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Level Three:
Communicating and Working Together
(The Power of Building Learning Communities
  Through Internet Collaboration)

CONTEXT: Communities can be defined as those people to which we give our time and talent. Communities are the sum of what we give to each other. There are givers and takers in all communities. Givers are those who give their precious time to build community and supportive relationships as a direct result of their actions. Sharing, with a balance of giving and taking, is a fundamental component of healthy communities.

"Communities of interest" can use the Internet to work closely together regardless of where the members live. The Internet brings new, convenient ways to contribute to others through mentoring, sharing, and teaching, all from the social safety of one’s own home. There is no upward limit to how much help you can provide to others.

By posting resources to save others the time finding them, and posting self-directed learning opportunities to guide others to new skills and resources, potentially great numbers of people can benefit, all thanks to you.

There are over ten different collaborative tools on the Internet, with more being invented all the time. We are all challenged with learning how to make the best use of these collaborative tools for building learning communities.

Project-based learning (PBL) is an instructional model that relates directly to the use of collaborative tools for real-world problem-solving. A key trend in K-12 education is collaborative learning with a real-world problem-solving emphasis related to issues facing the local community.

Success in the information age will depend on an individual's character, values, and ability to work with others both face-to-face and when necessary using collaborative Internet tools.

The work model of the future is individuals working as "Lone Eagles" along with others on multiple short-term projects requiring highly developed group-work skills. Knowledge of which collaborative tools are best used for specific purposes is vitally important and can best be learned through direct hands-on experience. We all need to learn how to plan, implement, and evaluate projects that involve others and that depend upon the manipulation of digital information. We need to learn how best to solve real world problems using the best tools at our fingertips.

Lesson Goals

Keep the following general goals in mind as you work through hands-on exploration of the activities and resources presented in this lesson. A selection of the web resources referenced in this lesson is printed in the pages following the text of the lesson and elsewhere in this guide.

  • Learn About Listservs
  • Learn Ways to Build Collaborative Capacity


       Suggested Hands-on Learning Opportunities

1. Join one new listserv and cut-and-paste a sample message from this listserv as part of a posting to our class listserv. Include information regarding at least two of the most interesting listservs which you discovered while exploring directories of listservs presented in this lesson. Include a brief description of where you found them and what they offer. Include your candid reaction to the potential utility of listservs along with an accounting of your current and past experiences with listservs.

2. Send your instructor a one-page write-up verifying you've reviewed all presented resources in this lesson. Include confirmation that you can use all email features listed in the section below "A. Email Skills Checklist" below and whether you need help learning any of these.

The Vision

Thoughtful use of the incredible efficiency of email, listservs, and other collaborative tools literally allows you the capability for "business at the speed of thought." Add to this the global reach, the convenience of 24 hour, seven-day-a-week delivery, the fact that it is free, and that your competition knows all of this. Now you're in a position to consider how you can leverage the power of email and other forms of Internet collaborations for your own diverse purposes.

Email, Listservs, and Collaboration

A. Identify the Most Useful Email Features

Email Skills Checklist

___Free Private Email Accounts: Never use someone else's email account when you can have your own private account. Consider keeping more than one email account if you'd like to keep various arenas of email interaction separate. If you give out your email address on web sites, expect to soon receive dozens of unwanted emails. You can buy CDROM's with 57 million email addresses gathered in this way. "Spam" is unwanted email sent to millions of people without their consent - wasting time and energy. Let your spouse and kids get their own email accounts free at http://hotmail.com and http://yahoo.com .

___Nicknames: Did you know most email programs have a nickname feature where you can make a list of email addresses, and give it a nickname, so whenever you want to send a note to the whole listing you just send one message to the nickname and everyone gets a copy? This is not the same as a listserv since they can't send a message to everyone unless they do the same thing you did.

___Mailboxes: Did you know most email programs allow you to save any message to one or more mailboxes for later reference? You can create new mailboxes at anytime and this is a great way of archiving and organizing the best resource messages from listservs, family, etc. I save all lesson submission messages for my classes, and archive the best resource messages from several listservs. I have two dozens different mailboxes that I save specific information in for easy retrieval at any time. I can sort the list at any time by name or date, which is very useful!

___Signatures: Did you know that your email has a signature feature which causes your email program to automatically attach text to the bottom of every message? This text, called a signature file, can include your contact information, such as your mailing address, work position, and even a line of philosophy or humor.

___Attachments: Did you know you can attach any kind of file to an email message? Trouble is, if the recipient of your message doesn't have the right software to view, say a powerpoint file, they will just be frustrated that you sent them a powerpoint file. Never post attachments to listservs for this very reason, and always confirm what software is at the other end before you 'gift' folks with your attachments. Whether Mac or PC, you can tell your computer what software to use to open up a specific file type. Search your HELP features for "file type" to learn how to set this up. Then, when you double click on an attachment, it opens right up into the proper software program. Handy!

___HTML Messaging:  Did you know many of the newer email programs allow you to send messages in HTML format that will also display web page attachments automatically? You can use stationary templates and send visually exciting multimedia messages, BUT did you know that when you send an HTML message to someone without this software your message looks like garbage? Stick with standard messaging unless you've checked to see that they have compatible email software on the receiving end.

___What Help Button? Did you know your email program has a help button that explains the above features, and more, in detail. Oh! THAT help button! All software has detailed step-by-step instructions, and often easy tutorials - hidden under the help button. Explore the index and contents features until you understand how HELP works. Yes, there's a HELP section on using the HELP button, too. Guess where?

B. Learning About Listservs

Begin by Reading "Workplace to Workspace -  Using Email Lists to work together online" http://www.idrc.ca/books/848.html (Buy the book and support the generous author!) It is short, and easy to read.

Then explore the free listserv resources at http://lists.topica.com and for thorough tutorials on listservs click on the "help" link at the bottom of the page.  Similar free listservs and tutorials are at http://groups.yahoo.com and dozens of other sites easily found by searching for "free listservs."

Additional Listserv Tutorials:

Reach for the Sky - Beginner's Introduction to Listservs http://www.learner.org/courses/rfts/b4web.htm

If you search for listservs AND tutorial* you'll find long listings of tutorials for listservs. Try this with any other topic and you'll get similar long listings. Here's a couple more listserv tutorials found in this manner: www.whc.net/whc/support/mailist.htm www.sagrelto.com/tutorial/

C. Ten Internet Collaborative Tools

Select "The Ten Collaborative Tools of the Internet"
http://lone-eagles.com/collab.htm from the online Internet Guide's table of contents http://lone-eagles.com/guide.htm and review the links under Email and Listservs, spending time reading about Netiquette and listserv basics! Read the "Mailing Lists Handout" http://lone-eagles.com/mailing.htm and note the suggestions for listservs to try out.

Some listservs may have been discontinued so you may have to try subscribing to several before you're successful.

D. Educational Online Collaboration

Read the article on the Ten Collaborative Tools for an overview of the possibilities for K-12 use; http://lone-eagles.com/articles/tencollab.htm.

Review the tutorials and links for the other Ten Collaborative Internet Tools within the time constraints of this lesson, noting those listed web sites that offer you the ability to create free listservs, free newsgroups, and free web forums. Note that keywords are given for each for the ten collaborative tools which will give you a rich listing of additional tutorials on each of the ten collaborative tools.

We all find the range of collaborative tools overwhelming! Take a break when you feel overwhelmed, and know that you can always return to this outline of tutorials whenever you're ready to learn more. Email and Listservs are by far the most common, so focus on those for now. Web conferencing is the next most important area, with desktop video conferencing becoming more popular all the time, too. How we use collaborative tools in our lives will ultimately be a far more human issue than a technical issue. Online social and writing skills will be very important for our future success!

TIP: You'll find the current trend is online offerings of an increasingly wide variety of free collaborative tools that are easy to use! Explore the many free, private, collaborative services listed at http://lone-eagles.com/currtour.htm and

E. Help on Internet Spam, Scams, Hoaxes, and Viruses

Scams are email messages and web sites with insincere intents. Learn more at Scambusters.org http://scambusters.org.

Hoaxes are often emailed warnings based on rumors that are untrue. Learn more at Current Health-Related Hoaxes and Rumors http://www.cdc.gov/hoax_rumors.htm Hoaxbusters http://hoaxbusters.ciac.org/.

Spam is unwanted email, often associated with Scams. Learn more at Spamcon Foundation http://www.spamcon.org.

Viruses are often sent hidden in unwanted email and can wipe out your hard drive, or worse! Find out how computer viruses and worms work by logging onto http://www.howstuffworks.com/virus.htm.

You should have a virus protection program running on your computer. You should know to never open an attachment from someone you don't know. Some viruses will automatically send messages to every email address on a person's computer without their knowledge, so even opening an attachment from someone you DO know might contain a virus. Learn more at

Free Virus Software and Related Information http://www.mcafee.com.

Hate sites on the Internet
More offensive than any of the above.

NOTE: If you can think of an important topic that should be raised in this lesson, please post it to the class listserv!