about Choosing The Right Tool for the Task.
Below are categories of common Web 2.0 tools and resources for collaboration. Each tool is described briefly to aid your decision in which to use. Please note that several tools accomplish many goals at once, or do not fit neatly into any category. Find out detailed information to inform your choice by visiting individual links.
- Document Sharing
- Presentation Tools
- Video-Conferencing and Instant-Messaging
- Virtual Classroom Platforms
- Website and Social Network Building
- Other Social Media Tools
Blogger is a Google application that allows you to create your own weblog (blog), which is one way for you and your students to build and share content with each other. You can customize your template, and then create content in the form of text, video, images, audio, or some combination. All that is required is a Google Account, making this an option for you and your students who are over age 13. Take the tour to learn more, or view the video tutorial.
Edublogs offers several options to get you and your students of all ages blogging. Create and manage blogs, customize your blog’s look, and include various kinds of media in your posts. Sign up for a free account for you or your students, or pay a minimal fee for a Pro account which includes extended features and the ability to add up to 50 student accounts, too. Edublogs Campus is for school or district solutions. Compare all three options and decide.
Kidblog is specifically for elementary and middle school teachers and students who want to blog in a safe and secure environment. Users under age 13 are permitted to have blogs set up for them by a parent or guardian. Simple interface designs allow for teacher monitoring of a group of class blogs. Signup is simple and free.
Posterous is another very simple and free blogging platform, requiring as little as just an email account. Advanced customization is available too, but at its most basic, Posterous is a place to post a blog simply. Sign up is not needed – begin by emailing your first post. Attach photos, links, video, and more, and Posterous will format it for you. Available for users age 13 and up.
WordPress has two options to create your own blog. If you simply want a free place to start blogging online, Wordpress.com will host your blog for you and gives you several options for themes and add-ons (called plugins). Wordpress.com is the easiest way to get started for beginners over age 13; it also has a thorough guide to getting started. The second option, Wordpress.org, offers free and open-source software to download if interested in hosting your own blog on a domain (at a fee). Options are also available for schools or districts to install Wordpress software and create a network of sites.
Google Documents allow users to create documents, spreadsheets, and presentations online, and share with others as viewers or editors. Create from scratch, use given templates, or upload your own word-processed file in most formats. Most word-processing functionality is supported and documents can be organized and labeled. Sharing and collaborating on documents in real-time is a major feature of Google Docs. Take the tour or view this simple video (Google Docs in Plain English) to learn more. Note: use of Google Documents requires a Google Account, available free to users over age 13 or users in schools which have Google Apps Education Edition (free for K-12 institutions).
Glogster allows students and teachers to create and express knowledge and skills with online multimedia posters. These “glogs” can include text, photos, videos, graphics, audio, and more. The interface is simple to use and involves a visual drag-and-drop platform for creating and sharing. Glogster EDU is an online learning tool specifically for classrooms. EDU premium includes all features while EDU basic is free and has limited features. At the time of writing, individual “glogs” can not be collaboratively created, but these visual representations can be shared after creation. Check out their lists of features and benefits.
Prezi is a presentation tool that allows your content to be developed and communicated on a “canvas” rather than slides. This format allows for multimedia embedding, zooming, tilting, and many other functions. A short introduction video for educators, created by Technology for Learners and Teachers (T4LT), demonstrates its main features. A free Prezi account allows for most functionality, but if you have an *.edu email address, you can qualify for an EDU license, which allows for more features. A recent addition, Prezi Meeting, allows for up to 10 people to work together in real-time to create or present Prezis. Additional resources for using Prezi in for collaborative or project-based learning can be found on the Prezi blog.
VoiceThread is a web-based tool allowing an easy way to have a group conversation around various embedded media. A single VoiceThread holds documents, images, and video in different slides, allowing for contributors to navigate through the media and leave comments on them. Comments can be added in different ways, via voice recording, text, audio file, video, or telephone. Users can draw or doodle on the slides, decide which comments are shown, and use different identities. VoiceThreads can also be shared with others, be embedded on websites, or exported to MP3 files or DVDs. Several different VoiceThread product options are available for K-12 educators. A single VoiceThread educator account is free, but with limited options. Subscriptions are also available for classes, schools, and districts; even Higher Ed accounts are available. The following resources will help get you started using this tool for international collaboration:
- Start with VoiceThread’s own guide to Getting Started in the Classroom, a PDF available for download at the bottom of this page. VoiceThread also has a substantial support section for educators including manuals and a forum. Once you register for a regular VoiceThread account, you may sign up for an Educator account.
- The VoiceThread for Education wiki has developed into a comprehensive collection of VoiceThread examples from teachers using the tool in their classrooms.
ooVoo’s platform allows for video chats and calls with any number of people, depending on the subscription plan. Two-way video chat is free. Other options are available via subscriptions or pay-per-use. Paid options have more features, including desktop sharing and the ability to record calls. The free version is ad-supported. Compare options here.
Skype can be a powerful communication tool for international collaboration. Unlike most other Web 2.0 platforms mentioned here, Skype is free downloadable software which goes onto your computer’s hard drive. After choosing a username (Skype name) and setting up your profile, add contacts via their Skype names. Instant message (chat) with other Skype users, or call them and talk with either voice alone or with voice and webcam, and share desktop views, turning Skype into a video-conferencing tool. Skype addresses its use in education on their blog, but also worth exploring are the following specific resources:
- Skype in the Classroom-find classrooms, projects and resources.
- One video overview for educators getting started with Skype is the Around the World with 80 Schools project. The video mentions several resources and contact people; a blog post supports these resources for easy access.
- Read the detailed account of how to set up a Skype video-conference call.
- A comprehensive overview of using Skype specifically in foreign language classrooms is posted on this module of Connexions
- Find experts to Skype into your classroom here, at SkypeForEducators.com
Tokbox is a free online communication tool that consists of both instant-messaging and video conferencing features. Unlike Skype, it is a web-based platform, meaning there is no need to download any software. You must first register a TokBox account, but then you may import contacts from GMail/GTalk, AIM, Yahoo, or MSN. Once connected, you can do live video chats (similar to Skype), send video messages, or simple instant-messages. Video Chats can have up to 20 participants and offer the possibility of sharing media such as YouTube videos, Flickr and Picasa photos. For more features, Video Meeting or Video Conferences are available for a subscription fee. Compare features for different products here. A comprehensive overview of its features can be found in this post and accompanying video.
Blackboard Collaborate offers a suite of products and services (most requiring fees) to make collaborative online teaching and learning accessible and simple. The Elluminate Learning Suite includes several separate products for online session content – organizing, delivering, and interacting. Elluminate vSpaces includes the flagship ElluminateLive, an interactive virtual classroom, plus additional meeting rooms. Elluminate VCS is a desktop application specifically for videoconferencing. An option to add teleconferencing to almost any ElluminateLive session is also available. Another part of Elluminate is their social network community for teachers and learners, LearnCentral.
WiZiQ is a web-based platform for teaching and learning. Teachers and students use WiZiQ for its virtual classroom, to create and share online educational content and tests, and to connect with persons having similar subject interests. WiZiQ is free, making it an option for individual teachers and their classrooms. All classes used on WiZiQ are automatically recorded for later revisiting or reference.
BuddyPress, built on a platform similar to WordPress (blogging software), is free open-source software which allows users to create a custom-built social network similar to a blog platform. It could be used campus-wide, or just for you and your students in a classroom. It has a range of features you choose to implement and therefore is customizable. Find out more about requirements here.
Collaborize Classroom is an education-specific online platform and part of the bigger Collaborize (by Democrasoft). Collaborize Classroom allows communication via an online platform with voting, polling, and other decision-making tools. Communication via this platform is given more structure than email or forum posts, and is aimed to encourage student participation and engagement. At the time of writing, Collaborize Classroom was free, but is likely to be available to classrooms and schools on a fee basis. Free teacher resources are also available, offering advice and lesson plans on how to communicate in online spaces, etiquette, and more.
Edmodo is a free and secure social network platform for teachers, students, schools, and districts. Students and teachers can share files, documents, and assignments. Other applications include calendars, instant messaging, and polls. Mobile access is also available. Take the tour on the homepage or view the guide.
Elgg provides educators with three options for creating a social network for learning. Those who are familiar with programming can download the free and open-source code and create their own networks. A managed option allows teachers to create their own social network but lets Elgg staff take care of technical work; this option has various pricing packages. Lastly, Elgg Campus is for schools or districts looking for a more tailored social network.
Google Sites make it very easy for users to create and share a simple webpage. Start from scratch and build your own, or use one of many templates available. See an overview here and discover new tips and tricks by following the Google Docs and Sites blog. Again, use of Google Sites requires a free Google Account (for those age 13 and over) or access in a school that uses Google Apps Education Edition.
Ning is an online platform tool which allows you to build your own social network site. Use Ning’s tools to design and build a space for you and your students to get organized, learn, and inspire. Ning offers several different pricing plans, but Ning for education is sponsored by Pearson and applies only to Ning Mini plans. Sign up here after creating your educational network.
Weebly is another simple website-creation platform which does not require any technical background. Weebly is free and features drop-and-drag editing. Customize your visual theme or create your own. Weebly is also ad-free and offers a special account for educators, a potential solution to creating class website with student accounts. Options are also available to bring Weebly to your school or district.
Wiggio is an online communication platform with a variety of tools for group collaboration. Included are tools for group email, text messages, voice, calendars, and meeting rooms. File-sharing is also included as are some project management options such as task lists and polls. Wiggio is free. See more about features on its website.
PBworks for Education is a basic content management system in the form of a wiki, which PBWorks describes as a collaborative learning environment. Create a class website, online workspace, or student sharing portfolios using templates, plugins, and more. Sites can be as private or as public as you wish. PBworks for classrooms offers a free basic edition, a Classroom Edition (for $99/year), and a Campus Edition for school-wide implementation. Check out the full list of features here.
Wikispaces allows you and your students to collaboratively create your own wiki-based site using a visual page editor. Add text, images, widgets, files, and hyperlinks to other pages. It is easy to create links between pages of your own site or those that link to other sites. Each page has a discussion forum as well. Page histories make revisions to the wiki very simple – go back in time to view a different version as needed. Keep track using RSS or email updates. Customize the theme and make the wiki as private or as public as necessary. Educators get a free premium account, which are ad-free and allow for additional customization. Their “Private Label” paid service allows schools or districts to have their own customized collaborative learning space, which is a Wikispaces platform separate from the Wikispaces community. To learn more about Wikispaces features, a tour is available.
HootCourse uses current social media (Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, and more) to create a real-time interactive space for a virtual classroom. It can be integrated into current classroom activities, or added as something separate. Classroom mode allows real-time tweets to be projected on a screen. HootCourse can also be easily embedded into other social media platforms. HootCourse is free for educators. Learn more on the About page.
Twitter is a free micro-blogging and communication tool that can be used in various ways. Some use Twitter to disseminate information, many use it as a way of having conversations and tracking those conversations, and others use it for back-channel discussions in larger groups. There are many ways to use Twitter for various purposes. In a classroom context, here are some of the Twitter resources you might find most helpful to support you and your students in collaborative, project-based learning:
- Review this general overview presentation about why Twitter is useful in an educational context is a good introduction to how Twitter works and how it might be useful to you as an educator. The follow-up has further ideas as to how Twitter may be useful in an educational context.
- Thirty Interesting Ways to Use Twitter in the Classroom – Ideas include using Twitter to gather real-world data, write a collaborative story, to collate and collect classroom or extended views on a particular topic, use location-based information to map users and their views, to poll users, and more.
- “How to Use Twitter for Social Learning” contains a relevant section on using Twitter for collaborative writing.
The ethical use of materials for teaching and learning is important. When working and sharing together collaboratively online, it is important to know how and when to use and cite sources. The Media Education Lab offers a code of best practices and several resources for Fair Use in digital learning. The book Copyright Clarity: How Fair Use Supports Digital Learning by Renee Hobbs is also a valuable resource in determining how to use digital media as you do more with creative and collaborative work with your students. iEARN-USA also has several resources and guidelines for copyright and Fair Use.
iEARN-USA offers many professional development opportunities for educators looking to expand their knowledge of and experience with global collaboration. Learn how to be involved in and facilitate global online collaborative projects with your students, align projects with curriculum standards, and more. Face-to-face as well as online workshops are offered for individuals, schools, and districts. Monthly webinars on various topics are another way to get started with iEARN. Further, iEARN-USA has partnerships with several local, state, and national education offices.
The OAS has created the “Inter-American Teacher Education Network (ITEN) as a way of encouraging collaboration between teacher educators in North and South America and the Caribbean. ITEN offers online professional development for faculty on how to integrate collaborative Web 2.0 tools in their pre-service courses.
This UK nonprofit offers several resources for continued professional development in the area of global citizenship. Browse by issue, or look at a whole-school approach. Visit the site for more resources.
P.I.E.R. – Professional International Education Resources
Professional International Education Resources - PIER - provides people working in international education with an extensive collection of resources relating to international education, including references and research reports. PIER offers practitioners in international education an opportunity to improve their professional competence through an accredited suite of qualifications, including the Diploma of International Education Services and the Education Agent Training Course (EATC). The Diploma has been offered since July 2006 through RPL assessment and flexible delivery. Practitioners at all levels of an organization and across all educational sectors will find PIER courses and materials valuable in their daily work. The organization is based in Australia.
Primary Source works to promote history and humanities education by connecting educators to people and cultures worldwide. Its mission is to do so via curriculum resources, learning opportunities, and other global content. It offers several professional development programs for teachers aiming to broaden their global education context. These programs are offered by seminar, summer institutes, or study tours.
Schools Around the World (SAW) Programs
This network is a participatory professional development program of the Council for Basic Education and is an international collaboration of teachers dedicated to learning and assessment in Science and Mathematics. Teachers reflect on their own teaching practice by looking at real student work from the nine participating nations. In the United States, Schools Around the World works through a combination of both in school workshops and online seminars.