Next - Networking

With A

Partner Class

You can have as many classes as you like involved in a collaborative project, but if you are starting out, then it might be a good idea to just pair up with one other class.

Ideas for where to find classes:
  • a different year level within your own school
  • a school within your own region or city - you might bump into another teacher at a conference who is keen to work with you
  • a school in another city in Australia - two classes both learning Indonesian, one in Melbourne and one in Perth, would have plenty to teach each other
  • a class at your sister school if you have one
  • a class in another country - any country. Don't just limit yourself to the country or countries where they speak your target language

But, how do you find these classes? Well, that's where online networking for teachers comes in.

So, once you have found a class to work with and you have decided what you will all do, how will you actually motivate the kids to connect with each other? Here are a few planning tips and questions to think about:

Synchronous Connections (Video or voice conferencing)

Asynchronous Connections

  • Small groups first - Students can be nervous when they first experience synchronous connections - whether it be through video or voice conferencing. So, for the first time aim to have them connect in small groups rather than the whole class at once. It means then that if they get nervous and can't think of anything to say that they don't have a whole audience of two classes making it worse.
  • Make sure students are prepared with a few questions/sentences to prompt themselves with. They may not need them but it's always handy to have something ready in case the conversation goes off track or someone can't think of anything to say next.
  • Make sure the students know that everyone should have a chance to speak and to make sure it's not one person all the time. It might be worth practicing this before hand - getting the kids to practice a few helpful phrases in the target language like
    • what do you think?
    • can you say that again?
    • can you tell me about...
  • It might be useful for the students to have some props with them - something to show perhaps that might help conversation along.
  • When students get used to conferencing they will become really good at it and confident talking to other students so they will find their own way of what works for them. When they do get to this point, maybe ask them to think back to their journey and they could write a short guide for other classes on how to get the most out of their conferences.
  • By asynchronous connections I mean things like commenting on blogs, sharing presentations, adding to a wiki - any communication that is not live conferencing really.
  • Here are a few questions to think about:
    • Are comments important in your project?
    • Does the application you are thinking about using support commenting?
    • How will you regulate the comments?
    • How will you encourage students from both classes to actually comment?
    • Will students comment in English or the target language?
  • One idea would be to get the kids to make up a sheet of useful commenting phrases in the target language - a lot of slang language could be used here! The commenting phrases could even be a key part of the project - as in you could make that one of the first tasks that kids complete and share with the partner class. The kids could compare the lists that the different classes create.
  • Let the kids write the sorts of comments they want to - obviously as long as they aren't nasty in anyway. Maybe get them to create a list of shortened words in the target language - kind of like the way they write English. Do keep an eye on the comments and if they get too far off track maybe let the kids know, but really they probably need to get the initial stuff out of their system and establish how they are going to communicate with each other, so let them go, give them a chance, and then pull it in if need be. You may find that by giving them that freedom you figure out some new ways of approaching the connection part of the project.

Chat applications you may be interested in exploring:

Skype - text chatting and video conferencing
Seesmic - video messaging
Eyejot - video messaging by email
Google Chat - text chatting and video conferencing

You might like to try signing up to Twitter, learning about some of its features and thinking about how it could be used in a collaborative project:
One reason Twitter has great potential in the language classroom because:it involves short messages making it a great medium for writing single sentences. Hashtags (#) can then be added to messages to make searching responses to questions easy. For example, the question 'ni xihuan shenme yundong?' (what sport do you like?) might be posted with a possible response being 'wo xihuan to zuqiu' (I like soccer) #yundong (sport). This tag at the end (#yundong) is the search term that can be entered in to twitter, so all of the posts with #yundong will then show up.That will all make more sense once you have a good look around the Twitter site.
**Twitter is also GREAT for online networking for teachers.

Check out this very useful presentation with some ideas for using Twitter in the classroom.
This blog post, Twitter in the classroom: 10 useful resources is very handy too.


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