How to Expand a Collaboration: Poetry with England

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:

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.

Your Turn:

Have you done collaborations like this? What tips and tricks do you have to make it go smoothly? Please comment!

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About Janine Lim

Janine Lim, PhD, currently serves as associate dean for online higher education in the School of Distance Education at Andrews University, in Berrien Springs, MI. She and her team support over 200 online courses, provide training for faculty teaching online, and work with the campus infrastructure support of online learning. Her department also provides educational technology and Moodle support for faculty and students. In addition, Janine is responsible for the faculty and courses of the Consortium of Adventist Colleges and Universities. Janine has taught over 15 unique graduate educational technology classes online numerous times over the past 15 years, with some classes attracting participants from all over the world. Her undergraduate teaching includes social media courses for communication and digital media majors. Janine has served on the board of the United States Distance Learning Association since April 2015. Prior to her work at Andrews University, Janine coordinated distance education for 22 K12 school districts in southwest Michigan for 14 years. In that position, as one of the co-founders of TWICE, Michigan’s K12 Videoconferencing Organization, Janine has spearheaded popular international K12 videoconference projects such as Read Around the Planet and MysteryQuest. While still serving on the board of TWICE, she was instrumental in designing and implementing the CAPspace website for collaborative videoconference projects. Janine also served on a team of Michigan educational technology trainers providing a workshop called ATA Technology Academy. Her current online learning research interests include successful teacher behaviors, quality online discussions, and student activity patterns in self-paced courses.
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