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A Step-by-Step Guide to Global Collaborations

2007 December 20
by Kim Cofino

As part of the ADE Institute a few weeks ago, my fabulous team developed a globally collaborative project (soon to be featured on the Apple Learning Interchange). Seeing as I have made my fair share of mistakes over the past year or so, and given my taste for detailed lists, I figured I could contribute a step-by-step guide to global collaborations.

These are the things I think I should do at the beginning of any globally collaborative project (not that I’ve always done them in the past, but maybe the new list will help):

Define Project Goals:
The first step to any successful collaboration is communication. Spend some time – over several days or weeks – discussing what you hope to accomplish and how you might go about completing the project. Make sure that all teachers have time to touch-base with their support personnel in school to ensure that they have the required materials or support. Think about:

  • What standards do you need to meet with this project?
  • What would you like students to understand?
  • What are your essential questions?
  • What kind of authentic task can you design for your students to demonstrate their understanding?
  • What supporting activities or tasks need to be completed to help your students construct their understanding?

Develop Explicit Expectations:
From the outset clarify what the expectations are for all teachers and students involved in the project. Think about:

  • Time commitments
    • Will this take 1 lesson or 12?
    • Is one lesson 45 minutes or 90?
    • How often do your classes meet?
    • Will students need to work outside of class or can everything be accomplished in class time?
  • Scheduling requirements
    • When are your holidays? What is your school year (Aug – June or Jan – Dec)?
    • Do you want common due dates and times, or flexible dates?
    • Will students be required to complete specific tasks for their collaborative partners by a certain class lesson?
  • Task breakdown for teachers
    • Who is responsible for what?
    • When do your tasks need to be completed?
    • Who will be relying on you to finish your work?
  • Technological Requirements
    • What kinds of technology are needed to complete this project?
    • What access do teachers and students have? Are you 1:1 or do you have 1 computer per classroom?
    • What kinds of peripherals will students want to use? How can you leverage the materials you have to benefit all students (perhaps splitting the work so that the school with more access to peripherals completes different tasks)?
  • Communication needs
    • Will students need to communicate in real time at any point?
    • Do your locations enable you to achieve that during the school day? What is the time difference between your time zones?
    • If you can’t connect real-time, what are the expectations for communication? Daily? Weekly?

Develop a Communication Structure:
It makes sense to have one common “home base” for your project, whether it be a wiki, or a Ning, or a blog – one space where all students and teachers will go to connect with their global partners, one place to store all assignment requirements, one place for all announcement and news, one place for all student artifacts. Items to consider when choosing your “home base”:

  • Protection level
    • Does this space need to be private, protected or public – this has implications for student safety and parent notification
  • Tools needed
    • What kind of things do you want students to be doing?
    • Does this project require discussion forums, or is threaded discussion by page more appropriate?
    • Are you looking for a tool that supports media uploading, or are you planning to host your media somewhere else?
    • Do you want your students to have a space that is “theirs” or do you need to keep the focus on something specific?

Determine Assessment Methods:
When students are working collaboratively across great distances, it is especially important to clarify, explicitly, at the beginning of the project, how students will be assessed, including specific assessment tools. Take time to:

  • Develop criteria and rubrics
    • Be sure to post completed assessment tools on your “home base” so that all students and teachers have access to them.
  • Clarify the process of how students will complete the project
    • What stages or steps must they go through to complete their project?
    • Are parts of the project going be outsourced to different schools based on their resources, location, or experience? How will this be coordinated?

Design Matters:
A good rule of thumb to keep in mind when completing a globally collaborative project is that other teachers may want to look to your completed work as an example, therefore it is essential that your page layout, navigation, and materials are as complete as possible, and easy to understand – even for non-participants. You might want to think of the “home base” as a complete artifact for the entire project – teacher planning, assessment tools, communication strategies, student works, and feedback – so that your “home base” can be a stand-alone resource for teachers around the world. Think about:

  • Having an “about this project” page describing what your goals are with the project and who is participating.
  • Having a “participating schools” page to coordinate the schools and students that will be collaborating.
  • Having an “assignments” page to place all assignment requirements.
  • Having a “students” page for all students to link to their personal online environments.
  • Having a “contact us” page to give teachers, students and parents a way to contact you for further information.

What do you think? Am I missing anything?

Tags: 21stcentury, learning, global collaborations, step-by-step, guide, PD, ADE, adeasia2007, appleALI,

34 Responses leave one →
  1. December 21, 2007

    As usual, you are very organised, very thorough and very, very practical. This is a brilliant checklist/ Step by Step Guide and I will be recommending it to any teacher considering taking part in a Global Collaborative Project. It will certainly help keep that overwhelming feeling that one may have when trying these kinds of fabulous projects. Well done Kim! And thanks for generously sharing, one again, your great ideas and thoughts!

  2. December 22, 2007


    Thanks! I learned so much of this from working with you! I can’t believe it’s already been almost a year since we started working together… Thank you for all the time you’ve spent learning this stuff with me. It’s been such a pleasure!

  3. Keith permalink
    December 23, 2007

    This is awesome! Please contact me as I would like to also share an upcoming conference on Global Literacy that I am putting together. . .

  4. January 14, 2008

    Kim, thanks for writing this guide! May I republish it–with credit and links–in our District eNewsletter? Any chance you’ll be doing a preso with audio on this? podcast/vidcast?

    And, a few perambulating thoughts here…

    With appreciation,
    Miguel Guhlin
    Around the

  5. January 17, 2008

    Kim! Excellent and very thorough. This is so timely as I am wanting to make this jump. Finding the collaboration and laying it all out is the confusing piece that we are not familiar with.

    Do you mind if I use excerpts of this for my learning wiki? Full credit of course. I use this to keep my head on straight and also am planning on using portions of the wiki to get colleagues to try anything (I am ahead of my coach on any web 2.0 work here).

    Your work is awesome!

  6. November 7, 2008


    What a well thought out and proactive approach. I would like to share your ideas with my faculty via a power point presentation adapted from your work. Do you mind if I use your ideas, with a direct link given of course?

    Thanks for consideration and your excellent approach.


  7. November 8, 2008


    Yes, you are more than welcome to share these resources with your faculty. I appreciate the attribution, as well. You might also be interested in my presentation based on this topic and a K12Online presentation I created with Jen Wagner based on this topic.

  8. May 23, 2009

    Hello Kim,

    I’ve encountered your site just on time! Your outline will be very helpful for the project I am working on now. What if I share your ideas and link to this page with librarians who will be involved in the project


  9. May 27, 2009


    You are more than welcome to share this post with anyone you think might be interested! I would be flattered! I’ve also done a presentation on this topic that you might be interested in, and my K12 Online presentation with Jen Wagner was pretty similar. Let me know if you’d like more info!

  10. Nigina Mirzoeva permalink
    June 1, 2009

    Dear Kim, thank you so much for sharing this guide. I think I can use this guide in my future Global Collaboration activities.

    Teacher of English

  11. June 8, 2009


    So glad this is helpful for you!

  12. Jan Anderson permalink
    August 11, 2009

    Hi Kim -
    Thanks for sharing all your great ideas.
    Do you have any good suggestions on finding partners for global projects?

  13. September 12, 2009


    I have two posts that might help: The World of International Schools and Update! International School Teacher’s Roundup. You might also want to check out some of the many educational Nings like the Global Ed Collaborative and Classroom 2.0.

  14. Dorene Bates permalink
    October 12, 2009

    In the October 2009 issue of Tech & Learning, you had Student Blogging Guidelines on page 12. I would like to know if I can use your guidelines and share with my teachers? I teach at a middle school in North Carolina. Thanks, your information is great.

    • Kim Cofino permalink*
      January 5, 2010


      For sure! Please feel free to use the guidelines with credit :)

  15. Joe Lagor permalink
    January 6, 2010

    Your “step-by-step” is very well presented. I’d be interested in learning more about the grading rubrics you devised to evaluate student performance on the project. Can you share anything specific? Thanks.

    • Kim Cofino permalink*
      January 6, 2010


      This is a general guide to any kind of global collaboration, not really a specific project. What kind of rubric are you looking for?

  16. Lisa permalink
    January 13, 2010

    Your Step-by-Step guide is wonderful and can be applied to other types of projects. As I read through all the steps, I am struck by how much time it will require. During academic year, in the midst of learning all there is to learn from PLP along with preparing daily classes, it seems like designing a global project is quite an undertaking. I think I need a summer to ponder and plan all of it. Wow, am I appreciative of all the time you put into the guide.

    • Kim Cofino permalink*
      February 5, 2010

      So glad this is helpful for you Lisa! I do agree that it takes a lot of planning – and sometime that might be easier during the summer – but it’s all worth it in the end! Projects go so much smoother when you have all of these pieces laid out and organized in the beginning.

  17. November 16, 2010

    Hi Kim,
    I am a French teacher in MS. I have been following you for a while since you did the presentation at our school ASB.

    I have a question for you. My first year here in India I did a successful year long wiki project with another teacher in Canada. However, last year they cut back in their budget and she could not do it again. Since then I have trouble finding teachers committed to do this project.

    Other than twitter4teachers, do you know of any link, list, google spreadsheet that holds the names, address, subject/level description of teachers willing to collaborate with other schools (and that have all in place that it takes to do these type of projects?)
    Andrea Reinsmoen
    MS French and Spanish Teacher

    • Kim Cofino permalink*
      November 20, 2010


      I wrote a blog post about this a while back that I think you might find helpful: How to Connect Your Students Globally. There are lots of websites and networks that have teachers interested in connecting, you just have to find the right person! Good luck! Hope all is well at ASB this year, I hope to visit again for the next ASB Unplugged conference.

  18. Clair Weston permalink
    October 1, 2011

    Dear Kim
    Thank you for such a comprehensive and thorough list. I am now going to do some research to find out about ‘Nings’ and I think I need to get a better understanding of ‘wikis’.

    • Kim Cofino permalink*
      October 2, 2011


      Thanks! Glad you found it useful :) Sadly, Ning has changed format and is now charging a fee, so maybe less interesting for education than it used to be. Wikispaces is still awesome!

  19. March 21, 2013

    Hi Kim,

    Thanks for this post. It’s critical that our students start collaborating in this globalized world. With the introduction of technology into the classroom, global collaboration does become easier; however, it still is not yet on the agenda of many teachers. I commend you for your efforts in pushing this item.

    Have you ever considered using United Classrooms at in your classroom? It’s a social learning platform that connects classrooms around the world. Teachers and students can collaborate on projects and assignments, discuss current events and engage together on a forum-like newsfeed. The network currently has 10,000 users in over 55 countries. And we’re excited to make Japan an active part of the community.

    I would love to connect with you on this topic. Please feel free to reach out.

  20. Craig Skinner permalink
    October 20, 2013

    Hi Kim

    I really love this guide to Global Collaboration and I will pass it onto my Head of Primary and also my Head of Faculties (if you don’t mind). I’m trying to get some teachers out of their own little bubble and see that education just doesn’t occur between the four walls of their classroom and with only the students 24 students assigned to them.


  21. February 11, 2014

    Hi KIm, these are terrific guidelines. I can’t believe published 7 years ago! I am really behind the times. I am starting a collaboration on ETwinnings and these are good steps to follow. Thanks!

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