Have you heard the new buzzword - telecollaboration? It’s honestly nothing new; it’s simply a new term for an old idea. You’ve heard of telecommuting, television, and IP telephony, but this is a new one to add in Webster’s “tele” lineup. Telecollaboration is simply defined as: collaborative work using the Internet for project communication.
There are several different telecollaborative projects, but today I’m going to focus on the easiest to implement, data collection.
Classrooms all have data to share i.e. weather, interests, customs, and photos, and some of these are posted on classroom web pages to share with parents and the community. Now think bigger! What if data was collected from multiple classrooms and analyzed by students? Data on clean water perhaps? Students from all over the world could share data on the cleanliness, accessibility, and pollution of the water in their community. Or what about lunch programs? Students can analyze what meals are well received in schools, which school programs are the healthiest, and how can schools encourage better food choices for their students.
The major benefit of a data collection project is the ease of implementation. Often these projects incorporate the use of an online data collection tool such as a survey or Google Form. You can also use a wiki for more qualitative data as surveys usually limit to text and numerical data.
Another benefit is ANY school age student can participate. A kindergarten project I helped organize was the Here Birdy, Birdy project. Kindergarten students from 5 classrooms across North America collected daily data on bird feeders outside of their classrooms. During calendar time the students recorded the number of birds at the feeder, what colors of birds they saw, and how much bird seed was eaten using an interactive white board. At the end of the week, each teacher posted the data on the project wiki for everyone to share.
I’ve also seen data projects on:
Temperatures at noon on the First Day of Fall, Winter, and Spring
Number of teeth first graders lose
Favorite Dr. Seuss Books on Read Across America Day
Prices of grocery items in different areas of the world
What students are eating for dinner
Hours of sunlight on winter solstice
Economic value of a Big Mac
Third benefit of data collection project is the ease of management. Depending on how many schools you have involved, the work usually isn’t too terrible. It generally consists of the following: Posting of project on webspace for classrooms to register, welcome letter with expectations to all classrooms, spreadsheet with classroom email contacts, data collection tool, spreadsheet or wiki with survey results, and thank you letter. To be honest, once you have all the classrooms registered, the entire data collection process and data posting can happen in 24 hours.
The real work with students occurs once the data is reported. What are you going to have the students do with the data? Graphs? Action plans? Web conferencing? The sky is the limit, but remember at this point is where the higher level thinking skills should be tested.
Currently, there are data collection projects that are looking for classroom partners for all grade levels. These are usually reoccurring annual projects, so if you enjoy them this year, consider repeating next year with a new crop of students.
CIESE Real Time Data Projects
Journey North Spring Projects
WATT’s Up Energy Conservation Project
School Yard and Classroom Investigations
I also recommend reading The Guided Tour of Data Sharing to help you get started.