Internet Collaboration

The Internet is evolving into what is referred to as the web 2.0. Some refer to it as the read/write web. It is a more interactive Internet. Blogs and Wikis are at the heart of this transformation. This really is not new, in fact the Internet began as a series of message boards; and message boards and discussion boards have been a part of the Internet throughout its existence. The technology available now has made it easier for Internet users to create, manage, and participate in these interactive types of web pages. The ease of use of these web pages has allowed people to create social communities online. While this concept is not new, current technology has made it easier and more efficient to connect with people via the Internet.

You may or may not be aware that Myspace and Facebook aren't blogs, they are social networking sites. Both in case you are wondering, are current targets of the media. Blogs are web logs or journals. They are set up for an individual to post journal entries as often as possible. The person's friends can read their journal entries and respond by leaving comments. Because of this, blogs became a tool for developing online communities. This makes a blog a powerful tool for teachers.

A blog is a very easy way to place information on the Internet. The interface, called a wysiwyg looks like a wordprocessor and saves directly to the web page. The information is also organized in an easy to read, chronologically organized layout.
A post is an easy way to store links for Internet research, scavenger hunts or even webquests.
The ability for students to leave comments can make a blog a great structure for discussions like literature circles, revising or evaluating writing.
A blog can also be used for students to detail their progress through a project or experiment.
How do people collaborate on the Internet now? These examples show how people have already begun to collaborate outside of academic settings.

Discussion boards http://www.ptdoityourself.net/cgi-bin/yabb/YaBB.pl?board=Repair_and_Maintenance;action=display;num=1110170271

How to fix your car. This one was very helpful to me. You know how complicated it is to change the battery in a PT Cruiser?

Wikihow http://www.wikihow.com/Main-Page

You could find more examples of how people are collaborating over a distance to solve problems. It is really just a communication issue, but when we are talking about students needing to learn how to cooperate with a group, we need to remember how the groups they work in will be constructed. More and more companies are getting people in different parts of the country and world to work together.

Blogs are a tools that have exploded in popularity because they are easy to use. We usually think of blogs as tools to post our thoughts, opinions, or lesson plans easily.
http://magnoliaisdcommunities.org/communities/selston/default.aspx
They will certainly work very well for that, but we can do a lot more collaborative work with them, consider the following projects
http://magnoliaisdcommunities.org/communities/mystery/default.aspx
Here the students are posting requests for information. They are able to read each other's questions and the answers that they received to solve the mystery. They aren't working with a specific group on a specific project, but they were all sharing information with a larger group that shared a common goal.
This was our elementary GT program which has three specific units of study. The first was mysteries. That was an introduction to getting them to collaborate. After that one group presented a play via IVC one presented their mystery writing via IVC another presented a game show where in the world via IVC with two examples on the blog so that students could get used to the type of problems. I was very excited to do this project because it was the first time that we could really get a group of kids together from all campuses across the district. The real excitement came after we actually put up the first post because a large percentage of the inquiries came after school hours.

I was very impressed with the questions the kids came up with. I specifically wanted them to frame their own questions according to the information that they needed. I feel that they get a lot of experience sorting through clues that they are given to solve a puzzle, but I wanted them to get practice generating questions to get a specific piece of information. I also threw in the complication that they would need to trick me into giving them the answer, expecting that they would probably still just ask questions that were direct. Some did a pretty good job of hiding their purpose in their question.

I was able to edit each question before it showed up on my web page so that the question and answer were both part of the same comment. There were also some questions and guesses that I held back on approving so that others could have more time to solve the mystery.
Another example is this effort from dp109.
http://blog109.org/communities/atrudeau/archive/2006/09/12/3888.aspx
This class used the blog to pose questions to two businessmen in different parts of the world. They were examining globalization and how it affects the workplace. Students posted their ideas of what questions should be asked. The teacher put them together and came up with a list of questions they would ask in a Skype interview with the businessmen. The teacher then asked the students to formulate a thesis statement for their paper on globalization and post it.

The questions could have been submitted and answered though the blog. It isn't the same as the discussion was, but a few more people might have been able to participate. The students could have asked more questions to clarify, and if the businessmen had a feedreader, they could have subscribed to the blog and received notification about any new questions. The dialog might have been able to continue throughout the project, and the businessmen could have tracked the project as it progressed. The students could have discussed their conclusions and even shared their paper where the businessmen could access it.
A blog is a very easy way to place information on the Internet. The interface, called a wysiwyg looks like a wordprocessor and saves directly to the web page. The information is also organized easy to read structure.
A post is an easy way to store links for Internet research, scavenger hunts or even webquests.
The ability for students to leave comments can make a blog a great structure for discussions like literature circles, revising or evaluating writing.
A blog can also be used for students to detail their progress through a project or experiment.
Wikis

Wikis are slightly different from a blog. A wiki may or may not allow users to leave comments. They are not organized in as strict a structure as blogs. They are as easy to publish as a blog because they generally have a wysiwyg also. Wikis have a more interactive ability. Another user can actually edit the document.
Use a wiki for groups to work together on a project. Group members can work together to add research data, type a project, or prepare a report from any computer that has Internet access.
Wikis can be used for translating a foreign language, practicing sentence editing or proofreading.
http://www.ascilite.org.au/conferences/perth04/procs/augar.html
http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/163/244
http://www.wikipedia.org/
http://www.wikiville.org.uk/index.php/Main_Page
http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Wikibooks_portal

A Wiki is another tool to collaborate across a distance. A wiki is a bit more versatile since anyone can edit it, so students from across a great distance can actually work on the same paper or project. A 3rd grade class in our district and another 3rd grade class in Avon, Ohio are working on writing a chapter book together. They set it up for the students in Magnolia to write the first chapter and then the Avon students write the second chapter, and so on.
http://avonmagnolia.wikispaces.com/
That could be easily done though a blog with the students leaving comments for the writers to edit the chapter, or with a wiki, the students could actually edit the chapter that their counterparts wrote. The students could read their partners chapter and add a paragraph that makes an important twist in the story smoother.

Some students used wikipedia for a project to tell about the Pitot House in New Orleans, Louisiana.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pitot_house
Some community members picked up the project and made it a part of their project to promote New Orleans.

In the Flat Classroom Project a class in Georgia and a class in Bangladesh participated in a book study of Thomas Friedman's book The World is Flat.
http://flatclassroomproject.wikispaces.com/
Each student was paired with a student at the far site to write a "paper" exploring some of the topics in the book. The "papers" were wikis.

This would be an excellent tool for teachers who are vertical teaming. First grade students could type their stories in the wikispaces. Then second grade students could edit their stories to show the first grade students how to expand their stories. Where could they add details and what words might make their stories more interesting for others to read. Students in higher grades could continue to expand these stories. What a great teaching tool for creative writing!

I am currently working with 5 3rd grade classes to complete a project about the solar system.
http://moodle.magnoliaisd.org/moodle/
We have it on a moodle so that I can manage it more easily. The students are grouped according to a planet in the solar system. There a couple of students in each class that have been assigned to study a particular planet in our solar system, so they are collaborating with students in other buildings. The students will research and share information on their planet, then use a discussion board to discuss the traits or attributes that a lifeform would need to live on that planet. After they discuss it, they will submit a description of the lifeform that they have discussed. The description is on a wiki that all members of the group have access to edit.

Distance collaboration is a tricky issue to tackle, but one that is entirely possible without requiring much more time than the usual project. The comcept is much the same as any other project. The teacher just has to analyze how the students will interact and structure the unit of study in a way that supports that interaction. If you have much experience in creating webquests or have ever sat down and analyzed all of the steps that go into a project-based unit of study, then you are most of the way there. All you need are the tools. If you want students to contribute or discuss but not edit, then use a blog. If you want students to be able to edit and completely share in the construction of the project, then use a wiki. Either way the opportunity is amazing for you and your students.

Another powerful tool for teachers is social bookmarking. Social bookmarking is a tool for people to share links to websites. One of the more opoular social bookmark sites is http://del.icio.us delicious


Blogs and wikis aren't just for creating content and working together. Perhaps, the real strength of these pages is the way that everything can be connected with RSS feeds.