By SunGard K-12 Staff
It was more than a bit symbolic that David Ashby, director of instructional technology for Washington County (N.C.) Public Schools, made a joint presentation at TCEA with Kim Hampton, technology integration facilitator at Frisco (Texas) ISD, from North Carolina via Google+ Hangouts. The pair, who were former colleagues at Frisco ISD, have continued their collaboration, despite a separation of more than 1,300 miles, to the benefit of the students in both of their school districts.
At TCEA, the pair discussed their efforts to create programs that build critical 21st-century skills in communication and collaboration using technology.
Evidence of the need for such collaborative experiences at the K-12 level can be found in the 2010 American Management Association Critical Skills Survey. In that survey, the majority of executives identified the following four skills as priorities for employee development, talent management, and succession planning in the next one to three years: communications skills, critical thinking skills, collaboration/team building, and creativity and innovation. As the K-12 students of today are the U.S. workforce of tomorrow, it is imperative that educators create opportunities for the development of these skills.
Frisco ISD has launched several collaborative efforts, which Kim detailed during the presentation. In addition, the pair also created a collaborative distance-learning experience, pairing students from the two school districts. The following collaborative experiences were highlighted:
Playwriting Collaboration. Students at Frisco ISD collaborated online to write original plays using Google Docs from Google Apps for Education.
Book Battle. Frisco ISD and a nearby school district prepared for a visit from author Neal Shusterman by reading his books and then engaging in a Book Battle quiz show-style contest via Skype.
Moodle Forums. In 2009, Frisco ISD launched a student forum on Moodle, pairing students who were advanced in their understanding of Autodesk Maya, a 3D animation software, with students who were not. The forum created an effective online training tool and eventually led to the students creating tutorials for the animation software.
Mentoring Programs. Frisco ISD created a mentoring program in Moodle, pairing an advanced student with a lower-level student. At the beginning of the project, the advanced student provided a written description of a black-and-white photo to the lower-level student. Without seeing the original image, the lower-level student gradually created a graphic illustration of the photograph through a six-week process of communication and feedback with the advanced student.
Distance-Learning Poetry Activity. For Poetry month, Frisco ISD and Washington County Public Schools created a learning experience pairing one English student from each of the districts to create an original poem in Google Docs.
Kim concluded the presentation by encouraging her audience to find collaborators of their own. “You’re at TCEA. This is a great place to network and find people who want to do projects,” she said. “So, find somebody today who might be willing to do a project with your class.”