Creating Community and Learning Experiences via E-mail - Expanding the Model

By Martin Kimeldorf
From , 2001

There are many examples of students, teachers and partners creating community and learning experiences one e-mail at a time. People have found a way to weave together community service and online communication, writing and critical thinking skills, cooperative learning and shared decision making experiences. The following illustrations are adapted from a paper I wrote in 1994 entitled, Teaching Online.

1) Social Studies, math, or Health classes explore the themes "food, shelter, and transportation." Students collect information from people around the country, or around the world asking, "What are your favorite foods? Describe a typical home where you live. What are the most and least common forms of transportation?" The culminating task is to find a way to synthesize the results of the surveys. This can include chart making, discussion, computer displays, statistical analysis, and writing comparison and contrast essays.

2) A lesson in physical education asks students to collect different views about sports and techniques. Then during the math or computer lesson students are taught how to display the results of their research using graphs or spreadsheets. The activity can be further expanded into art applications by adding scanned or digital camera images to make posters and charts.

3) A music class writes a score for the poetry written in an English class.

4) Business students work with a creative writing class to produce a student publication summing up current trends, both positive and negative.

5) Elementary school students e-mail a list of important events to a vocational-technical school printing class which later outputs a desktop published calendar or newsletter.

6) Students in physical education work with an art class to design unusual "trading cards."

7) A middle school class teaches residents in a nearby nursing home how to use computers and explore the web.

8) Recipes are compiled by an elementary school class and put into a text file. Then a high school marketing class takes the text file to produce a desktop publishing quality book. Both student groups could collaborate on packaging, distribution, and advertising. In this way we establish a cross-generational link in addition to network connections.

9) Any class can develop projects to combat all the "negative news." This might involve creating a "good news bulletin board." Ask people online about the positive events and efforts they have witnessed or been a part of in the world, especially the small acts of kindness which too often go unreported in the local papers. The selected pieces could be uploaded to a school web site, or submitted to the school paper.

Any project can be adapted for any grade level. Sometimes partners are found in other schools, other grades, or other parts of the planet. Integration of subject matter grows naturally out of projects which are jointly developed by students across different disciplines. If you want to promote intergenerational or interdisciplinary collaborations, you just might get there faster online.

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