|2c. Coach teachers in and model engagement of students in local and global interdisciplinary units in which technology helps students assume professional roles, research real-world problems, collaborate with others, and produce products that are meaningful and useful to a wide audience.|
I was looking for some research on global collaboration and came across this interesting abstract of a study of open ended engineering projects. This particular sentence struck me. “Globalization presents engineering educators with new challenges as they face the need for graduates who can function comfortably in an increasingly distributed team context which crosses country and cultural boundaries.” (Mats, Asa, Pears & Clear 2010) “Distributed team context” implies more than just a group of people who meet together on occasion. In a distributed team, one that might span multiple countries, I would think that every member of a team plays a vital role. Everyone on the team would be relying on the others to complete their tasks because they likely have an impact on other team member’s tasks. The use of good planning and communication tools would be vital. It got me thinking. If this is the type of work being done in the work world, how could we as coaches support projects in our schools that model “distributed teams”? We have the tools to communicate and plan, we would just have to find the projects and people that might be interested in trying it out.
In my blog post about Professional Learning Networks (PLNs: Throwing a Stone in the Water) I suggested that PLNs do not have to start globally. Starting off with collaboration between teachers within a district could be a good place to start. Many districts are pulling together teams of teachers to do standards alignment both at grade and department levels but also to do vertical alignment across grades. What we often fail to take advantage of is the power of technology to develop those groups of teachers into their own Professional Learning Networks so that the work does not have to stop at that one or two meetings. What if we deliberately designed experiences for those groups, or teams within those groups, to give them opportunities to work with each other outside the meetings? Perhaps we give them all web cameras and have check in or work meetings once a quarter by Skype, facilitated by a coach at first. It would reduce some of the travel and time barriers and allow for cross district groups to collaborate on work that needed to be brought back to the larger group. I do not think video conferencing will ever take the place of face to face meetings but some scattered meetings that coaches deliberately strive to develop into online learning communities (Building Community Online) might open up continuing conversation and collaboration between buildings that may not have developed with our traditional meeting models.
As our teachers facility with collaboration across the district increases we can begin to introduce projects that reach out to larger networks. There would need to be some teaching and preparation done before having students participate in local or global collaborations. I talked about a few of them in Engaging Students in Global Collaboration and included a number of great sites and projects that can get teachers hooked up with experts.
I also facilitated a project last year called the Landmark Games. Four classes in three different schools agreed to participate. They chose a landmark somewhere on the planet and we met by Skype to introduce the classes and share three clues about their landmark. We used a collaborative document to ask more questions of the other teams and met the following day by Skype to see who found the most correct landmarks. We had a good time and it was the first time many of those students had participated in a video conference.
I think for district, like mine, that is primarily Caucasian, there are also some great benefits to using video conferencing to reach out to schools that do not share the same demographic. It can potentially expose all of our students to students of different cultures, backgrounds, knowledge and experiences. That can only make the learning experience richer for all.
Daniels, M., Cajander, Å., Pears, A., & Clear, T. (2010). Engineering Education Research in Practice : Evolving use of open ended group projects as a pedagogical strategy for developing skills in global collaboration. International Journal of Engineering Education, 26(4), 795–806. Retrieved from http://urn.kb.se/resolve?urn=urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-112983