Telecollaboration

Put simply, telecollaboration is the systematic process of communicating and working with other people or groups from different locations through online or virtual means to produce a desired work output. The process can be implemented in various settings such as the classroom, workplace, laboratory, or even at home, through the organized use of Web-based collaboration tools and resources, such email, chat, video-conferencing, wikis, forums, social networking sites, etc.

In the field of education, various studies and journal articles have enumerated the potentials of telecollaboration in enriching students’ learning experiences. Practitioners share that telecollaboration provides students with authentic activities to practice and enhance the 21st century skills such as communication, data gathering, analysis of information, creative thinking, problem solving, teamwork, and local and global awareness.

University of Virginia’s WebLearn website further states that “[t]he best telecollaborative projects are those that are fully integrated into the curriculum and not just extra-curricular activities, those in which technology use enables activities that would not have been possible without it, and those that empower students to become active, collaborative, creative, integrative, and evaluative learners.” [1] It is important, however, to note that the teacher should continue to provide facilitation, support, and guidance in these activities – providing a guide structure, answering questions, discussing key issues, recommending useful resources, monitoring the activity, and commenting on student progress and output.

Dr. Judi Harris[2] identified 3 main categories of telecollaborative / telepresence projects: [3]

  1. Interpersonal Exchange – exchanges for general communication between individuals and/or groups. Example: UNICEF’s Voices of Youth is a place where students worldwide can discuss (in three languages) social and economic issues such as child labor, the girl child, and urban children.  This attractive site also includes quizzes and interactive “games” to set the tone for deep discussion and learning…one particularly powerful example is an interaction on stereotypes.  URL: http://www.voicesofyouth.org/
  2. Information Collection and Analysis – exchanges for specific information, database creation, electronic publishing, telefieldtrips, and pooled data analysis. Example: The Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) Program links primary and secondary students and teachers from over 24,000 schools in more than 111 countries to the scientific research community to collaborate on earth science research. Participating students periodically make inquiry-based environmental investigations at or near their schools following strict protocols designed by GLOBE scientists and enter this data to a central Web-based database. The database may be accessed by scientists, researchers and the general public. GLOBE also provides teachers with guidelines and materials for structured learning activities that take off from the students’ hands-on experience.  URL: http://globe.gov/
  3. Problem Solving Through Collaboration – promote critical thinking, collaboration, and problem-based learning (parallel or sequential). Example: Students from two schools in New York City and one school in Sao Paolo, Brazil collaborated online to create a virtual “community” living on Mars in the year 2030 through the Project Pioneer/ Mars Millenium. The project was multidisciplinary, including subjects from the sciences, arts and humanities, and student work was guided by input from the U.S. Department of Education, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and its Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the J. Paul Getty Trust.  URL: http://www.projectpioneer.com/mars/index.htm

Notes:

[1] How can ICTs help transform the learning environment into one that is learner-centered?What is Telecollaboration? WebLearn Online Learning Resource.  University of Virginia. URL: http://uva-weblearn.net/what_is_telecollaboration.asp Accessed: August 2011

[2] Judi Harris is the author of Virtual Architecture: Designing and Directing Curriculum-Based Telecollaboration. She is a faculty member in Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Texas at Austin, teaching graduate-level courses in both instructional technology and non-positivistic research methods. Visit her website (http://virtual-architecture.wm.edu/) for links to powerful, curriculum-based telecomputing projects and resources.

[3] – ditto –