There has been much conversation about challenges to online global collaboration and how teachers are overcoming barriers to effective implementation of this.
With over 20 years experience developing online global collaborative opportunities across the world, these are my essential ‘Norms of Global Collaboration’. They are behaviours to be practiced in all possible modes (synchronous and asynchronous) when collaborating globally.
I am interested in what you, as a global educator and collaborator, think. What would you add? What would you change?
- Allow time for effective communication
- Communicating from opposite sides of the world means we need to allow at least 24 hours for partners to respond, and not become frustrated if in fact it is more than this, but obliged to nudge for a response beyond 48 hours. This is where collaborative tools such as Google docs or wikis have set the standard for what can be called ‘effective’ communication. New text, images, links, and comments can be left asynchronously for global partners to respond to on the document or page. The goal is to keep communication localised to the discussion and not in emails.
Use clear, global language
- Remember at all times there is often more than one way to spell a word or to describe a thing or situation. Therefore global partners are not ‘wrong’ when they spell differently to you. Clarity is achieved by using common language such as referring to months rather than seasons, providing timezone conversion charts (e.g. http://timeanddate.com) for meetings, and being able to convert temperatures and measurements as needed, to mention a few.
Question actively for cultural understanding
- Misunderstandings between global partnerships can be avoided with more careful questioning - either synchronous or asynchronous. Nations have unique cultural sayings that, although usually very funny, do not support understanding unless questioned and explained. For example, a typical Australian statement might be ‘I will put my case in the boot before we go’, meaning they will put their bag in the closed compartment of the car. How odd! Inquiry-based collaboration is encouraged at all times.
Be reliable and visible online
- When collaborating around a table face-to-face it is almost impossible to not contribute as the norm is to allow for and request opinions from all. However in an online scenario it is VERY easy to be ‘invisible’ by not responding or contributing to online spaces.
- Make sure all members of the collaboration understand how and where to contribute and what the expectation is for doing this reliably (timeframe, frequency)
Contribute and respond often
- To avoid the breakdown of collaborative relationships frequent and responses from all contributors will help make the collaboration productive.
- It is not only about contribution however, collaboration relies on interaction and responding. So, adding your ideas and material and then becoming invisible is also not acceptable in a collaborative environment. Responses to individual contributions fosters problem solving and co-creation of outcomes through ongoing discussion and knowledge building
Share local and global data
- All global collaborators are encouraged to share local data - often one of the most challenging things to do. Seeing and hearing things familiar in daily life makes them almost too ‘normal’ to share and a feeling of disbelief that someone else would find it interesting or relevant. Sharing local images, occurrences, statistics etc. helps to build empathy between collaborators and to build a global data collection
- Share questions about global topics - do not be afraid to say you do not understand or do not know - this is where global partners, in true collaboration, will support new understandings via their frequent responses to questions and comments
Aim for co-created output
- A well-designed online global collaboration is about co-creating something. This final norm aims for understanding about this co-creation and encourages all collaborators to work towards this. It may be a co-created statement or document that all have contributed to, or a co-created multimedia artefact