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Making Long Distance Relationships Work

Amy J. Good, Katherine A. O’Connor, and Eric F. Luce

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Rationale

Telecollaboration provides opportunities for students and teachers to exchange social studies ideas, to have access to other middle school classrooms, to learn from multiple perspectives, and to utilize technology to create relationships. It is through dialogue and interaction without worrying about geographic barriers that curriculum standards and objectives can be activated. Our telecollaborative experience reflects the “Teaching, Learning, and Curriculum” strand of The National Educational Technology Standards for Teachers (NETS), which includes the following:

  1. Teachers must facilitate technology-enhanced experiences that address content standards and student technology standards.

  2. Teachers must use technology to support learner-centered strategies that address the diverse needs of students.

  3. Teachers must apply technology to develop students' higher order skills and creativity.

  4. Teachers must manage student learning activities in a technology-enhanced environment.

The NETS for teachers can be found at: http://cnets.iste.org/teachers/t_stands.html.

Our telecollaborative experience also reflects the content standards of the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS). The study of people, places, and their environment, the third of the NCSS curriculum strands, encourages students to create personal, spatial, and geographic connections beyond their own classroom. The NCSS standards in their entirety can be found at the following address: http://www.ncss.org.

Design of the Program

Collaborating with colleagues in middle school can be difficult due to the scheduling and isolation by content area. Therefore, we recommend an alternative where teaching and collaborating can occur simultaneously during the regular school day. Team teaching through video-conferencing and electronic mail do not require complex technology skills. However, a willingness to try is helpful.
The following approach can help open your classroom door to the world beyond the schoolhouse walls. This program consists of four parts: finding a partner, developing an electronic-pal protocol, deciding on telecommunication hook-up dates and content, and reflecting on these processes and activities.

The first step is to find a partner. Table 1.1, Sample Middle School Letter for Telecollaboration Partner Search, offers a sample middle school letter for your telecollaboration partner search. The following are areas for consideration during the telecollaborative partner search: finding a partner, verifying philosophies, scheduling teleconferences, and checking video conferencing equipment.

Finding a partner

  1. Post a letter on a professional organization website or an appropriate listserv such as the classified section of E-pal.com http://www.epals.com/tools/forum/forum.e?bo=67&at=db.

  2. Think about asking a friend or colleague who teaches middle school social studies in another state.

  3. Consider utilizing an upcoming state or national conference to locate a telecollaborative partner.

Verifying philosophies

  1. Corroborate team teaching philosophies.

  2. Confirm social studies philosophies.

  3. Discuss viewpoints about technology integration.

Scheduling teleconferences

  1. Check for time zone differences.

  2. Take into consideration class sizes.

  3. Limit teleconferences to one hour or one class period.

Checking video conferencing equipment

  1. Test equipment compatibility.

  2. Confirm Internet Protocol (IP) addresses the day before each telecollaboration.

  3. Ten to 15 minutes prior to the telecollaboration hook-up, connect with the partner class to check the sound.

Table 1.1
Sample Middle School Letter for Telecollaboration Partner Search

Dear Colleagues,

I am a middle school social studies teacher. I am constantly searching for ways to enhance my social studies class with technology. Are you interested in telecollaborative activities? Do you have video conferencing technologies at your middle school? Are you teaching social studies during one of the time periods listed? Please look at my class schedule below. I teach 7th grade US History (general and honors). On the average, I have 25 students per class period. During the semester, I would like to begin with e-pals, interactive websites, and monthly telecollaborative meetings, in the hopes of expanding to weekly telecollaborative meetings in the future.

Please contact me if you are interested.

Thank you,

US History Middle School Teacher

My schedule: 7th grade Social Studies
7:45am-8:30am
8:30am-9:15am
9:15am-10:00am
10:00am-10:45am
10:45am-12:15pm Lunch/Planning
12:15pm-1:00pm
1:00pm-1:45pm
1:45pm-2:30pm

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Meridian: A Middle School Computer Technologies Journal
a service of NC State University, Raleigh, NC
Volume 8, Issue 1, Winter 2005
ISSN 1097 9778
URL: http://www.ncsu.edu/meridian/sum2004/relationships/2.html
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