Lesson Four: Online Collaboration to
Reviewing the Ten Internet Collaborative Tools
Building Your Online Discussion Moderation
Create a Practice Web Conference
Review Mentoring and Collaboration Resources
1. Read carefully Chapter Four "In the Bathroom-
Project Planning and Direction" in your printed
book and review the related resources at
http://virtual-architecture.wm.edu/Designing+Directing/index.html (one half hour)
2. Review the collaborative tools and tutorials at
and explore two collaborative tools new to you, not counting
email and listservs. Share with your instructor what tools
you're familiar with and which are new.
Review the Netiquette resources
presented in the lesson and email a half page review of
your explorations to your instructor.
(one half hour)
3. Download and print "Electronic Collaboration: A
Practical Guide for Educators" from
This is a PDF file, which means you'll need to install the
Adobe Reader if you don't already have it on your
computer. You'll find it at http://adobe.com. It is something
you will need to have.
Email your instructor confirmation you've succeeded in
printing this guide, or ask for help from your instructor.
Consider searching for other listings of "collaborative tools
for educators" by using create search phrases.
4. Review: The Global Schoolhouse has put together a rich
collection of collaborative tools and best practices at |
(one half hour)
5. Explore http://groups.yahoo.com or http://groups.google.com
and create an online discussion group conference in cooperation
with at least one other person, ideally someone participating in this class.
You are welcome to use any other collaborative tool that is new to you.
Check the class listserv archive for email addresses of other class participants,
or post your query to our class listserv.
Email a short report on what you did and how it went,
along with your candid assessment for the potential utility
of web conferencing systems. You're welcome
to use any other web conferencing systems such as those
6. Review the mentoring resources and models at
(one half hour)
7. Send your instructor a sample posted message
from the web-based archives of our class listserv
using cut-and-paste and explore the convenient
searching features at the listserv website.
Include a 1 page summary of the highlights of your
discoveries from all the above explorations, including
what you perceive to be your best online collaboration
options in an informal narrative.
(one half hour)
Review the following
In this lesson you will review many Internet collaborative tools and multiple resources offering guidelines for their use in K-12 education.
You will explore a new state-of-the-art collaborative systems which offers private web conferencing, chat, file sharing, and other support features for group interaction.
You will review many robust resources for later exploration regarding online mentoring, community building and International multi-classroom collaboration.
Building Your Online Discussion Moderation Skills
A Good Summary of Netiquette
For additional information search for email+tutorial* and/or
"netiquette" Verify for yourself that you can find long listings of
tutorials on most any topic using this simple trick!
To successfully lead a purposeful discussion a moderator is
usually needed to keep the discussion focused and to assure all
participants receive feedback regarding their contributions to
the discussion. This is best learned through actual practice
participating in and leading online discussions.
Social motivations to participate in a discussion are best
provided by the moderator individually recognizing each
participant via both private and public messages. One-on-one
interaction is much more effective for initially motivating a
given individual to participate compared to a public posting
encouraging "everyone" to participate. Its important for the
moderator to have a genuine relationship with each participant, as
this creates a social commitment that facilitates participation.
This relationship becomes key to drawing individuals into a given
discussion. As the discussion begins to take form, the moderator
should periodically introduce "weaving" messages that steer the
discussion and keep it on track as well as summarizing what has
been covered, decided and what should next be discussed.
One persistent problem with even the most prestigious of online
discussions is the tendency to lose the original focus of the discussion.
Without a thoughtful moderator, purposeful forward progress of a
discussion may be lacking. Online "group work" is a rapidly
evolving art. Being a good online group worker will prove to be a
very important skill. "Listening" skills are more important than writing skills.
As a moderator, modeling collaborative processes is a social and
linguistic skill that requires sensitivity to the personalities
and unique differences of the participants. A moderator might
play devil's advocate to solicit responses by role playing
different points of view. Additionally, a moderator might model how
the group can gather and share information, and support each other,
as part of the group's discussion.
As with any classroom discussion, students may opt to not
participate, perhaps preferring private messaging with other
participants. Required participation should be part of the course
assessment. The level of genuine thoughtful involvement depends
on the intellectual investment your students are prepared to
make. While online discussions hold the potential for high levels
of intellectual rigor, the risk is aways present that discussion
contributions will reflect minimal effort and thought.
What to Watch for When Moderating a Discussion
- Anticipate realistically how many interactions are possible
between the number of participants, within the allowed time
- Be sure you clarify upfront what participants can expect will
be required of them: number of times/week to be online and the
number of expected posted messages.
- Be clear what the purpose and expected outcomes are for the
discussion. Keep it simple.
- Is your group uniformly "up-to-speed" technically? Do they
all use the same software tools?
- Assess how personalities, learning levels and confidence may
vary among your group members.
- Watch for topic drift. Steer the discussion with regular
- Will you evaluate participants on number of responses, length
of responses, quality of responses, or only by their having
read all posted messages? Do your participants know how their
participation will be evaluated?
- How will you use private email to supplement the public
conference? Use your one-on-one relationship for encouragement.
- Use private email to advise them on what they are doing
right or could do better.
- Ask "leading" questions and resist being too chatty yourself.
Give students enough time to respond.
- "Flaming" is the term for negative, hostile interaction. Be
ready for it when it happens. You may have to decide when you
will censor messages or ban participants. You must be ready to
serve as the arbitrator when conflicts arise.
- Always bring a discussion to closure and provide assessment
measures for the group and/or each participant. One option
is to post the entire transcript for review.
Interactive reading and writing is a fundamentally new communications medium that focuses on the written word in a dynamic form with characteristics of oral speech, yet with the editability and permanence of the written word.
Face-to-face, we focus on verbal interaction, online we focus on written interaction. Each mode has its advantages and disadvantages, but both are important mediums for building social and communications skills.
Online motivation of students is important. Students must share in the learning goals of the class, feel a sense of control over their learning, and ideally share a sense of "fun" throughout the online learning experience. It is important to "model" how to have fun learning with others online!
Social informality is important to demonstrate and encourage. The instructor must maintain a sense of "being onstage" when facilitating an online class. The instructor "models" the style of interaction expected from the students. In reading the class conference messages, note the different impressions you get
regarding the various students. Be aware how a sense of the class's group personality, as well as individual personalities, are revealed, and continue to develop, through online interaction.
Initial dutiful responses from students will hopefully be replaced with genuine inquiries and exchanges based on their interest in learning. The initial weeks determine whether the class develops a sense of community and purpose or is reduced to hodge-podge messaging between disconnected, disinterested
Moderating an online discussion can be a challenging role for an instructor. Keeping the discussion on track, regularly summarizing points made, and asking the right questions to lead the discussion are skills that are developed through practice.
Thorough course organization and friendly back and forth dialogue compensate for the "out-of-sight, out-of-mind" challenges of the online medium.
Building on a Foundation of Trust:
In previous lessons, we've touched on issues and methods for leading online interactive activities. Trust, is an essential component of any online discussion-- trust that you won't be laughed at in a demeaning way and trust that others will respond honestly to you, as they trust you to honestly respond to them. Patronizing messages intended to "say what the teacher wants," to get a good grade, etc., won't produce a good online discussion.
As a truly "mind-to-mind" medium, it doesn't work well if participants are not really thinking! For this reason, online discussions can be wonderful experiences or a waste of effort. Your students will need to demonstrate whether they are ready to think for themselves and to articulate their thoughts for others.
Mentorship Issues and Models
Review the listing of Mentoring Models and Resources at http://lone-eagles.com/mentor.htm
Read the short article on Big Sky Telegraph and Big-hearted Mentoring listed there.
Review the short essay followed by a listing of articles at: http://lone-eagles.com/smart.htm
See also the many related resources listed in sections three and four of "Common Ground: A Cross-cultural Self-directed Learner's Internet Guide" http://lone-eagles.com/guide.htm .
Casey Hughes has created a rich listing of free web-based collaboration tools:
Free Web-based Collaborative Tools http://www.kmunity.net/Free_Tools_/free_tools_.html
OtherLone Eagle collaborative tools listings are at http://lone-eagles.com/webdev.htm http://lone-eagles.com/collab.htm http://lone-eagles.com/community-tools.htm and http://lone-eagles.com/teacherstools.htm
Teachers' Guide to International Collaboration on the Internethttp://www.ed.gov/teachers/how/tech/international/guide.html
New from the U.S. Dept. of Ed., on the importance of International education.
Look for the community networking articles at www.comtechreview.org Read "What is Community networking and Why You Should Care."
In summary, we have more web collaboration tools than we have time, expertise, and understanding on how to use them!
New forms of communications tools are emerging all the time.
Free social networks in 2 minutes at www.ning.com (created by the
author of Netscape.)
Free blogs at www.blogspot.com
Free photo sites at www.flickr.com
Much much more at http://lone-eagles.com/toolbox.htmThere's an interesting project-based learning toolbox athttp://www.inquiry.uiuc.edu with the option for you to create your owncustomized collaborative space, and sub spaces for your students, fast andeasily, and with privacy. You can create a CIL (community inquiry lab) inminutes at http://www.inquiry.uiuc.edu/cil/index.php and this NSF projectis on a ten year timeline so it won't disappear overnight. More on thesignificance of building learning communities at http://lone-eagles.com/smart.htm
Lesson Feedback: Optional, but much appreciated.
You're invited to privately email your instructor:
1. What areas, if any, did you have trouble with during this lesson?
2. What questions remain now that you've finished this lesson?
3. Approximately how much time did you devote to this lesson?
4. What improvements would you like to suggest?