Friday, April 10, 2009

Collaborating with scientists & experts

Here are some decision prompts and considerations to guide teachers in planning collaborations with external partners, and ideas on how to set-up and manage the collaboration.

Learning activities

What is the purpose of the collaboration? See also our session design guidelines and checklist. For example:
  • Experiment and discuss science with peers, locally or remotely
  • Listen to a live talk and engage in discussion on a topic
  • Research and create a science discussion, building up a resource of supporting evidence
  • Engage in activities that could continue out of school via web or in small groups
  • Collaborate with an active scientist to contribute to their work
  • Expose students to global variations in a particular science concept
  • Gain experience with using expensive equipment not normally viable in school science, with other students, across schools, or loan from external organisations.
Partner considerations
  • Does the topic lend itself to distributed work, or calling in an expert?
  • Is a suitable collaborator known and available, or does a colleague know one?
  • Consider searching for a UK expert using the scientist directory or scientist search tool
  • Is the collaborator a teacher who understands age group and school context? If not consider how to moderate language to student level
  • Has the expert or scientist suitable experience of school collaborations? Do they need a police check?
  • Is the collaborator (or group) in the same time zone? How could a collaboration be managed if not?
  • What kinds of communication and data analysis technology do both partners have access to? If nothing found in common consider web tools (Google docs for example)
  • Could experience of people in a different environment be used to illustrate global differences?
  • Can language barriers be overcome?
  • Is non-local peer-collaboration a more suitable option than schools close-by, or could a healthy rivalry or competition be created?
  • Can collaboration be tied in with a previous or forthcoming school exchange trip?
  • What activities can be engaged in locally (on school grounds) to exchange discussions with others with different kinds of built and weather environments?
Collaboration management considerations
  • Collaborating in real time – is the timetable flexible for both partners? Is there a mutual time (e.g. after school club) that could be used?
  • Is there a supportive technician available to help teacher set-up the collaboration?
  • Agree aims and successful outcomes early on in relationship building
  • Using a web-based data store and idea gathering area (e.g. Google docs) allows for asynchronous work if scheduling a live chat is difficult
  • Allow sufficient technology set-up and testing time between collaborators before session
  • Check any daylight saving conflicts that may upset meetings scheduled
  • Are there any local policies or practices that affect the work being done, e.g. school network filtering of some websites, student equipment (mobile phone ban in school), multiple logins and access to a web site slowing down the network
  • An openly visible website may need moderating or contributors to login to allow postings and protect inappropriate material being uploaded.

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