Teaching and Learning with Faraway Partners: First Steps

A Mini-WebQuest for Creative Teachers

Designed by Bernie Dodge

Slightly modified by Philip Molebash

Introduction | Task | Process | Evaluation | Conclusion | Credits


The internet isn't just about web pages; it's also about connecting people together. Those connections can enliven your teaching and make your class one that your students will never forget.

  • Imagine having your students gathering data from your local environment and then comparing it with data from a classroom in Australia.
  • Imagine your students corresponding with students in a refugee camp in Bosnia.
  • Imagine your students collaborating on a collection of old sayings gathered from a dozen different cultures.

These powerful connections aren't that hard to carry out, as long as you know what you're getting into. In this exercise, you'll begin to figure it out.


Working in groups, you are going to study a number of examples of telecollaboration-based lessons. Your task is to tease out some important pedagogical elements and issues and be able to explain them to the rest of us. You'll express your newfound understanding by writing a compelling letter to your principal making a case for this kind of teaching.



  1. We'll begin by looking at three very different projects. Take a total of 10 minutes to explore each of these sites:

    The Way We Are
    Down the Drain
    Historical Sites

  2. As a class, we'll discuss what you saw at these sites. What do you think students would learn from these lessons? How difficult do they seem to set up and implement? What would you be doing in the classroom while these were going on?

  3. Next, we'll count off and divide up the task of understanding the various elements that make up projects like these. You work on one of the following investigation teams, each with its own guiding question and sites:

    Logistical Issues - What kinds of things do you need to watch out for in setting up collaborative exchanges? What details can get in the way of a successful project?


    Interview with 8 Keypals

    Keys to Successful Telecomputing

    Advantages - What do learners learn when they collaborate at a distance? What unique advantages do lessons like this provide?

    Email Projects for the Classroom

    Benefits of Telecollaboration

    Resources - How do you find projects and partners? Which sites seem best for which kinds of projects and which sorts of students?


    Global School House



  4. Once the investigation teams have compared notes and developed a response to their question, we'll get back together with your task group of three. Within your group, share what you learned from looking at the sites.

  5. Your final task is to write a note to your principal, making a case for you getting some support to develop a number of telecollaborative lessons over the coming year. What kind of support do you need? Why should you be devoting your time to this? Provide some examples of the kinds of projects you might do and explain how they will help you meet your curricular goals. To demonstrate that you know what you're talking about, point out some of the details that you'll need to cover to ensure a successful project.

  6. We'll wrap this up by reading each letter aloud.


This activity will not be graded. The Telecollaborative Lesson, on the other hand, will count for 15% of your grade.


Are you now more enthusiastic about tackling a lesson like this? Do you think you could make a case with your principal or department chair to spend your time on one? If the answer is yes, you might want to look at the following sites to build on what you just learned. They are both based on the work of Judi Harris.

Activity Structures

Action Sequences

Credits & References

Some images in this exercise come from ClipArt.com. Thanks to Judi Harris for making her Virtual Architecture site freely available.

This exercise is loosely based on the Genre Analysis pattern from the Design Patterns page on the SDSU WebQuest Site.

We all benefit by being generous with our work. Permission is hereby granted for other educators to copy this exercise, update or otherwise modify it, and post it elsewhere provided that the original author's name is retained along with a link back to the original URL of this exercist. On the line after the original author's name, you may add Modified by (your name) on (date). If you do modify it, please let me know and provide the new URL.

Last updated on January 31, 2006. Based on a template from The WebQuest Page