B. Introduction to Finding Projects, Partners & Collaborative Tools
Networked Projects incorporate many features of traditional PBL, but they also include participation of other people outside the traditional classroom... often at a great distance.
Email is the normal means of communication in these projects... a medium which demands traditional literacy skills. But when you combine an interesting project with an appropriate distant partner, your students will eagerly embrace those literacy skills, as well as practicing and applying other skills and complex learning strategies.
This is not a new insight... a recent incarnation of these ideas was articulated through the process writing movement by authors such as Donald Graves, Lucy Calkins and Donald Murray, who taught:
In their landmark 1989 article, telecomputing pioneers Margaret Riel and Moshe Cohen reported that when students write for a distant audience of their peers,
Over the years many teachers have reported that when students are engaged with real people elsewhere through the use of telecommunications, students enjoy writing more, they are more willing to write, proofread, revise, and edit their work, and they are more careful about their spelling, punctuation, grammar, and vocabularies.
When you combine student projects, Web publishing, and the communications power of the Internet, your teaching will be transformed. Your classroom walls will tumble down. Your students will interact with real people in the real world... using the same methods and the same tools that people in the real world have been using for years. Learning will become authentic and purposeful. Students will find new meaning in the experiences they have in your classroom. And both you and your students will re-discover and share a new excitement in learning.
In each of the projects described here your students share and exchange knowledge, research, and/or information with experts and other students in distant locations.
As a teacher, you will learn along side your students from resources outside your classroom, school, library, city, state, and country. In turn, your students will also become teachers as they contribute and help to create learning resources for students, teachers, experts, and others around the world.
No need to worry if you don't know where to turn or how to get started... this section will lead you through the process of locating, choosing, and participating in a basic networked project.
Follow the steps below to acquire a good knowledge base of networked projects, carefully choose a project that meets your curricular needs, register, and follow through with a basic networked project.
When you complete all five steps, you will be a hero in your classroom, at your school, in your community, and on the World Wide Web. Even more importantly you will feel great about yourself for providing this opportunity for yourself and your students. After you participate in one project, you will likely become addicted and participate in more, or perhaps develop your own project.