July 1, 2012

Cross Country Collaboration

Way back in February and March Shireen (http://mathteachermambo.blogspot.com) and I did an online project with our students. Somehow, I never blogged about it, but better late than never!

Goals: students experience remote communication (learn about types of tech and how to collaborate) and long term projects (pacing self and partner).

Methods: Each Geometry student in MA was paired with a student in TX. We provided them with each others name and gmail address. The pair had to work together on google docs to choose a topic and brainstorm key ideas and vocabulary. Then, using an online resource of their choice, come up with a teaching or practicing tool. They were given a timeline with a portion of the project due each week. MA provided computers in class (if they finished classwork early they could work on their project).

Issues: Both schools had vacation during the timeline (oops!). It was a lot of grading (50 pairs with 4 submissions each). Not all MA students had access to computers outside of school. One MA student didn't know how to use the programs and was resentful that I didn't explicitly teach her (it's a bigger concern that a 16 year old in 2012 has never used PowerPoint). Typical issues of one student not doing their part or waiting until the last minute and having tech issues.

Successes: Students generally enjoyed the idea of working with someone across the country. They liked google docs (and the teachers loved the way it tracks contributions). Students are now proficient in at least one type of presentation/quiz technology. Each student became an expert in a particular topic and we have a database of materials to offer to future students. All MA students now have professional gmail accounts (TX students had school gmail accounts already).

Next time: I would only have two deadlines: outline and final project. I had some students use google forms to leave peer feedback so that would be a good intermediate step rather than two teachers having to grade 50 projects twice! Since I plan to use google docs with kids starting in the fall the tech issues should be minimized. Overall I thought it was a great project that exposed students to many of the great resources available online that they don't necessarily get introduced to otherwise.

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