Steps to Developing a Collaborative Project

Important Note: It is often helpful to participate in a Collaborative Project which someone else is running before you decide to develop and run your own. Skip to step five and explore the first set of links to find existing projects you can join for FREE.

Step One: Identify Project Concept

Obviously you want to start by identifying the theme of the project and a reason for linking up. Try to come up with a Collaborative Project which uses the Internet for a compelling reason. Here are some hints to making your project successful:
  1. Keep it simple, and I mean SIMPLE! You can always expand your project next year if it is successful.
  2. The most successful projects are small in scope and seek to answer a very finite, answerable question (e.g., Will we find the same microscopic organisms in ponds around the world?).
  3. Try to find something which will enrich an already existing part of your curriculum rather than inventing an entirely new activity.
  4. The more aligned your project is with regular teaching objectives and national standards, the more success you will have in finding other teachers to participate.
  5. Make sure that you share any data you collect and results from the project with all the participating teachers. If they don't feel like they are getting anything back from participating they will not join.
  6. Preparation and implementation will be time consuming so make sure you have the time to put into the project before you start.
  7. You should start the development of your project at least 3-4 months before you want to implement it.

Step Two: Develop Project Concepts in EXTREME Detail

Once you have selected the basic idea for your project you will need to plan out all of the details. The more details you plan, the better the project will be, so put some time into this part of the development process. Here are some hints for a successful project:
  1. DEFINITELY read through the Global SchoolNet Guidelines on How to Design a Successful Project. These are an excellent set of guidelines; stick to them closely.
  2. Plan out all experiments, activities, procedures in as much detail as possible.
  3. Assemble lists of materials, experiment procedures, project guidelines and other items which teachers would need to have in order to paricipate.
  4. Create a list of requirements which participants will need to fulfill in order to join the project.
  5. Create a detailed time line with ALL of the dates for the project. This should include when the project starts and ends and any special dates that will be important during the project (e.g. "Submit data by Dec. 30th, 1997").
  6. Try to anticipate any problems which might come up during the run of the project. Thinking things through step-by-step as this stage can help make sure things run smoothly later on.

Step Three: Develop Web Site for Project (OPTIONAL)

This is an optional step and depends on how much time you have to develop your project and web programming skills. If this is your first time running a Collaborative Project you might want to hold off on developing a web site since this will add a lot of time onto the development phase. Most Collaborative Projects can be run by just using email. Here are some helpful hints:
  1. Take a big block of time to plan out exactly what you want to put onto your web site. Don't just start posting information, this will create a poorly organized site which is not useful to participants.
  2. Don't waste time creating lots of background information such as explainations of why the sky is blue. Simply link to sites which already contain this information or refer participants to reference books. Trying to create your own mini-text book is very time consuming and generally a waste since this material already exists.
  3. Make sure you always give out the correct URL or web site address for your site. If you send out email with the wrong web address in it very few people will be able to find your web site and thus your number of participants will be very low.

Step Four: Develop Call for Collaboration Email Message

Once you have planned out all of the details of your project and possibly put together a web site, you are ready to reach out to other teachers and invite them to participate in your project. To do this you will need to develop what is called the Call for Collaboration Email Message, this is the invitation you will send out to other teachers. Here are some helpful hints:
  1. Go to the Global SchoolNet Guidelines on How to Design a Successful Project and read over the template they have created for a Call for Collaboration Email Message. If you follow this same template you will insure that you have included all of the information another teacher will need to decide if he or she should join your project or not.
  2. Remember, you will be sending this message out to teachers in very different places around the world, all of whom work in different types of schools and environments, have different school calendars, and teach different subject matter. You need to be sensitive to this and make sure include as much detail as possible about such things as the dates for the project, materials they will need, how they will register and a summary of what their students will be doing.
  3. You will want to start sending out your Call for Collaboration at least 6 weeks before the project starts up (see Step Five for more details). This will give your message a chance to spread around and will increase the number of participants in your project. If you send this out too late there is a good chance no one will join your project.
  4. After the initial posting of your Call for Collaboration Message, try posting it again 2-3 weeks later.

Step Five: Find Collaborative Project Partners

Once you have put together your Call for Collaboration Email Message you will be ready to distribute that message to as many teachers around the world as you can. There are several ways of "posting" your Call for Collaboration Email Message on the Internet as well as finding email addresses of teachers to whom you can email your Call for Collaboration. Here are a few sites you can use:

    Web Sites for Locating Teachers' Email Addresses

    Educational Listservs for Distributing Call for Collaboration Messages

Here are some helpful hints for finding project partners:
  1. When emailing large numbers of teachers, use the Address Book or Nickname feature of your Email software. This will allow you automatically distribute your Call for Collaboration email message to many people without sending individual messages to each person.
  2. Use the Copy and Paste feature of your computer to quickly copy and paste email addresses from web sites into your email software or interface.
  3. Try to reach as many teachers as possible. The response rate to Calls for Collaboration is sometimes as small as 10%, so if you are counting on working with 10 schools you will need to distribute your message to at least 100.
  4. Try to use words from the native language of the country when communicating with international partners.

Step Six: Implement Project and Evaluate

Once you have sent out your Call for Collaboration Email Message, you will hopefully begin to have people register for the project. The last step will be to implement your project and evaluate what worked and what didn't so you can improve your project for next year. Here are some hints to keep in mind:
  1. When someone first registers for your project, you should email that person back and confirm that they are able to meet the requirements to participate and are serious about joining. From time to time people will register for your project on the spur of the moment, then back out once the project starts. You want to weed these people out prior to the start of your project.
  2. Keep track of what works and what does not work with the first run of the project. Collaborative projects are very new educational tools and there is no way you can develop a project of this nature and be 100% successful the first time you implement it. Take what you learn from the first attempt and apply it to the second run; this will vastly improve the success of the project the following year.

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