Note: This is a real post; even though it’s April 1.
This week we’ve had 14 classes in England and Michigan connect together to share poetry! We’ve had performances, recitations with actions and motions, and even costumes! What a celebration of words! Thank you to Heather Hadfield for collaborating with us!
Note the technology is used to connect the students and to see and hear each other; but print materials are very important! Love the book and the map in this picture!
How to Run an Extended Collaboration
I thought it might be helpful for you to learn how we set this up so that you also can do more collaborations. I’ve used this strategy for many collaborations in the last few years. It’s one of the ways we provide programs to our schools.
Step 1: Preparation
- Pick a partner: I started with someone I knew who also supports several schools using videoconferencing.
- Pick a curriculum topic: We picked a topic that is in our curriculum and theirs: poetry.
- Pick dates: This one was fun because our spring break is April 4-8; England is off for Easter from April 11-22; then they are off again for the royal wedding. We didn’t want to wait till May, so we picked this last week before our spring break. It was a little off because our schools do poetry in April, but we still had interest.
Step 2: Get Organized
I really prefer a wiki for this type of collaboration so that all the information is in a place where all the partners can access it. In 2009, I standardized all my project websites to make my work flow more efficient (anything to get more VCs!).
We worked together to set up a wiki with these essential components:
- Teacher preparation information
- A scheduling page with reminders about time zones and grade / age conversions. Note at the bottom of the page, we started with blank pair tables to fill in.
- A confirmation letter template
Step 3: Advertising and Registration
Next, Heather and I advertised to our teachers and schools.
- Registration: When one of us found an interested teacher, we entered all the details on the scheduling page.
- Pairing: If the teacher matched with one already listed, we matched up the pair. If not, we made a new pair table on the page.
- Confirmation letter: After a pair was complete, I used our confirmation letter template to send an email introducing the teachers to each other and giving additional directions.
Heather and I both subscribed to changes on the wiki, so we knew when new registrations came in that needed to be partnered.
Both of us reached out to particular schools and teachers to finish all the pairing.
It took us about two weeks to get every interested teacher matched.
Step 4: Test Calls
Sometimes when I do this type of collaboration, I’m collaborating with a region that we already know. Then we skip test calls entirely! This time though, we tested.
- Set a date & time window: We picked a Friday morning my time; afternoon in England. Heather made sure the schools had their equipment on; I tested dialing out to them.
- Skype: We talked on Skype. This removed the international phone calls from both sides; and made it easy to troubleshoot any issues that arose. We did have a few things to solve – mic cables, muting and unmuting, etc.
Step 5: Videoconference!
Finally, make the actual connections. We still stayed in touch this week.
- Skype:We used Skype to solve any connection issues – and to communicate when the schools were up & running.
- Feedback: We also shared with each other – mostly via Skype and email – any feedback or comments from the participating teachers.
Have you done collaborations like this? What tips and tricks do you have to make it go smoothly? Please comment!