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Building Collaborative Capacity – A Web Tour

"Life" is life’s own purpose, to grow, to aspire to a greater level of organization and understanding, empirically the same for a blade of grass or a human being.

Growing Capacity for New Ideas

When we’re born, the cells in our brains have weak interconnections, but as we’re stimulated through our senses by the world around us, the interconnections between individual brain cells are strengthened and create meaning as we learn to interact with the world around us. As we grow and gain more experience, we become capable of greater and more complex ideas and expand the variety of ways we can interact with the world around us.

As citizens within a community, we’re like cells in a brain; as we exercise our ability to interact, share information, and create new ideas with those around us, we become progressively more capable to create even greater ideas.

Growing Individual and Community Collaborative Capacity

Assessing one’s own individual collaborative capacity outside the use of technology might include a review of one’s ability to create positive interactions with others, the ability to teach and motivate others, and the ability to coordinate purposeful action-oriented activities. Just how we might use the Internet to expand and empower our abilities to help and work with others is a combination of availability of the tools, the knowledge of how to apply them effectively, and an understanding of how to motivate others.

Using Internet search engines and existing self-directed Internet learning resources can allow an individual to learn anything at anytime. This capability has never existed before.

A community’s collaborative capacity might be measured by the collective understanding of the processes by which members can work together effectively. A commonality of language, understanding, goals, and appropriate methods would all be factors to consider. If a community shares a clear understanding of what needs to happen, and exactly how to go about making it happen, the hardest part is over and everyone can get to work. An ideal situation would be for a community to learn together the most effective collaborative uses of the Internet collaborative tools and to put them to use without delay. Such is our joint challenge!

Today, many communities consist of members who have moved in from diverse cultures and locations, thus creating the need to establish a common ground of understanding before members can work together effectively to achieve common goals. New skills must be learned to create the social information infrastructure with the intelligence to make good things happen on behalf of the community.

For additional ideas on building collaborative capacity, you’re invited to read the articles on "Building Learning Communities" http://lone-eagles.com/teled.htm

Youth-Based Community Problem-Solving Models

Youth today are key change agents and technology leaders in most communities and cultures. An Internet search for "youth and entrepreneurship" will result in long listings of programs leveraging the skills of youth on behalf of their communities. Junior Achievement, www.ja.org, and 4-H programs, www.4-H.org, have been dramatically empowered by the informational and collaborative resources the Internet provides. Viable, home-based businesses are booming as a result of the Internet and web-based marketing.

Youth literally embody the future of their communities. Accordingly, they must be part of inventing the means by which they will be able to remain as contributing citizens in their communities.

Many K-12 classrooms are now learning these new skills through participating in project-based learning Internet activities. Project-based Learning (PBL) has emerged as a structured collaborative activity model to teach collaborative skills by creating action-oriented problem-solving group-learning activities. Many of these activities intentionally involve the community and community issues because the role of schools is to grow good citizens.

Three great resources on project-based learning (PBL) are available along with PBL models (Webquests, Thinkquest, and Cyberfair.)

Three of the most significant PBL models will be described briefly, followed by
discussion on what an ideal project might look like incorporating the best of all three models.


Thinkquest is one such PBL activity, where teams of three students, from 4th grade and up collaborate via the Internet to create instructional web pages to help other kids worldwide learn. Over 5,000 high quality web sites are posted for your review, along with downloadable software and tutorials with which you, too, can learn to create quality instructional web sites!

There are now over 5,000 quality instructional web sites created by students posted at the Thinkquest web site: http://www.thinkquest.org/library/index.html Listed by subject area, this resource is exciting for teachers in that the resources are ready to use. Students are especially motivated when they learn the web sites are student-created. The Thinkquest main web page is http://www.thinkquest.org


Cyberfair http://www.globalschoolnet.org/gsncf/  is a project-based competition for students of all ages, sponsored by MCI and Cisco Systems, that offers a structured opportunity for students to create web pages showcasing school and community synergies among eight categories. Many Elementary school entries of extraordinary quality make the point that even very young students can participate. The students literally feel they are championing the cause of their cultures and develop great pride in their multimedia depictions of their local community and culture. It is strongly recommended that you review examples of each of the following categories in the winners listings!

* Local Leaders

* Community Groups and Special Populations

* Business and Community Organizations

* Local Specialties

* Local Attractions (Natural andMan-Made)

* Historical Landmarks

* Environmental Awareness

* Local Music and Art Forms


A wonderful model for developing your own community project-based learning activities:
View the slide show "Webquests in Our Future"! http://school.discovery.com/schrockguide/webquest/wqsl1.html  
Read about why teachers love WebQuests!

In a typical webquest activity, students would use the Internet to access specific information on a defined topic, researching first as an individual, and then engaging with others in a defined small group activity to share their research results and integrate them with those of others. The activity ends with a group presentation and often creation of a web page with the research findings. Linking such activities to real world problems and issues makes this model extremely important and relevant as a necessary trend in education. Duration of a Webquest activity can be from 2-3 class periods up to several months.

The Official Webquest homepage, http://webquest.org  offers teachers a highly customizable format for creating their own online projects. Online recertification courses for teachers are available during which they will create their own webquests and then post them on the Internet. Rich collections of teacher-created webquests are available via web pages created as a result of these previous classes, giving teachers a model for sharing their creative lessonplans with other teachers.

Example Webquests From Inservice Courses (Teacher-created)
  Dozens of "ready-to-go" collaborative classroom activities for all ages listed by grade level and topic!One unique feature is that in addition to extensive training materials and examples, template outlines are available allowing teachers to quickly author original webquests with minimal time and effort.

Teachers' WebQuest templates
Just edit the templates available to create your own WebQuest in minutes!
Here's the easiest template which you can also find by clicking
on the first template image in the URL above;

Envisioning the Ultimate Community Youth Project

The best elements of Thinkquest, Webquest, and Cyberfair suggest an emerging model for the future.

Consider taking Thinkquest’s CD-ROM model of providing a robust and complete collection of software and tutorials on a CDROM focused on a motivating competition for youth to create quality instructional web sites and combining it with the step-by-step training and template model of Webquest. Then combine with these the ‘real world problem-solving’ community-based model of Cyberfair and you have many powerful elements to generate content and instructional mentoring opportunities for your community. This community collaborative capacity-building competition model which can potentially engage a broad cross-section of local citizens in creating beneficial quality web-based content and instructional resources for all concerned.

Youth today represent the first generation to grow up with computers. Youth are the key change agents and technology leaders in most homes, communities, and cultures, worldwide. "Culture Club" is a concept paper which articulates a related methodology of involving youth and community members of all ages in creating mentoring opportunities and instructional resources tailored for local citizens. http://lone-eagles.com/cultureclub.htm  Dozens of related resources are at http://lone-eagles.com/youth.htm

A Community Internet Self-Empowerment Model

More and more communities are investing in the Internet at higher and higher speeds. Some clarifications are emerging regarding the real challenges in producing the desired outcomes for which the technology itself presents only the first step.

The ideal community self-empowerment vision is that once the Internet access becomes available, inspired citizens will immediately visualize their opportunities by becoming self-directed lifelong learners, proactive entrepreneurs, and/or innovative skilled collaborators by creating new social and economic value for their communities. The ultimate goal is an educated democracy with citizens producing a balance of local and global contributions, working together to fight information overload, accelerating change, and increasing uncertainty to create a safe, happy, sustainable community.

The goal is for everyone to be motivated and empowered at the highest levels possible. Community projects are needed which can demonstrate in concrete terms how to quick-start the highest levels of community benefits with the least overall costs in time, effort, and prerequisite literacy. Where such model communities don't exist, we need to create them. The resultant storytelling will inspire others to construct their own vision and a real plan for the mobilization of their own community's collective will.

A short-term community project involving educators, students, citizens and local businesses is proposed with the goal being creation of a methodology for initiating ongoing public self-assessment for community Internet empowerment as well as producing local online content created by large numbers of local citizens. Many realistic student-driven community activities for students to initiate interaction with their community, to gather content for local web display, to raise community awareness about the genuine opportunities the Internet represents are detailed at The Bootstrap Academy http://lone-eagles.com/academy.htm. Community Grant Templates are at http://lone-eagles.com/rural-grant-templates.htm

The following three main themes can be supported in many ways depending on the unique personalities of a particular community. In one community educators and students might be in a position to demonstrate leadership, in another economic developers might create a community learning initiative.

  1. Vision: Create appreciation for the power of a shared vision for specific community benefits potentially realized by everyone working together toward the common goal of defining how the Internet can help empower the local community. Articulate online an ideal vision for community Internet empowerment for your community. List online local innovations and stories of current successes, and future possibilities to inspire all who see them.
  2. Sharing Resources: Create appreciation for the value of local web posting of carefully selected high value Internet resources by multiple citizens for healthcare, Ecommerce, parents, women, youth, seniors, etc. List replicable innovations and resources from other communities and Internet sources as models to inspire local creativity and validate the potential for your community.
  3. Peer Mentoring: Create appreciation for the role Internet can play linking citizens with each other through creation of mentoring and knowledge sharing opportunities both online and offline. List local mentors, and the topics of expertise they offer and create social incentives of recognition for those who share their knowledge with others. Help enlist new mentors by showing them how to gather links to create topical web resources to share with the local community. Create opportunities for people to gather in person to see what others are doing with the Internet. Make the possibilities visible to all.

For extensive related resources for youth competitions and entrepreneurship go to http://lone-eagles.com/entrelinks.htm http://lone-eagles.com/youth-technology.htm and http://lone-eagles.com/essential-youth.htm  Grant writing resources are available at http://lone-eagles.com/granthelp.htm   Community networking articles are resources are at http://lone-eagles.com/smart.htm Take the Quiz!

See also http://lone-eagles.com/reality-check.htm for an article addressing the "promise of broadband."