Any time I design a project for students I always try to complete each task for myself just to make sure I really understand what is involved – not only so I can better facilitate student learning, but also so I really know how much work it will take to complete. Often times, something that looks quick and easy can turn out to be much more complicated in practice.
Over the past few months I have had the chance to experience exactly the kinds of projects I frequently design for my students while creating a K12 Online Conference presentation with Jen Wagner. Given that the focus for our presentation was on globally collaborative projects, it seemed especially fitting that we would have to design our presentation from opposite sides of the planet. Keeping in mind that Jen and I have never met face-to-face, live 13,415 kilometers apart, and have a 14-hour time difference, I now know pretty much how my students feel when completing this type of project.
It was definitely an interesting and fun experience, although it did require quite a bit of planning. Jen and I set up a regular “meeting time” once a week (Sunday mornings for me, Saturday afternoons for her) via Skype, we kept a running log of all of our ideas on a Google Doc which we started with our conference proposal and used all the way up until the last few weeks of our planning, we used a Google Spreadsheet to plan out each and every frame in our presentation with all of the details (the topic, the text on screen, the speaker, the URL for the images and the date completed), and then we used drop.io to send versions of the video back and forth so we could offer advice and suggestions for editing.
Although Jen was creating her sections on a PC, and I was completing my sections, and compiling the finished presentation, on a Mac (using iMovie HD), we had absolutely no compatibility issues: file-sharing large files was a breeze with drop.io and Gmail, finding and sharing the right images was no problem with Flickr Creative Commons and iStock Photo, and collaborating on our supporting resource wiki along with a wiki for a collaborative project for our presentation participants could not have been easier.
The experience of envisioning, planning and creating this kind of globally collaborative project with a partner I only know through online communication was not only exciting and challenging, but it was all the more rewarding because we were able to do just about anything we could imagine – despite our physical distance. I love the fact that we were able to discover similar interests through reading each other’s blogs, and over time develop a connection that actually lead to the shared creation of ideas. Definitely an opportunity to practice what we preach.
I would love to hear your thoughts on our presentation, either as a comment on this post, or as part of our reflective VoiceThread (below), it’s almost exactly 20-minutes long, and I hope (at least) reasonably entertaining! All of the resources that we mention can be found on our presentation wiki, and we invite you to join a new globally collaborative project called The Reading Connection if you’d like to try out this type of learning in your classroom.