Meridian Middle School Computer Technologies Journal

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Integration of Cultural Diversity and Technology: Learning by Design

Judy Lambert and Tony Sanchez

Issue I, Volume 10, 2007

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Using principles from both the technological pedagogical content knowledge design approach (TPCK) and Chisholm’s six-element framework (1998), a technology expert and several teachers designed a middle school videoconferencing project that proved effective in deepening students’ understanding and appreciation for culturally sensitive behavior. The use of technology provided students with added engagement and an authentic experience for applying their understanding of cultural sensitivity. By the explicit act of design, teachers learned that achieving instructional goals is the real purpose for employing technology. This account illustrates that teachers can learn to integrate technology effectively when they participate in the design of a project that centers on a curriculum-based instructional problem. Videoconferencing technology can be particularly useful when helping students internalize and apply an abstract concept such as cultural diversity.         


Technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPCK) is an emergent form of knowledge that goes beyond the three individual components of content, pedagogy, and technology (Koehler & Mishra, 2005). Content is the subject matter to be learned; pedagogy is the collection of practices, processes, strategies, procedures, and methods of teaching and learning; and technology encompasses modern (e.g., computers or Internet) and traditional (e.g., overhead or book) classroom tools. TPCK is different from the knowledge of disciplinary experts, technology experts, and teachers across disciplines; it is the connections and interactions among content, pedagogy, and technology. Designing a solution to a problem becomes an event where learning happens, a method that lends itself to inquiry, reflection, creativity, dialogue, and deep understanding. This process which Mishra and Koehler (2006) call Learning Technology by Design situates learning in authentic contexts by engaging teachers in real-world problems centered on subject matter content and instructional goals instead of on technology and skills instruction. By weaving together technology, content, and pedagogy, it allows teachers to apply their knowledge of technology in real-world practice. Many educators currently perceive technology as an object not as a process; it is frequently considered a thing as opposed to a method of learning about a thing (Mehlinger & Powers, 2002). Such confusion has distracted some educators from the primary goal, which is making technological teaching “more available, effective, and interesting” (Mehlinger & Powers, 2002, p. 10). The Learning Technology by Design approach can move teachers beyond thinking about specific technology skills to focusing on the teaching and learning goals they want to achieve

By implementing a Learning Technology by Design approach, a school-based technology expert assisted several fifth-grade teachers in designing a videoconferencing project that produced unexpected and exciting results for students and teachers alike.  Though the project was implemented with fifth-grade students, the principles that guided teachers’ choice of media, activities, and curriculum goals as well as the rationale for integrating cultural diversity and technology are critical and applicable at the middle school level. Students at this age are no longer exclusively looking to their own families to define personal identities; they are refocusing their identities in relation to others in the society (NMSA, 2006), and technology has been found to have positive effects on student attitudes and self-concept, especially in students of low abilities (Silvin-Kachala & Bialo, 2000). Eighth grade is often when students either decide to drop out of school or begin preparing seriously to pursue higher education (NMSA, 2006). Technology integrated into a challenging curriculum can help prevent boredom in school and serve as a tool to help all students develop intellectually in ways not always possible in the regular curriculum.

In order to combine two sensitive issues in which teachers lacked sufficient experience (cultural diversity and technology), the technology expert provided teachers with Chisholm’s (1998) six-element framework for using technology to support cultural diversity in the classroom. These elements became the reinforcement and guidance teachers needed to plan and carry out an innovative and challenging project. This article describes Chisholm’s elements, project design, and application of these principles. Narratives are included to illustrate participants’ reactions to the project, and conclusions are offered on the learning outcomes and Learning Technology by Design approach. Authors also provide helpful resources to assist teachers in planning a similar project.

Chisholm’s Six Element Framework for Integrating Technology

Chisholm(1998) asserted that integrating technology in the classroom is important for several reasons: (1) the preparation of children for a technological society; (2) the assurance of equal opportunities and participation in society, and; (3) the empowerment of human capabilities within all children, especially those of a minority who are currently marginalized. The first element of Chisholm’s framework, cultural awareness, requires cognitive and affective understanding and acceptance of diverse cultural histories, traditions, values, patterns of discourse, and individual and cultural learning styles. When using technology, teachers can design supportive instructional strategies for second-language learners that include adaptation of materials, pairing of students, teacher demonstrations, visual clues, and simplification of language. Chisholm’s element two, cultural relevance, is not merely the addition of holidays or special events for diverse cultures; rather, it involves connecting cultural backgrounds to everyday activities. Relevant instruction provides links to the student’s world and in doing so validates the learner’s personal experiences, perceptions, and emotions. This helps the student organize new concepts within existing schema and promotes motivation.

A culturally supportive environment is Chisholm’s third element (1998). This type of environment allows all voices and opinions to be heard and valued. It challenges exploration, discovery, and higher-level thinking, and it welcomes students’ families as part of the learning environment as valuable resources for collaboration and support. Fourth, equitable access entails providing adequate equipment for all students and also requires that teachers be competent in adapting to the equipment and learning strategies necessary to support diverse learners. This means all children are provided opportunities for higher-level thinking and productivity rather than just drill and practice. Children need assistance in acquiring the skills and knowledge to gather information and to discern its value and relevance.

Instructional flexibility, the fifth element, provides multiple modes of instructional delivery and assessment measures to reach a variety of intelligences and learning styles (Chisholm, 1998). Students are given choices in programs, media, partners, and demonstration of learning so that their learning is culturally compatible and supportive of personal learning preferences. The last element, instructional integration, refers to the extent that technology is integrated into classroom learning. Again, integration goes beyond drilling for practice to using technology for creativity, problem-solving, and higher-order thinking.

The Pinballs Videoconference Project

Background and Purpose of Study

Three fifth-grade North Carolina (NC) teachers (one social studies and math teacher, one language arts and science teacher, and one art teacher), a student teacher, a school counselor, a media specialist, and a school-based technology expert designed a collaboration focusing on social studies and language arts. The instructional problem teachers wanted to solve through the project was, “How can we help students internalize the concept of cultural diversity?” Not only did teachers want their students to understand the concept of cultural diversity, but they wanted them to apply this concept through a real-world experience. From a standards-based perspective, teachers wanted their students to identify and appreciate the differences between cultures and learn how people in different cultures share many of the same values and characteristics. Their goal was to broaden students’ frames of reference and help students develop greater appreciation for individual and ethnic differences.

The class was studying a unit on the United States (US) so teachers decided a partner class within the US would best support the unit of study. However, two criteria in choosing a partner class were that the partner class needed to be in a different region (either of NC, the Southeast, or the US) and in a substantially different environmental setting (i.e., urban vs. rural). With these significant differences, this project would provide middle school students with a developmentally appropriate experience in cultural diversity and help them build needed skills to relate to people in larger environmental contexts later in life. For young children, the understanding of culture begins within their immediate family and early social groups, such as preschool classmates. As children reach middle school, cultural understanding branches out to others in the local community, region, or nation. In the section of this article that follows, students’ questions illustrate their current misperceptions of people and how the project enabled them to develop greater understanding of cultural diversity within a national context. The National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS, 2001) explains the development of cultural understanding in children and the importance of providing early experiences for them even among people within close proximity:   

Culture helps us to understand ourselves as both individuals and members of various groups. Human cultures exhibit both similarities and differences. We all, for example, have systems of beliefs, knowledge, values, and traditions. Each system also is unique. In a democratic and multicultural society, students need to understand multiple perspectives that derive from different cultural vantage points. This understanding will allow them to relate to people in our nation and throughout the world…

During the early years of school, the exploration of the concepts of likenesses and differences in school subjects such as language arts, mathematics, science, music, and art makes the study of culture appropriate. Socially, the young learner is beginning to interact with other students, some of whom are like the student and some different; naturally, he or she wants to know more about others. In the middle grades, students begin to explore and ask questions about the nature of culture and specific aspects of culture, such as language and beliefs, and the influence of those aspects on human behavior…

During the middle school years, students relate their personal experiences to happenings in other environmental contexts. Appropriate experiences will encourage increasingly abstract thought as students use data and apply skills in analyzing human behavior in relation to its physical and cultural environment. In the middle grades, issues of personal identity are refocused as the individual begins to explain self in relation to others in the society and culture (See

During the US unit study, the class was reading The Pinballs, a story about three foster children by Newberry Award winning author Betsy Byars (1993). Literature and social studies provided the context for sharing activities and conversations with the partner class. Main activities included email exchanges between keypals (i.e., penpal exchange through email correspondence), digital photos and drawings (art), book sequels, and a culminating videoconference. After NC teachers met several times and agreed on a tentative plan, one of the teachers posted a message on the online guest book of the author’s website ( asking for a partner class. A fifth-grade class from a Midwestern, urban town in Illinois (IL) responded with an interest in the project. Through email, NC and IL teachers discussed their school contexts, project plans, technical issues, curriculum standards, characteristics of classes and students, and goals for a project. A final agenda, detailed plans for each activity, and monthly timelines were established. Students, paired with keypals, exchanged emails four times over a four-month period about personal interests, hobbies, and family life. Students discussed their town, climate, economy, history, people, and thoughts about the foster children in the book. They wrote and exchanged three sequels to the book, each time voting on the best sequel from each class. At the end of the four-month period, a videoconference was scheduled for students to meet their keypals and discuss issues in the book.

Email and videoconferencing technologies were deemed most effective for accomplishing project goals because they would provide students with opportunities to interact with a partner class and the context to apply what they learned about cultural diversity. First email would allow students to communicate more regularly than through “snail mail” and with no postage expenses. Students might be more comfortable and motivated to practice their writing if done in a more conversational and personal medium, and email conversations could be printed and used in other ways such as in language arts activities. Moreover, writing to keypals would provide students with a real audience and purpose for sharing about themselves and class topics, and through their sharing, students could conceivably build friendships with peers at a distance that might help break down prejudices. Second, videoconferencing technology, an interactive video-based communication medium, was chosen to allow students to see and hear each other simultaneously. It would have the ability to engage and involve students in active learning, give them a visual connection to their keypals, allow practice in speaking and presenting, and provide a medium to discuss multiple perspectives of project-related issue.


In the NC fifth-grade class, 24 students participated in the project (13 girls and 11 boys). Their middle school serves approximately 500 students in grades four through eight and is the only middle school in this small town with a population of 5,000. Generations of the students’ families have worked at the local cotton mill that manufactures and sells denim fabric around the world. The town, which is situated in a largely agricultural area, was constructed in 1905 to house the mill workers and is in close proximity of a local river.

In a block schedule of two teachers, students attended language arts and math classes in the morning and social studies and science classes in the afternoon. Three of the student participants had mild learning disabilities and five students had low reading levels, all of whom visited resource classrooms for several hours each day. Activities were completed either in a school computer lab using 30 Macintosh computers with Internet access or by using the mobile cart of 25 computers rolled into the classroom. The videoconference was held in the media center using low-end webcams projected from the computer onto a large screen.

In a self-contained classroom, the Illinois class also had 24 students (10 girls and 14 boys), 9 with learning disabilities and 8 with low reading levels. Approximately 1,500 students in grades K-6 attend their “intermediate” school. Located in the Midwestern region of the US on the Mississippi River, the town of 48,000 people is significantly larger than the NC town. The IL town has a variety of industry, a colder climate, and lots of available recreation. The town is considered an unofficial “micropolis.” When combined with two other nearby counties as one market, the population exceeds 100,000.

The class completed activities using PC computers in a school computer lab, one computer in the classroom, or a reserved mobile cart with six computers. Alpha Smarts, low-cost keyboard devices that allow document printing and transfer to a computer, were used by students to type emails and book sequels (see The classroom computer projected onto a television monitor was used to conduct the videoconference in IL.

For the NC students who had not ventured far beyond their largely low-income, rural mill town, the IL students seemed as different as students living in another country. From the perspective of all students, IL and NC were distant, almost nonexistent places on a US map. Students in both classes believed the differences of these “foreigners” would far outweigh the similarities in dress, favorite music, fun activities, appearance, and language. An email from one of the teachers vividly illustrates students’ initial perceptions: “The questions raised by my kids were interesting (and amusing) when we talked about your class. Do they have an accent? How do they talk? What do they look like? Do they look like us? It was neat because they were beginning to get excited about the project!”


All students were required to read the book, The Pinballs, in order to participate in the project. Less-abled readers (defined as those who rarely finished reading a book) completed the book in order to become a part of the project. English as second language (ESL) students were given assistance by the Spanish teacher to complete the book. The initial requirement to read  the complete book established high expectations for success in all students--not just those who regularly found reading an easy task--and demonstrated the teachers’ concern for Chisholm’s first element, cultural awareness. By providing a purpose and supportive strategies to ensure success, all students were able to participate in the project.

Students from each class were assigned keypals with whom they shared four months of written exchanges about their lives (e.g., family, favorites, hobbies), their environment (e.g., description of their towns, including the town’s history and geography, famous people, and events), and their thoughts about the lives of the three foster children featured in the book. Equitable access, Chisholm’s fourth element was achieved in the NC classroom by scheduling entire class times in the computer lab. Equitable access was achieved in the IL classroom by using Alpha Smarts. Email exchange was invaluable in helping students develop cultural awareness and appreciation as they discovered their partners’ similarities and differences through their personal conversations. To ensure the equal participation of all students, the Spanish teacher assisted ESL students while they corresponded with their email partners. The technology expert assisted all students as they typed emails.


Students were genuinely curious whether their partners looked like them, sounded like them, liked the same types of activities, listened to the same music, and had families similar to their own. Cultural relevance, as described in Chisholm’s second element, is “the ability of the curriculum to make deep and meaningful connections with the lives of the students” (1998, p. 254). Relevance was achieved in the project by allowing students to share life events most important to them. The conversations also promoted a culturally supportive environment, Chisholm’s third element, in which students could express their own opinions, include their families in conversations, and explore their thoughts about personal problems they experienced. Several emails vividly illustrate the meaningful connections some of the students made during their communication:

My favorite character in The Pinballs was Carlie, because I liked the way she changed for the better. The book reminds me how I felt when my father died when I was nine. We could help kids like those in the book who have problems by being their friend and trying to help them with their big problems.

Segments of other email exchanges show the relevance of literature-based conversations. These bring to students a powerful culturally supportive environment of honesty:

The book reminds me of when my cousin got his legs run over…when my great grandma died…when my parents got a divorce…when I fight
with my brother…my uncle, he chews tobacco and I don’t trust him…popped my kneecap out of place…when my sister always yell at people…
when my aunt gets drunk like Harvey’s dad did…when my cousin had to go live with her grandma because her mom didn’t want her anymore.

The involvement of several teachers confirmed not only the effectiveness of using technology to make student learning more meaningful, authentic, and culturally relevant, but also its ability to encourage instructional integration (sixth element) of other content areas (Chisholm, 1998). For example, the school counselor extended the topic of foster children and cultural diversity as part of the character education curriculum. During the counselor’s classroom visits, sensitive issues like those in the book and in their email conversations found their way into class discussions concerning the challenges and emotions that all children experience. The art teacher based her instruction around creating decorations to hang in the library where the videoconference would take place and creating bulletin boards to publicize the project. The ESL teacher used class times to help ESL students translate their email correspondence. The media specialist taught students about being an author and illustrator as they discussed the book. The student teacher also gained valuable experience helping students during all phases of the project.

In addition to developing their language arts skills through reading the book and writing emails, students learned to write letters, and they sent invitations to parents, the school principal, local education administrators, school board members, and the community to attend the videoconference. Students also wrote sequels to the book, an activity that allowed them to participate as authors writing to an authentic audience, their distant partners. NC students wrote their own version of a sequel, voted on the best three submissions, and then sent the sequels to their partner class via email. The IL class voted on their favorite versions of the NC sequel and wrote ending sequels to conclude the story. The three versions were returned via email to the NC class who voted on their favorite conclusion for the book.

Similarly, mapping skills were integrated into the lessons to reinforce the geographical location of their email partners, where major historical US events occurred and famous people had lived. Students exchanged digital photos with their keypals, and these were displayed alongside giant copies of email messages on hallway bulletin boards where students eagerly shared their new friends with the whole school. Chisholm’s fifth element, instructional flexibility, was demonstrated by the variety of activities, types of media, and strategies that were included in this project to appeal to different intelligences, learning styles, personal preferences, products of learning, choice of partners, and selection of favorite sequels. Methods of learning included: (1) reading, emails, sequels, book, social studies text, and an author website; (2) writing, story sequels, emails, journal entries, and invitation letters; (3) hands-on art projects, posters, mobiles, illustrations; (4) character education oral discussions,  foster care, divorce, solving problems; (5) mapping, historical events and people; and (6) using technology, email, author website exploration, digital camera, and videoconferencing.

The videoconference was the culminating activity of the project and was the first time students visited virtually face-to-face with their new friends. As students met and listened to the voices of their new friends, excitement and laughter filled the room by students, teachers, and visitors who had never before witnessed the possibilities of this new technology. Following personal introductions, students discussed their similarities and differences with their email partners, their feelings related to the problems of the children in Byar’s book, and solutions they thought would help children in similar situations.

After students said their goodbyes and the videoconference was disconnected, the NC teacher gave her students small silver pinballs, purchased at a local hardware store, as a tangible reminder of the lessons they learned about caring for other people whether they come from foster homes or from different cultures. The event appeared in both local area newspapers and on the evening television news in IL. Teachers, students, and visitors alike expressed genuine excitement about this learning experience. Based on surveys, everyone was astounded at the degree to which the educational experience positively impacted the lives of students. This was evidenced by comments such as one made by a visiting professor from a local university:

This technology purported to students the value of sharing and networking. It further purported the significant role that technology can play in teaching and learning. The videoconference proved to be highly effective means for bridging great minds…it has the potential to advance intellectual thought and bridge learning for young minds.

Comments by a participating teacher and student teacher illustrate how a project such as this can have a significant effect in motivating teachers into more advanced stages of technology adoption (Dwyer et al., 1991):

Students showed so much interest and enthusiasm on this project. Many areas of communications, such as writing, speaking, reading, typing,
and listening were used as learning tools…There was nothing that was not exciting or useful about this use of technology…Overall, a wonderful way to teach–many objectives were met!

I thought the children were very excited about utilizing new technology. This was the first time I have ever witnessed anything like this. I was
amazed! It was exciting to see another class in another state over the Net. I was delighted to be exposed to this project because I am the first in my graduating class to see a teleconference. This has been a wonderful experience for me. I feel honored to have witnessed such an outstanding feat!

Student remarks reveal in their own words what they learned and how they perceived the project experience as more “fun” and meaningful than typical schoolwork:

I liked that we could do a project all the way to Illinois and write letters back and forth. I liked that we got in the newspaper and that we got to write sequels.

Passing each other letters over the Internet was fun. We learned to read a lot better. Our whole class learned that people are more alike than
different even though we live in totally different places.

You didn’t have to do another school subject because it gave us a break  from school work.

Doing these activities was a lot more fun than doing everyday work. I learned that you can do something so amazing as we did.

Students learned to relate to their distant friends and understand that they shared common lives and struggles like the children in The Pinballs. One student wrote, “We made friends and met people and we learned a lot about technology. I learned to never give up.” Another wrote, “I learned that you always be yourself…it was hard to say goodbye to a friend.”


Besides inspiring enthusiasm for learning and motivating teachers to use technology, the videoconferencing project compellingly demonstrated several other significant outcomes. Technology has the ability to

When technology is used to help children appreciate cultural diversity and to provide a context for applying these values, the presence of technology becomes overshadowed by the outcomes of the experience. Table 1 illustrates the how The Pinballs Videoconferencing Project supported Chisholm’s six elements for integrating technology in a curriculum that promotes cultural diversity.

Table 1 Chisholm’s Six Elements Applied in The Pinballs Videoconferencing Project

Cultural Elements

Application of Elements through Technology


  • Email exchange and videoconference – intercultural communication
  • A variety of activities – support of learning styles, interests, intellectual ability, special needs
  • Supportive instruction for slower readers and ESL students


  • Email exchange – writing related to personal interests and lives
  • Purposeful Activities – writing to partners about lives, problem solving solutions concerning foster care, sharing with real people
  • Real-life experience – email, writing sequels, learning about real people and their environment, meeting partners via videoconference,


  • All voices heard – email exchange, discussions about individual differences with partners, class discussions with guidance counselor, solutions students offered on foster care in videoconference
  • High expectations – problem solving, success support offered for slower readers, technology assistance, reading book
  • Parent involvement – student invitation to videoconference


  • Computer access – each child had access to a computer or Alpha Smart device and computer assistance
  • Use of programs – all children used a word processing program and participated in videoconference


  • Multi-modal instructional delivery – silent book reading, assistance during writing story endings, art assistance, computer help in writing email and sequels, discussion, journal writing, ESL assistance
  • Choices – students had choices in what they would write to partners, art decorations for videoconference, book sequels
  • Multi-modal Assessment – completion and discussion of book, observations of participation in email, public exhibition during videoconference, portfolios of products, dispositions toward others


  • Literature-based activities – reading
  • Email partners and writing sequels – writing
  • Art projects, bulletin board, digital photo creation – art
  • Counselor discussion of foster care – character ed
  • Email exchanges and videoconference – social studies, listening
  • Media lessons on authoring and illustrating books – information skills


This project illustrates how the Learning Technology by Design approach can provide teachers with an authentic and personal context for learning to integrate technology. By using a framework for connecting technology to cultural diversity (i.e., content) and by having an integral role in the planning process, teachers increased their confidence and technological and pedagogical content knowledge. The anchor for this learning was the instructional problem, “How can we help students internalize the concept of cultural diversity” and not technology skills instruction. In other words, teachers learned the technology as it was needed to solve the instructional problem. Curriculum and student learning became the motivation for teachers to use email and videoconferencing because these were the best media to achieve behavioral and affective outcomes in students. While students may gain a conceptual understanding of cultural diversity through textbook readings, only through using technology did they have practical experiences in behaving in a culturally sensitive manner. A connection between technology, pedagogy, and content are critical if teachers are to be motivated to use technology in the classroom. By the explicit act of design, technology experts can assist teachers in learning through experience that technology can efficiently provide the means for making learning more engaging, authentic, and exciting.

Just as content, pedagogy, and technology need to be connected to make sense of using technology, teachers will want to understand that the process of integration, whether of technology or cultural diversity, is not a matter of delivering or constructing content, but rather it is who we are and how we participate in the process of learning. Cultural diversity becomes meaningless if only bits and pieces of a culture are added to curriculum rather than integrated throughout, and teachers must be convinced that this behavior should be modeled in their classroom pedagogy (Sanchez, 2006). Teachers need to be culturally competent to help prepare students to become culturally competent (Ladson-Billings, 2001). Likewise, when technology activities are isolated from classroom curriculum, they become meaningless sets of technical skills unrelated to anything else teachers or students learn (Lambert, 2005). Teachers must believe that integrating technology is sometimes the most effective means of helping students achieve particular instructional goals and model the use of technology for this higher purpose. The belief that cultural diversity and technology are important will become evident when such integration simply becomes the way that teachers think and act in the classroom. Hence, concepts become fundamentally a part of one’s philosophy, not just extras added into an already overflowing curriculum.


Byars, B. (1993). The pinballs. New York: HarperTrophy.

Chisholm, I. M. (1998). Six elements for technology integration in multicultural classrooms. Journal of Information Technology for Teacher Education, 7, 247-264.

Dwyer, D. C., Ringstaff, C., & Sandholtz, J. H. (1991). Changes in teachers’ beliefs and practices in technology-rich classrooms. Educational Leadership, 48, 45 52.

Koehler, M. J., & Mishra, P. (2005). What happens when teachers design educational technology? The development of technological pedagogical content knowledge. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 32, 131-152.

Ladson-Billings, G. (2001, Summer). What does it take to be a successful teacher in a diverse classroom? Rethinking Schools Online, 15. Retrieved November 27, 2006, from

Lambert, J. (2005). Technology integration expertise in middle school social studies teachers. Technology, Instruction, Cognition, and Learning, 2, 261-289.
Mehlinger, M., & Powers, S. (2002). Technology and teacher education. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. J. (2006). Technological pedagogical content knowledge: A framework for teacher knowledge. Teachers College Record, 108, 1017-1054.
National Council for the Social Studies. (2001). Curriculum standards for social studies. Silver Spring, MD: Author. Retrieved October 18, 2005, from

National Middle School Association. (2006). Success in the middle: A policymaker's guide to achieving quality middle level education. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved January 20, 2007, from

Sanchez, T. (2006). Revisiting the challenges of multicultural education: Understanding how far we have come, what we are dealing with, and where we are going. Manuscript submitted for publication.

Silvan-Kachala, J. & Bialo, E. (2000). 2000 research report on the effectiveness of technology in schools. (7th ed.). Washington, DC: Software and Information Industry Association. Retrieved January 20, 2007, from

Collaborative Videoconferencing Project Design

These guidelines describe how videoconferencing can be used as a culmination of a complete project in which several activities are shared over time. Use these notes along with the Videoconferencing Checklist for designing your project.


Computer Teachers and Media Specialists

Find one teacher who likes to use technology. Choose team members whom you know are interested and will stick with the project until completion.

Teachers who design and plan their own experiences



“Thank you for your interest in our project! This is our first attempt at such a venture and as beginners, we are trying to keep the project small and manageable. It was hard to choose from so many willing participants, but we felt that we could only manage our first project with one class. Please feel free to use our ideas in anyway that you wish.”








Write Summary of Project and Send to all Interested Parties

Videoconference Project Initial Checklist

     1. Choose Team Members and Brainstorm Ideas
     2. Create Tentative Plans
     3. Find a Partner Class
     4. Send Initial Correspondence
     5. Agree and Write Down Final Plans and Dates
     6. Continue Ongoing Correspondence
     7. Share Technical Issues with all Site Facilitators
     8. Get Equipment and Connections Ready
     9. Test Connections
   10. Rehearse Videoconference
   11. Have Videoconference
   12. Complete Evaluations
   13. Review Evaluations and Record Future Changes Needed
   14. Write Summary of Project and Send to all Interested Parties

Videoconference Checklist
Date of Conference: __________________________________________
Time: __________________________________________
Purpose: __________________________________________
Far End ISDN numbers: __________________________________________
Far End telephone number: __________________________________________
Local ISDN numbers: __________________________________________
Local phone number: __________________________________________
Technical contact: __________________________________________
 To do well in advance:
_____ practice using equipment
_____ prepare lesson plan and materials and obtain copyright clearance if necessary
_____ schedule a date and time for the videoconference
_____ arrange for remote facilitators, guest speakers, technical support, etc.
_____ reserve equipment/room
_____ consider how you will set up the room (background, cameras, clock, etc.)
_____ schedule a bridge-- for more than two sites (multipoint)
_____ develop a back-up plan in case of technical problems
_____ schedule a practice session
 One week prior to conference:
_____ share your expectations with participants
_____ make sure the remote site has necessary materials
_____ share ISDN and telephone numbers and determine who will place the call
_____ find out who to contact if there are problems
_____ practice with remote facilitators
_____ decide what to wear (avoid loud patterns, red, & white)
Day of Conference:
_____ arrange the room
_____ connect with remote site 15-30 minutes prior to the meeting time
_____ check audio, video, lighting, auxiliary equipment (document camera, VCR, etc.)
_____ preview local camera angle and preset angles if possible
_____ keep ISDN and telephone numbers handy during the conference
_____ view yourself occasionally (make sure the other end can see the speaker)

 Ideas for Videoconferencing Projects

Social Studies

  1. Talk to a professional: author, politician, artist, scientist, or local historian.
  2. Find a partner class in a foreign country, state, or county and share similarities and differences in culture, government, etc.
  3. Share clues with a class in another country or state and find locations using geography terms.
  4. Compare and contrast cultural or holiday traditions.
  5. Share local newspaper headlines for a month.
  6. Write folk stories.
  7. Survey partner class in such things as age, number of family members, pets, etc.
  8. Have students count something and share this with partner class: trash thrown away in a week, foods or calories eaten in a week, TV shows watched, etc. Create graphs, analyze findings, and draw conclusions.
  9. Discuss effects of a war on your area and the areas of your partner class.
  10. Create time lines of certain events in history that affected the areas of other classes. Combine these time lines to compare events.
  11. Read an historical novel. Send back and forth questions about the novel. For example: Do you think the story is an accurate account of the event? Are the characters historically accurate? Write brief descriptions of why you would recommend this book to others.
  12. Create travel brochures about your area and exchange with other classes.
  13. Research and exchange clues about historical people with another class.
  14. Write historical stories. Draw visual maps to describe your stories. Share these with another class and have them write a story from your map.
  15. Record prices of certain items in different areas where partner classes live. Compare these prices, make charts, and discuss the effects on the areas’ economy.
  16. Gather geographical and transportation facts about your area. Have classes exchange these and discuss how these affect the economy in that area.
  17. List the types of jobs parents in your class have. Share these and contrast how jobs in areas are different due to factors such as history, geography, economy, etc.
  18. Share a monthly environmental newsletter with other classes. Tell what is being done in each area to make a cleaner environment.


  1. Have several classes visit a virtual museum. Share what they like the most and why.
  2. Create science questions to exchange with another class in the areas being studied. Keep a journal of questions answered. Create jeopardy game to be played at video conference.
  3. Both classes keep class pets and record such things as food and water intake, growth, amount of sleep during the day. Share statistics, graphs, and letters about class pet.
  4. Share a science with another class and compare results.
  5. Take temperature, humidity, and barometric pressure for several weeks. Make graphs and share weather patterns.
  6. Record the moon's phases for a month. Draw pictures, send to partner classes to see if results are the same or different.
  7. Have students measure their body parts in cm. at the beginning of the year. Buddy them with another student. Measure again at Christmas or the end of the year and compare growth amounts. Have buddies email one another throughout the year.
  8. Record the different ecological areas found in one's state: their plant life, animal life, and make up. Compare these with a class in another state.
  9. Record questions on a science topic, such as hurricanes. Share answers with another class. Then video conference with an expert on the topic.
  10. Record cloud formations seen for a month. Write reports telling what other factors may have affected the weather that month, such as the planet rotation.
  11. Keep the location of your partner class a secret. Create a verbal road map from a central location to your town using major highways, landmarks, and major geography features. Send these to other class and have them find location.
  12. Collect data on water using water quality monitoring equipment. Share results with several classes.
  13. Create multimedia presentations about different drugs and exchange.
  14. Find a younger class with whom your students could become mentors. Have younger class ask questions each week for the "Wizards" to answer.
  15. Record and graph classroom genetics traits and compare/contrast with other classes.  

Language Arts

  1. Read a book and video conference with the author.
  2. Partner a younger student with older ones. Have younger students write and older students edit and send back.
  3. Create travel advertisements or brochures of historical places in one's area or town. Include visual and persuasive techniques. Send to a participating class for analysis. Have students write back and tell which place they would rather visit and what techniques persuaded them. During video conf. share a virtual visit of some of these places by use of photos or video.
  4. Prepare a video tape of your area and share with other classes. Have students visit and narrate places they visit.
  5. Exchange local current events and activities from different areas. Use in a variety of activities: discuss with another class the main ideas, patterns, or literary techniques found, classify main themes, and write rebuttals or editorials.
  6. Write persuasive articles and exchange. Write back telling why you agree or disagree with author.
  7. Write a continuing novel, which is completed by rotating between several classes.
  8. Write a class myth and present short plays to partner class. Discuss the meanings of the plays.
  9. Have older students practice and then do oral presentations to younger students of folk tales.
  10. Create a poetry booklet that includes poems written by partner classes.
  11. Partner with a class to write and edit. This will give a real audience and purpose for writing.
  12. Pair students. Have them share journal writing using the same prompt in both classes. Have students respond to what they read.
  13. Have students write personal and fictional narratives, biographies, and poems and exchange with buddies in another class.
  14. Read a book. Share sequels, opinions, solutions to problems, different outcomes, evaluations, or interpretations of the book.
  15. Use current events in exercises for debate, critical thinking skills, or role-playing.
  16. Write a short story with other classes. Have one class create the characters, another plot, another theme, etc. Everyone writes a short story after these have been decided upon and then stories are shared.


  1. Write and share word problems. Make it a contest who can answer the most correctly in a class. Share a problem of the week for another class. Involve many classes.
  2. Do a survey on any topic. Graph and analyze data. Ex: Color of hair, no. of boys and girls in a class, types of tennis shoes worn, no. of brothers and sisters, favorite foods, etc.
  3. Share the costs of items in different countries or areas over a period of time. Find out what students would buy with certain amounts of money. During video conference, have a virtual yard sale and have each class use foreign money to buy and sell.
  4. Measure perimeters of the main areas of the school: buildings, playground, sidewalks, etc. Write descriptions using geometric terms of how to put the various shapes together. Send measurements and descriptions to another school and have them use these to draw a diagram of the school. Share drawings on day of conf. and compare with actual mapped pictures of the school areas.
  5. Count trash in class garbage cans for a week. Share findings with another class. On the day of conf. share solutions for how to minimize the trash or recycle it.
  6. Find geometric shapes in the area and take photos of these. Send to partner classes and have students identify and classify shapes.
  7. Research airfares, train fares, and gas prices to reach partner class locations. Record and graph over a period of several months. Discuss findings of which places would be cheapest or most expensive to visit, how times of year and distance affected prices.
  8. Research and write about famous mathematicians. Send to partner class who will research answers.
  9. Keep records on what students eat in a week. Have students use nutritional charts to look up the nutrients they consumed in the week. Compare this to other classes. Use in graphing and discussion of a healthy diet.
  10. With several classes in other areas measure and record rainfall or temperatures for several months. Use the figures to compare mean, median, and mode. Graph.
  11. Measure shadows of the same thing at the same time of day in different locations. Discuss the differences in measurements in Science class.
  12. Have students choose different sports teams and research and record a variety of data for that team for several weeks. Use this data for many math activities in statistics.

Introductory Email Questions
These are some sample questions you may want to exchange with your participating classes. You will also want to consider other special questions depending on your project such as equipment needed, time schedules, or holidays. Wait on the technical questions until you find out who will be handling those issues at each school.

  1. Please give us your information:

Your full name:
Your email address:
Your school:
School address:
School voice phone:
Home voice phone:
Grade(s) taught:

  1. Are you in a self-contained classroom or do your students change classes?
  2. What type of computers do you have at your school and are they in classrooms or in a computer lab?
  3. How much Internet access do you have (one in library or lab, in each classroom, etc.)?
  4. What type of equipment (PC or Mac) will you be using the day of the videoconference?
  5. We will need to contact one person for discussion of technical issues for the video conference. Please list the person’s name, phone number, and email address.
  6. How big is your school in size and population?
  7. What is the range of abilities of the students you teach? Do we need to consider any special needs in your class?
  8. Describe the diversity, intellectual abilities, special needs, etc. of your students.
  9. In what type of area is your town (rural, urban, metropolitan, etc.)?
  10. Do you have any immediate questions about the project before we proceed?


Author Bios

Dr. Judy Lambert is an assistant professor of Educational Technology at the University of Toledo. She obtained her degree in Curriculum and Instruction (Instructional Technology) in 2004 from North Carolina State University where she served as a former editorial board member of Meridian. Dr. Lambert has conducted numerous workshops and courses to assist teachers, faculty, and students in learning to integrate a variety of technologies including GIS in the standard course of study. She has published articles and presented at conferences in the fields of social studies, cognition and learning, and technology. She has also participated as a technology integration assistant on numerous research projects, one of which was conducted at various schools in Russia during her time at NCSU.

Dr. Tony Sanchez is an associate professor of social studies education at the University of Toledo. His research interests include multicultural education, character education, and technology in social studies. A former middle and high school social studies teacher, Dr.
Sanchez earned his doctoral degree in 1991 from Indiana University and since then has published numerous journal articles and has presented at major conferences in the areas of multicultural education, Native American Indians, and character education. He serves as consultant on issues of Native Americans.