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Creating Learning Networks for African Teachers

UNESCO PROJECT (Contract No. 408.302.9)

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What is telecollaboration?
(or you can use this Powerpoint Presentation).

In dealing with this aspect we shall consider telecollaboration along the general perceived meaning and later we shall consider our own meaning that will be professionally relevant to us to help us teach and learn better.

General definition

Telecollaboration comes from the terms:
Tele - distance or distant
Co - together
Labour - work
We could say these are programs or projects that involve working together to learn with the factor of distance not affecting our work.

We teach and learn by
Using resources that are distant
Work with students who are distant
Work with teachers who are distant
Work with educators and resource people who are distant

The Internet enables us to become part of an online community and enables both learners and teachers transcend geographical barriers and enhance equity in information access. This can be achieved through telecollaboration.

To discover strategies of integrating the internet into the classroom to improve the process of learning

Project classification
There are a variety of ways these projects can be classfied, but the characteristics followed during the process have a lot of similarity. These include:

Exchange of information: collecting information, solving a problem in the community etc..
The nature and method of communication: by e mail, bulletin boards, real-time chatting, or video conferencing?
The end product or result: change in society, publication or mentoring?

Types of telecollaborative projects
This is a classfication done by somebody. It is possible to do the classification differently as long as the criteria are consistent.
1. Interpersonal exchanges.
2. Information collection projects.
3. Problem solving projects.

1. Interpersonal exchanges:
(i) Keypals: This is of the easiest ways to get your student involved in email based projects. Students are partnered with another person, usually another student, in an information age takeoff on the old penpal activity.

Basic implications and applications:
- It has a geographical or cultural element: languages arts, social science, geography
- It exposes students to different perspectives: all disciplines.
- It improves communication skills: language arts, and helping students acquire life-skills.

(ii) Cultural exchanges: In this activity, kids have an opportunity to collaborate directly with students, groups of students, or entire classrooms partner with students from other cultures. Although this activity usually focuses on the differences between the cultures, the most successful cultural exchanges demonstrate a true respect for the cultures and a greater understanding of our communities.

Basic implications and applications:
- Creates cooperate learning which encourages active engagement by the students in learning, hence building critical skills obtained by working directly with other people from other places and cultures.
- Addresses issues of difference and diversity lesson plans, also addresses a global concern

2. Information collection projects
Students have an opportunity to collaborate directly with an expert in a field of study or someone with a specialized knowledge. At times it may even occur with schools and students which have advanced systems in specific disciplines.

Basic implications and applications:
- It's used when students need specific information that is not available from their current pool of resources.
- It helps teachers answer questions outside their field of experience.
- Improves communication skills: language arts, and helping students acquire life-skills.

3. Problem solving projects
It deals with solving real world problems. Students link up with students in other locations to discuss a prevailing problem in relation to their location and come up with solutions that can be used to overcome the problem.

Learning to learn: students work in depth on a problem and learn what is needed to solve a problem or complete a project.
Lifelong learning: this type builds learning experiences through research that can be used also in a lifetime experience.
Active learning: it involves gathering of information and data, exploring, creating, experimenting, physical manipulation of things as well as organising information which can be accessed to people from the real world.
Improves communication skills: language arts, and helping students acquire life-skills.

Some types of telecollaborative project initiatives
Learning through connectivity:

- Key pals or e pals
- Global classrooms
- Ask an expert
- Electronic chats
- Video conferencing
- Learning through Online resources
- Information collection
- online field trips
- Learning by being involved
- Electronic publishing
- Information exchanges
- impersonation
- Learning to learn
- Problem solving activities
- Social action projects
- Learning through connectivity

-Key pals or e pals:
This is comparable to pen pals, here students learn together and about each other ‘s environment or schools through e-mail exchanges.
What is the best way to handle e pals? Should it be individual students to individuals or group to group?

- Global classrooms:
Two or more classes located anywhere can study a common topic and share their learning.
Current issues e.g. Environment, School policy world disasters; democracy, etc can be interesting topics

- Ask an expert
Specialists in various fields can make themselves available to students via the Internet for consultation.
There are examples, which include Ask Dr. maths. Dr physics, Dr. geology.
This process may also involve tele-mentoring where an expert somewhere mentors a learner or a group of learners through the Internet.

- Information exchanges:
Data can be collected from multiple sites and analysed in some or many classrooms collaboratively. Students can gather facts or statistics of stories in information exchanges.
Several classes spread all over the world can contribute and compile games, stories, folk tales, music or issues of common interest etc…

- Online field trips (virtual field trips):
This may involve students following an expedition e.g. the expedition to the North Pole or the Mir expedition, where students can view the activities going on at the Mir space station. Students get information without actually visiting these places.

- Electronic publishing:
There are many electronic newspapers where students can publish their articles.
A group of students could collaboratively pubic an electronic magazine which they could later print and the articles could be collected by telecollaboration over the Internet.

-Virtual events:
Students participate in an activity could submit their results to a larger audience through the internet, this can help to overcome isolation of some rural schools.

Students can use connectivity to imitate real situations.
They could hold mock debates and mock elections. The virtual enterprise program is used to teach and learn business. This was initiated in the Kern high school district in California.

-Social action projects:
Students can focus on a real life problem rather than the technology used to communicate. Here the Internet truly becomes a tool for learning. Students may electronically brainstorm over important issues and act together to solve the problem.
Examples could include: the wetlands project, waste management project, African refuge project, street children, child abuse.

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