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Brenda Dyck
Teacher Middle School (ages 11-14)
Master's Academy and College
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Division Category: An Educator outside the U.S.A; Projects for ages 10 to 14

Candidate Personal Narrative

NAME: Brenda Dyck

NAME: Brenda Dyck

  1. History
  2. Projects
  3. Collaboration
  4. Learning Requirements
  5. Assessment
  6. Affective and Other Outcomes
  1. Professional Impact
  2. Personal Impact
  3. Promoting your Project
  4. Direct Project Assistance
  5. Empowering Others
  6. GSN's Role

HISTORY (10 points)



Teacher, Technology Integration Coach, Online Project Creator, Technology Workshop Leader, Conference Presenter, Writer, and a Master’s of Educational Technology Graduate Student - no one is more surprised by having these titles assigned to me than I. As a late arrival to the wired classroom, never would I have expected technology to play such an important and ever-changing place in my professional life. Let me tell you why:

I graduated in 1975 from the University of Calgary with a Bachelor of Education. After teaching four years I left the classroom for close to 18 years while I raised my five children. While at home I continued to use my teaching skills to teach group, private piano lessons and to home school my own children. In 1995, I took on a part-time classroom position and in 1997 returned to a full-time classroom teaching in a technology-rich school.

The classroom I returned to in 1997 didn’t remotely resemble the classroom that I had left in 1978. I couldn't have predicted the total restructuring that education had encountered due to the ensuing technology revolution. At first I felt like a “stranger in a strange land.” I didn’t know the language and I definitely didn’t know the culture. I had two choices, go back home and continue teaching piano lessons or go boldly where I had not gone before. I chose the later.

That first year I not only had to reacquaint myself with a new curriculum but I needed to acquire technology skills that were totally foreign to me. To my surprise I took to technology like a duck to water. By the end of my first year I had earned the staff title of “Internet Queen” due to my enthusiasm over the wealth of knowledge and resources available on the Internet. Always a lover of the library, 24-hour access to these online resources was a dream come true!

By the second year I had discovered a tool called Filamentality and was creating my own Hotlists and online assignments for my students. That year, my students participated in an online reading project called STARS and competed with students across North America. We also joined an international email project and looked forward to receiving emails from classrooms all over the world. My students loved my new-wired approach to teaching and we all were thrilled to be published online. Although much of my technology pursuits were done by trial and error, my enthusiasm was fueled by the interest I saw in my students when they received correspondence from other places. One day I came across a web page template called and I decided to put one of my Grade 6 projects, “Heroes Among Us” on it. Karen Walkowiak, a teacher from the Ottawa Carlton School Board in Ottawa, Canada saw my project online and offered to host it on her district’s server. Karen willingly took my very “rough around the edges” web project and turned it into a professional looking platform for my students. Not only this, but Karen also walked me through my first steps of learning how to find photographs that met copyright laws. This was my first exposure to virtual mentoring, one that I will always remember.  I was thrilled with the web page that resulted:

That summer (1999) I decided to post to a teacher listserv about my “Heroes Among Us” project. I was blown away when I received over 100 emails asking me for my project URL. I responded to each sender individually because I wanted to find out where each person lived and wanted to have personal contact with each one. I even kept a running list of the places the teachers came from, a list that moved across most American States United to places as far as France and Australia. This was the beginning of my fascination with global collaboration.

One of the emails I received was from Caroline McCullen, the editor of MidLink Magazine. She complimented me on my Heroes project and suggested that I apply for a volunteer teacher-editor position with MidLink Magazine, an ezine that profiles and promotes innovative online project work from all over the world.

Caroline asked for my phone number and later I had the privilege of discussing with her my newly found passion of using the power of the Net to push my student’s thinking and motivation.

I decided to apply for the MidLink volunteer editor position and one day in September, 1999, Caroline phoned me to tell me that I had been chosen to become one of four MidLink editors…and their first Canadian one to boot! The next month I found myself flying to Raleigh, North Carolina, to meet with the teacher-editors in person. When I got off the plane in Raleigh, I knew I had crossed over from virtual collaboration to collaboration in the “here and now.” For two days I met with teachers from Massachusetts, Tennessee, and North Carolina to discuss how we could work together to model the creation of quality telecollaborative projects on the MidLink page and seek out exciting projects that were currently running so that we could profile them on the MidLink site. We visited North Carolina State University where we met with the Dean of Education to share our ideas about using the Web for the good of students learning. This affiliation with North Carolina State University Faculty of Education continues to this day. Since that meeting in 1999 our teacher-editors have met in Atlanta, Georgia (2001) and in Dallas, Texas (2002) and have frequent email exchanges and teleconferences where we meet to plan how we can support teachers in their efforts to telecollaborat In November, 2004 I made another trip to Raleigh, N.C. where the MidLink edits spent a day at North Carolina's school education presenting to education student about the use of telecollaborative projects in the language arts classroom. Later that day we presented telecollaborative learning to MEGA group,  a PD Here is a picture of our MidLink teacher-editor group when we met in Texas in 2002:

My teaching journey over the past eight years has ushered me, a girl, schooled in the 1960’s and trained as a teacher in the 1970’s, into the 21st century classroom. I feel a bit like a pioneer when I consider the technology that I worked with in my first classroom in 1974. My present day program, however, is not about those wired machines scattered throughout my classroom, it’s about what happens when my students sit down in front of them with a carefully designed technology-based learning project in front of them. I’m not exaggerating when I say real magic happens!

In the spring of 2003 I received word that I had been chosen as one of the finalists in the Global SchoolNet Shared Learning Award. What a happy moment that was. Equally exciting was the opportunity I had in June, 2003 to meet with the people from Global SchoolNet in Seattle, Washington at NECC 2003 to receive the award. Another thrill came in November, 2003 when I was chosen as a semifinalist in Technology and Learning’s Ed Tech Leader of the Year competition. 

In the fall of 2004 an exciting international award came my way when I was chosen as a finalist for Global Junior Challenge in Rome, Italy. My project, "We the Children...", a telecollaborative project on children's rights and the right to a safe place caught the interest of the jury. Just attending this wonderful event in Rome was a thrill but to my surprise I won in the 11-15 year old category. It was an honor to be included alongside the other amazing projects that addressed economic inequality in our world and the digital divide.

I recently was chosen by Surfaquarium as one of Top Online Educators for 2005 

Surprising to me has been the writing opportunities that have come about as a result of my telecollaborative work. Naturally taken to reflective writing, I began to share my classroom discoveries online several years ago. These ponderings gained some attention and in 2000, the people at Microsoft’s Classroom Teacher Network asked me to write a monthly column for their excellent teacher PD web site. The “Tech Tips” column provided a place for me to share my enthusiasm about meaningful technology integration and to encourage educators in their beginning attempts. Soon I was writing for Education World, an education ezine and in the fall of 2001 I became a contributing editor for Middle Ground Magazine, a publication of the National Middle School Association. My column, The Technology Thread (with a circulation of 200,000) profiled innovative ways technology is used in middle school classrooms across North America. The Technology Thread has given me ample opportunity to focus on the benefits of telecollaborative projects. Since then, ample writing opportunities have come my way through publications like The Connected Classroom, Teaching Tolerance, and Meridian Magazine (a publication of North Carolina State University’s faculty of Education). While doing this I have continued to teach and to create the telecollaborative projects that fuel my teaching enthusiasm. In November, 2004 my first book, “The Rebooting of a Teacher’s Mind”, was released by the National Middle School Association. 

Life can be kind of ironical. Sometimes the very thing that you are afraid of (for me it was the arrival of a class set of networked computers to my 1997 classroom) turns out to be the very thing that develops you into a new person. That is what technology has done for me- and it continues. A year ago, almost 27 years after I graduated from university, I gingerly enrolled in a graduate program at the University of British Columbia- the Master’s of Educational Technology program. Sometimes I secretly wonder if I have what it takes to study at this level, but in my heart of hearts something is luring me forward to learn more about how technology can be used to improve learning for the students I teach. So here I am, a 51 year old, finding out what happens when “Grandma Goes to Grad School”! Cyber-Grandma or not, I’m “on the grow” and will continue to do so. I hope my example can be an encouragement to someone who doesn’t think they have what it takes to change or learn. If I can, anyone can!

The projects below are filled with stories- stories about how they came to be, stories about the incredible learning that took place and stories about how these telecollaborative projects changed the way the students and I think about the world and even about ourselves. That’s the Power of telecollaboration! David Warwick, technology integration consultant, innovator and leader in the field of educational technology  refers to my telecollaborative projects as projects in a "different language". He reflects on my project work in his blog, that focuses on what he calls, occasional thoughts about education, teaching, learning, and the 21st century:


PROJECTS (10 points):





For a quick recap of my projects, go to:


Details about the telecollaborative projects that I have planned, organized and conducted:





1) I’m Leading. Is Anyone Following?

My very first telecollaborative learning project.

September 2000- June 2001


  • Phyllis Froese’s Grade 6 class (ages 11-12) From Abottsford, B.C., Canada
  • Jann Poritt’s Grade 6 class (ages 11-12) from Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada
  • Brenda Dyck’s Grade 6 (ages 11-12) class from Calgary, Alberta, Canada
  • Janice Robertson’s Grade 6 class (ages 11-12) from Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • D.J. Thomas’ Grade 6-8 (ages 12-14)class from Orlando, Florida

Project Page URL:

Main Learning Goals:

As part of my Social Studies Unit on Government (part of the Grade 6 Alberta Protocol for Grade 6):

  • Students identified leadership characteristics demonstrated by leaders in their world.
  • Using 5-8 of these traits as a measurement benchmark, students measured their choice of leader.
  • Students engaged in the steps of writing a quality position paper.
  • Using my project “working paper” template, students demonstrated the process of writing a position paper.
  • Students learned how to create supportive statements that demonstrated “how they knew” their leader exhibited each of the traits.
  • Students demonstrated an ability to use critical thinking skills such as analysis and evaluation.
  • Students used the Internet to share their learning with another class (or classes) on this project.


Online media/technology used:

  • FrontPage 2000
  • Digital camera
  • Internet
  • Email


Description of Collaboration Results:

All student work was published on web pages that linked off of “I’m Leading. Is Anyone Following?” homepage:

Student Work:

The writing that resulted from this project demonstrated students using higher level thinking skills (analysis, synthesis and evaluation) as they wrote about their choice of leader. 

The student page from Calgary, contained a photo gallery from a project called “Road to Democracy”, an activity that accompanied writing about leaders. This page also included pictures from an accompanying assignment called “A Body of Leaders”. For this assignment students drew a large body and using the criteria that they used to evaluate their leader, assigned symbols to dress their person. (For example: if “listening” was a leadership trait, their person would have extra large ears). This assignment challenged students to turn the abstract into the concrete (scroll down the following web page):    

Anecdotes, lessons learned, obstacles, surprises, emails etc:

My learning curve was steep for this project. I learned how to:

  • Inform the online community about my projects’ existence via posting a call for participation on various listservs, online web sites and educational journals
  • Realizing that students could get lost in writing a position paper (especially if they had never written one before). To deal with this problem, I created what I call a “working paper” which walks students through each step of creating a position paper. Not only is this a scaffolding tool for students, it provides teachers with a bird’s eye view of the students’ writing process (which is an evaluation tool in itself). Because of using a working paper, I believe students have been far more successful at reaching my assignment benchmarks. Here is the working paper used for this project:
  • Since then, I have included a working paper whenever I think my student’s need    additional support to meet my writing benchmarks. I believe the working paper also helps participating teachers to follow the authentic intent of my assignment.
  • I learned the importance of keeping in contact with my project participants. I did this by creating and egroup (using Yahoo). 
  • I learned that there was a need to teach teacher participants the importance of citing their sources for any graphics or pictures used on their web pages. Not all teachers are aware of the need to site sources and ask for permission to use photos and graphics found online. As I moved through this project I realized that I was modeling (and therefore teaching) ethical practices of proper project creation for the teachers I was working with.
  • I learned the importance of having a clearly defined timeframe for the completion of a project. I should have had the teachers hand their work in no later than mid April so that the work could be on the web page for their students to see. I was still getting work sent to me in late June.
  • This project earned a Canada’s SchoolNet GrassRoots funding grant for this. Learning how to apply for this grant was another step in my learning curve.

Some of the challenges of this project were:

  • Having all registered projects stay with the project until completion. I had one class from Toronto that worked very diligently on the project right to the end but didn’t actually submit work.
  • Getting teachers to maintain project deadlines (ex: handing the final work in on time). I found myself finishing the web site off well into August because some of the work dwindled in at the end of June (even though it was due in May)

Anecdotes: I was delighted when Phyllis, one of my Canadian participants phoned me while visiting my city. Still new to the virtual world, I continue to be amazed when I have real-life contact with my Cyberspace colleagues!  We talked for over an hour and she shared her class web page with me as well as some of the other technology related activities she was doing in her classroom.


 2) Let the Walls Come Down!

November 2000- November 2001


  • Brenda Dyck’s Grade 6 class (ages 11-12) from Master’s Academy and College - Calgary, Alberta, Canada (2001)
  • Neil Robinson’s Grade 5 LA class (ages 10-11) from ABC Charter Public School (a school for gifted/talented students)- Calgary, Alberta, Canada (2002)
  • Lunch hour "Walls Club" at ABC Charter School (over the 2002 winter term I met twice a week
  •  with three students. They researched and wrote about their choice of wall and learned how to use FrontPage to create a web page for their writing) (2002)

Project Page URL:

Online media/technology used:

  • FrontPage 2000
  • Internet
  • Email

Main Learning Goals:

  • Students accessed and retrieved information through the electronic network and analyzed and synthesized information to create a product
  • Students evaluated the authority and reliability of electronic sources
  • Students gathered information about two walls of their choice and moved past the basic issues of construction right into the lives of the people that envisioned the walls, built the walls and lived under the influence of the walls.
  • After examining "why" walls are constructed students identified the very things that cause people to build divisions between themselves and came to recognize the biases, discrimination and intolerance that still surrounds us today.
  • Students read, write, represented and talked to explore and explain connections between prior knowledge and new information in oral, print and other media texts
  • Students experimented with a variety of forms of oral, print and other media texts to discover those best suited for exploring, organizing and sharing ideas, information and experiences
  • Students discussed how ideas, people, experiences and cultural traditions are portrayed in various oral, print and other media texts
  • Students revised introductions, conclusions and the order of ideas and information to add coherence and clarify meaning
  • Students used paragraphs, appropriately, to organize narrative and expository texts
  • Students created a plan for an inquiry that includes consideration of time management and made connections among related, organized data, and assemble various pieces into a unified message.


  • The project earned a Canada’s SchoolNet Grassroots funding grant.
  • When the student writing was turned in for this project, I was reminded how writing has the power to free students to communicate the hurts, frustrations and helplessness that no one else may not be aware of. One piece of writing came in that spoke about the invisible walls that occur when people go into “emotional hiding” because of something bad that has happened in their past. It was clear that this student was referring to someone close to her. She described how these people:

"Go completely off and sort of abandon life for a couple of days”.

She described this behavior so clearly that you knew that it was probably part of her own life experience. She went on to say that:

“These walls can sometimes do damage because the person can get so caught up in everything that they start to lose their friends and sometimes even their own   family. Plus it can make the person look bad in their public reputation or what     people think of them.”

After reading this, I felt I had been given a quiet “hint” of something existed in her life…something I think she wanted me to know about it. I wondered if her closing statement was a piece of advice she had given this person:

“You can tear these walls down by going out and making new friends or just not even going into the walls in their first place.”

You can read this piece of writing at:


3) We the Children…

January 2002- June 2003


·         Brenda Dyck’s Grade 6/7 class (ages 11-13) from ABC Charter Public School (a school for gifted/talented students)- Calgary Alberta Canada

  • William Bietsch’s Grade 6 class (ages 11-12) from Magen International School in Tel Aviv, Israel (2002)
  • Lynn Gannet's two Grade 6 classes (ages 11-12) at Master's Academy and College (2003)
  • Lena Pumber's Grade 7 class at Master's Academy and College (2003)
  • William Bietsch’s Grade 6 class (ages 11-12) from Magen International School in Tel Aviv, Israel (2003)


Project Page URL: (turn your speakers on):

Online media/technology used:

  • FrontPage 2000
  • Digital camera
  • Internet
  • Scanner
  • Email

Student Work:

See the project web site

Main Project Goals:

  • To challenge students to identify the elements that are present in a safe place
  • To use five of these identified elements to evaluate the safety-level of their classroom and determine ways to make their classroom a safer place.
  • Students will start to transfer their findings about safe places into their relationships with their peers.
  • Students will develop an understanding about the 1989 Charter of Children’s Rights
  • Students will demonstrate an understanding of ways the 1989 Charter has been successful and unsuccessful.
  • Students will communicate ways that Children’s Rights can move from rhetoric to reality in our world.
  • Students will use the Web to collaborate with another class (or classes) on this project
  • Students will have an opportunity to experience a cross-cultural via the Internet. This experience will challenge students' mental models about human rights.
  • Students will learn the FrontPage program and use it to create a quality web page to house their “We the Children…” writing.

Description of the Collaboration Results

Partway through our “We the Children…”  project, we were approached by a class in Israel, asking if they could join us. My diary describes that day and the way our project focus expanded to finding out about this country of Israel:

My class is all a-flutter about sharing their "We the Children..."
project with a class from Israel. Today I received an email from
William (the the way, he's an American teaching in Tel
Aviv) telling us about their school and his plans to participate.
Today my students spent the class searching for website information
on Israel so that they will be somewhat prepared to correspond with
these Israeli students. Tomorrow students will take these Internet
sites and learn how to create an Internet Sampler (using a
Filamentality template). Not only will the students learn about Israel
but they will be challenged to use different types of questions
(analysis, synthesis, evaluation questions) in their Sampler.
My Grade 6/7 students are wondering if they will need to find a
"Hebrew" program for our computers or if they are up to communicating
with students where English is their second language. One of my
Jewish kids is excited about trying his Hebrew out for real1 What
interesting considerations....hmmm, just like being part of the United

At the end of this project, as my students and I debriefed about our time together (January-June), I asked them for highlights. It was the unanimous decision of the class that the collaboration with Israel on this was the most exciting thing they had done in the classroom for a long time. They loved creating their own web pages and wished they could have emailed their Israeli friends more frequently.

Things I Learned

  • The process of this project had the potential of being quite complicated for students to follow. I decided to create a process chart that would help students (and teachers) keep track of where they were in the project. This visual tool was very helpful to my students. I would do this again. Here it is:


  • I learned how to create pdf documents for this project and how to link it within my web page. I don’t have the Adobe program so I registered for a trial version of the Adobe program (it allows 5 free uses).
  • Students emailing students brought up a concern about safety (FOIP). In order to keep maintain a level of security for my students, William (the Israeli teacher) and I developed a system where the students sent their emails to us, we made sure they were appropriate and them we emailed them on to the other teacher. The students never knew each other’s email address. This worked well.


The conception of this project had come out of a need to recapture the attention and respect of a group of gifted students. There is no doubt in my mind that the improvement that I witnessed during those beginning week of the “We the Children…” project was directly linked to the level of student engagement and activities that challenged these gifted students’ thinking.

I had one Jewish student in my class. This project had special meaning for him. He was so keen to practice his Hebrew and to correspond with the students via email. One day he came to school and showed me a bulletin that he had from a memorial service he had attended the night before at his Synagogue. This service was in support of the Jewish people in Israel and the deaths that were happening. I asked David to share the bulletin and his experiences the night before at the Synagogue. The students were very interested…the mood in the room was somber and so grown up. What moved me the most was David’s attempt to, in spite of his Jewish heritage; explain both sides of the conflict between the Israeli and Palestinians in an unbiased manner.

For the “Express Yourself” part of this project, students were asked to choose a creative medium to express your feelings on Children's Rights. I was blown away by the diversity of projects- Drawings, Stories, Poetry, PowerPoint Presentations, Drama, Sculpture and Videos. Each one was incredibly creative and carried a powerful message. At the end we displayed the project work (in a Gallery format) at our Parent registration night in February. I hooked up a computer that displayed the source of all this creativity- the “We the Children…” telelcollaborative project. Parents were totally captivated!

During the 2003 school year, the Grade 6 students at my school will be connecting with the same school in Tel Aviv, Israel that I worked with last year. They will be begin an emailing partnership by early February, one that will continue until the end of the school year. In his January 24, 2003 email to me, Israeli teacher William Bietsch explained a thought-provoking benefit that his students will gain from working with my Canadian students:

" I have 20 students and I can start at anytime... They are very interested in meeting the kids from your class. What I think is a great opportunity is working with a non-Jewish partner school, partly because many students here feel the world in general is a dangerous place fro them as Jews. This is something that I would like them to explore and see for themselves that they are part of a larger global community as equal participants and not potential victims."

"We the Children..." was awarded first place in the 11-15 year old category of the 2004 Global Junior Challenge in Rome, Italy. 


4) Beyond Wild Justice

September 2002- February 2004


  • Trudy Campbell’s two Grade 8 LA classes from Master’s Academy- Calgary Alberta, Canada
  • Beverley Maddox Grade Eight LA class in Little Rock, Arkansas
  • Three 16 year old students from Mendoza, Argentina (Gonzalo Ruiz, Federico Aguirre and Fernando Mercado)
  • Fred Ankerson's Grade 7 Technology Applications class in Cocoa, Florida

Online media/technology used:

Project Page URL: (turn on your speakers)

Student Work 

Description of the Collaboration Results

Early in this project I was emailed by three 16-year-old students from Argentina asking of they could join “Beyond Wild Justice”. They had seen my call for participation on the iEARN site (they had been part of an iEARN project last year) and were keen to join us. Even though a teacher in Argentina did not support the students, I decided to work with them and guide them through the main parts of the project. I emailed a plan for them to follow and within no time they had sent some of their work to me. One of them only spokes French so I used a translation tool (from the ePals site) to translate any correspondence we had into French for him. I was stretched in new ways from collaborating from with these highly motivated international students.

I wrote about my experiences as a virtual mentor on Education World. I called it “Teacher: Alias Teacher Mentor:

Beyond Wild Justice received a Grassroots funding grant and offered a wonderful opportunity for teacher-teacher collaboration between Arkansas and Calgary. Beverley Maddox, the teacher from Arkansas provided ongoing feedback on how the project progressed for her and her students. Her emails were invaluable because she was slightly ahead of our students. We had a great time comparing our students’ reactions to the concept of restorative justice and forgiveness.

Bev believed this project would stretch her students’ mental models. She explains why below:

“Many will have difficulties with the ideas of alternative justice and forgiveness, but the cognitive dissonance will be good for them!  I've already emailed a friend to request she translate some of the site for my ESL kids.  "Eye for an Eye" and "hit back harder" represents justice for most of my kids, so their "mental models" will change, I hope.  Mediation and forgiveness are not attractive to them.  Your quote from Eleanor Roosevelt will get stunned reaction from some.”

 Other Comments About “Beyond Wild Justice”

This is *SO* powerful -- and effectively presented.
Timely topic is an understatement!
You might be interested in this new Journal of School Violence:
I'm truly touched by this effort,
  ~ Beckey Reed, Consultant, School Services, North Carolina State University

Brenda: This assignment is amazing. I only touched on a small part of it and I am already moved with emotions. Please accept my admiration for what you have learned to create and the gift you have for integrating technology and learning. I will stay with you on this project and want to know highlight moments to visit the class.

~ Doreen Grey, principal, Master’s Academy and College


Dear Brenda,

This is a very promising project! I would like to share your message with two friends of mine, the first is Lynn Taylor. She lives in Yellowknife and helps to lead a powerful restorative justice program of which I am sure she will tell you more.

The second person is Dr. Lois Gander, a professor at the University of Alberta's Law Department. She is a pioneer in Canada in the areas of youth and the law. I think that she would be interested in your project.

 ~ Bill Belsey, Coordinator iEARN Canada


“Wow--this project sounds fascinating, timely, and unique,
and definitely a work of passion...”

~ Brenda Barren, editor, ClassRoom Flyer


“Wow.  What a powerful project!  I would be more than happy to help share this across the iEARN network.”

 ~ Lia Jobson, iEARN


My Thoughts

Our students have become desensitized to the “B” (Bullying) word. “Beyond Wild Justice” creates an opportunity for students to unknowingly re-examine the issue of bullying by presenting it by “coming in the back door”. I believe that bullying behaviors go much deeper than the obvious and it is those interior attitudes and ways of thinking that we need to direct our attention to- possible root causes such as feeding and reinforcing our apparent need for a pecking order in schools, both socially and academically. We need to move past the obvious deviant behaviors found in a bullying scenario to the importance of building community and empathy. Alternative styles of justice and justice circles accomplish this. This is obviously a complex issue. My classroom simulations are only a small tool designed to create a moment for kids to recognize what "exists" question, "why it is so" and seek to envision "what could be." If we make some headway, my efforts in “Beyond Wild Justice” will be worth it.


5) Freeway to the Heart

February, 2003- August 2003

I first envisioned “Freeway to the Heart: The Power of an Image” while touring through the Pulitzer Prize Photograph Exhibit in Dallas, Texas (where I was presenting at NSBA, 2002). After spending an afternoon totally inspired by these bigger than life photographs, I knew I had the makings of a new project for my students.

This project explores the power that visual images have to carry a message. The project made use of online examples of award winning Pulitzer Prize photographs as a jumping off point for learning what constitutes a powerful photograph- one that is destined to move the people that view it. Students learned how our views on famine, war and discrimination can be shaped by a powerful photograph. Students chose one of these photographs and researched the background story to it, the message it carried and what happened after the picture. 

From here students staged and photographed (with a digital camera) a Pulitzer Prize winning photograph of their own that captured "their" moment. Armed with their message, they were also be challenged to uncover concrete ways they could flesh out their photograph's message to the world. Several of these photographs were posted online along with a piece of writing describing the background to the moment, the message and a prediction of what might happen as a result of this photograph. 

One of the notable features of this project is the intentional integration of the arts. I have collaborated with three teachers from my school's Creative Media Arts program. The final project assignment (called "Capture YOUR Image") includes benchmarks from drama, art, music and writing areas.  A class from Casola Valsenio, Italy participated in this project as well. 

Here is the project page to: Freeway to the Heart" (turn on your speakers)


Trudy Campbell’s two Grade 8 classes from Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Gian Carlo’s Grade Seven class from Casola Valsenio, Italy

Online media/technology used:

  • FrontPage 2000
  • Digital camera
  • Internet
  • Email
  • Cakewalk (digital music composition program)

Student Work from Italy:

A sample of student work from Calgary


This project has truly been a "joining of minds" as a group of five teachers worked together to create a common project. Fleshing our ideas out into one project has been a time-intensive effort but I have seen many benefits from sharing the talents of a group of educators. When you create a project by yourself your own ideas and roadblocks limit you. Sharing the thinking extends the scope of creativity and the outcome is far more eclectic than when limited by your own thoughts. This group doesn't necessarily understand the need to post this project online for other to join in on but they are open to seeing what happens when we do. I hope that we are able to connect with teachers in a variety of settings because I think the diversified/thought-provoking photo gallery that will results from cross-cultural photography will give my colleagues an exciting glimpse of the learning enrichment available to students and teachers when we partner across the miles.

One of the challenges this project presented was the enormous work involved in posting the student photos. Creating an online gallery for 25 different photographs proved to take more time than I had at the end of the school year (when this work was ready). The end result was presented through a PowerPoint at an Open House in May.


6) Statistics: A Curiosity Factor

January 2003- January 2004


Holly Snider's Grade 8 math classes: Lake Worth, Texas

Leslie Olson's Grade 8 math classes: Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Brenda Dyck's Grade 6 math classes: Calgary, Alberta Canada

Fred Ankersen 7/8 WebQuests class: Cocoa, Florida

Janine Maletsky's Grade 8 math class: Pompton Lakes, New Jersey

Peggy McCloskey's Grade 5-7 Math/Algebra classes: Rosemont, Pennsylvania

Allison B's Grade 8 math classes (60 students): Columbus, Ohio

Project Page URL: 

Online media/technology used:

  • FrontPage 2000
  • Video Camera
  • Internet
  • Excel 
  • Email

In late fall (2002) I began meeting with our Grade 8 math teacher for the purpose of teaching her how to create a math-related telecollaborative project. The results of our efforts was "Statistics: A Curiosity Factor", a math-based telecollaborative project that will help students to make informed judgments about the statistics presented by others to persuade them. In this project, students will view short online videos from the Gallop organization, take an online survey and graph the results using an online survey tool, create their own graphable question and then present their data by staging their own "Gallop-like" video presentation. Student work will be posted on the project web page. 

This project has received a lot of response from the online community. Within two weeks of sending out class for participation, we had seven partnering teachers from one end of North America to another. Within three weeks we had over 500 hit to our site and now, a year later over 4000 people have visited "Statistics: A Curiosity Factor". Realizing that corresponding with this number of participants could take a lot of time, I created a Yahoo egroup to streamline communication and allow participants to interact with one another. This group of teachers was very keen and interested in engaging in dialogue about how this project is going in their classroom. I continue to receive email inquiries about this project and will likely run it again next fall.    


My goal for this project was to gradually turn the management of it over to the math teacher who I have worked with so that she can experience the excitement that goes along with seeing your idea take life on the World Wide Web. This did not happen. Teachers are so swamped by their day-to-day program that they find it difficult to imagine fitting project maintenance into their day. Realizing the key roll teacher contact has in keeping a telecollaborative project alive, I have continued to handle this part of the project follow-up.

It is a challenge for us to find the time to meet and plan. I am always reminded that it is a huge commitment of time and effort for any teacher that agrees to work with me on creating a shared learning project. I know that this is always in addition to what they already do in their classroom and I have a high degree of respect for their willingness to learn and improve their teaching practices. I would like to see a small amount of release time made available to teachers who are willing to learn how to "wire" their curriculum projects. I think this would demonstrate recognition for their commitment and would go a long way in inspiring them to continue.


7) Stories From the Streets

January 2003- June 2003

Project Page URL:    (turn on your speakers)  


Grade 6 CyberFair Club at Master's Academy and College

Grade Three class from Ojai, California

CyberFair 2003 entry- Silver award winner

Online media/technology used:

  • FrontPage 2000
  • Digital camera
  • Internet
  • Email
  • Audio file creation
  • PowerPoint

For this project, a group of ten Grade 6 students met twice a week to create a project entry for Global Schoolhouse's CyberFair 2003. For our project, students researched the historical background behind the street names around our school. Our school is built on a former Canadian Armed Forces base and all the streets are named after World War One battles that Canadian soldiers fought in (ex: Vimy Road, Somme Ave etc). They interviewed the veterans at the Museum of the Regiments (next door to our school) and had access to the museum’s specialized library. Each student researched their own battle and created their own web page of the battle. We were thrilled when Veteran’s Affairs gave us permission to use the original artwork displayed on our homepage. The sound track was an original 1914 song popular during the World War One. One special feature of this project was the original sound files we created using authentic diary entries by World War One soldiers, read by the CyberFair students themselves (with artillery shooting in the background). Each student included their sound file (and artwork) on their web page. An example of this can be accessed at:

Through this experience, students learned the FrontPage 2000 program and created content-rich web pages about their street. These students were some of the keenest students I have ever worked with! 

In February a delegation from Russia visited our school. The delegates were high-ranking officials from the Russian government who were in Canada to view innovation in education. Alberta Learning sent them to our school. We had the privilege of presenting “Stories From the Streets” to these people and to answer their questions. After winning the silver award in the CyberFair competition, we received a letter of congratulations from the Minister of Industry with the Canadian government.

A class from Ojaii, California did this project as well. This was an enthusiastic group to work with. The teacher presented the project at a district presentation and sent us pictures of the event.


8) The Eleanor Rigby Project

September 2003- June 2004

Project Page URL:


Grade 7 class from Master’s Academy and College, Calgary, Alberta

Grade 6 class from Ocean View Middle School, Powell River, British Columbia

Grade 5 class from South Meadows Elementary School, Chelsea, Michigan

Grade 7 class from Andrews Middle School, Medford, Massachusetts

Grade 6 class from Post Middle School, Post, Texas

Grade 7 class from Inverness Elementary School, Inverness, Mississippi

Grade 6 class from JFK Middle School, Port Jeff Station, New York

Online media/technology used:

  • FrontPage 2000
  • Digital camera
  • Internet
  • Email
  • PowerPoint

Main Project Goals:

·         Students will be introduced reasons for homelessness.

·         Students will explore and question the validity of the myths surrounding the homeless.

·         Students will participate in assignments that will require them to look at life from the perspective of a homeless person

·         Students learn what an advocacy campaign is and will use three artistic mediums to create an audience-specific advocacy campaign to raise public awareness about homelessness.

·         Students will be introduced to the life of a former homeless teenager via the novel Money Hungry.

·         Students will learn how to use an online web space (Blog) to reflect about lessons learned during this unit.

·         Students will learn about the criminalization of the homeless and in character (a city official, a merchant, a homeless person or a homeless advocate) will use their findings to take part in a debate about this topic.

Some telecollaborative projects pull at your heartstrings- The Eleanor Rigby Project was one of these projects. Not only did it lead to solid learner outcomes, I believed it reshaped my students’ mental models about homelessness and touched their hearts. I know it did both these things for me. Through the activities, I watched my students develop an increased understanding and empathy for the homeless and observed them using sophisticated critical thinking skills to tackle some of the complex issues surrounding homelessness. The activities within “The Eleanor Rigby Project” supported students as they underwent an in-depth investigation of the topic of homelessness. Through the Internet resources, students interacted with information and ideas and used newfound knowledge to reconstruct how they viewed homeless people and their role as a potential advocate for “the silent poor”. 

A number of American schools joined us for this project. One school from Inverness, Mississippi, asked if they could correspond with us. We were delighted to comply! For two months, emails flew back and forth between Calgary, Alberta, Canada and this small school (comprised of a high minority population) in Mississippi. They learned about tobogganing (they had no idea what it was) and we learned about Catfish festivals (one of my students said “Would you believe there’s a “Catfish Queen” crowned at the festival??).

Collaborating with this little school in Inverness, really touched me. This is what I wrote in my Blog that week:


"Sometimes in my weaker moments I question why I create telecollaborative projects. You know, there really are easier ways to deliver content. By the time my fledgling project idea blossoms into a live project on the Internet, (with a number of classes participating from one end of the country to the other) hours and hours and weeks and weeks of work have gone by."


"This week I was reminded why it's more than worth it. After sending out a "call for participation" on various ezines and listservs, I received a response that really touched my heart. It came from a small school in the deep south- a rural school located in Southwest Central Mississippi in the heart of the Mississippi Delta. I was very moved by the info provided by the teacher there." He said:


"Our school is in Inverness and has an enrollment of 181 students in grades K-8. We are in a poverty area and the vast majority of our students fall below the federal and state poverty guidelines. The tax base in our area is small and does not generate enough income to fully support the schools. The prospects for generating a larger more profitable tax base are almost non-existent in spite of the efforts of local, federal and state programs to increase it. We are a farming area and always will be. Our county according to the latest census is classified as being almost 75% minority (black). Our school has two students who are not classified as minority students. Our students need to have the world opened to them through positive experiences that will increase their learning and knowledge... I would like for our students to share stories about the areas in which they live. "


"How do you put a price on the caliber of learning opportunities that will come our way as a result of corresponding with classrooms so different than our own? Without a wired project, how would my students ever have had a chance to collaborate in such a way and to share their stories? Imagine what I'll learn from corresponding with this teacher and most important: what a wonderful way for my students and me to give back to a struggling school district, one "that does not generate enough income to fully support the school."


"What an honor it is to have the opportunity to collaborate with a teacher like this one- an educator who is trying his best to provide an "equal" education for his students- in spite of all odds. This teacher's poignant words can't help but grip you." I plan to share them with my own students tomorrow:


"I am looking forward to observing our students reactions as they participate in the project. It is always good to take your eyes off of your self and see others."



One of the interesting things about The Eleanor Rigby Project was that I had originally created it for a group of upper end learners. These students have strong skills and the activities were designed to present a challenge for them. One of the other participating classes, on the other hand, were Special Ed students with many learning difficulties. Their teacher, Laurie Wasserman, painstakingly adapted the activities within The Eleanor Rigby Project so that these students could meet learning success and still learn about homelessness. How rewarding it was to see the very same Affinity Diagram activity (done by my upper end learners) being done with equal success with students who find learning a challenge. This is what Laurie had to say about The Eleanor Rigby Project:


My students are so enthralled, excited, and motivated about the Eleanor Rigby Project, that one of my most challenged students, a boy who always loses his materials and can only read on a grade one level, spoke with me last night on the telephone. It seems since I have been out this past week with a sprained ankle, HE DECIDED to take home his ER Project because he was so interested in learning about homelessness and creating poetry and ideas from this site you created! He talked about this project with his mother. You have touched the lives of special needs children, who are very learning and language disabled, and who read 3-4 years below grade level. This is powerful stuff you do!”

During this unit, my students and I experimented with a new online tool called a Blog (weblog). A Blog is essentially an online thinking space or journal. I created a Blog for each student (using ) and for myself as well. Here I posted assignments, questions for the students to think about and responses to the students’ postings. In my Blog space I reflected on the learning (both mine and my student’s) observed throughout The Eleanor Rigby Project.  Students seemed to enjoy this wired approach to journaling and when it came to assessment time, I was able to use the Blogging entries as evidence of the learning that took place during the project.

It was my Blog (see: )  that led us to one of the most unforgettable things that happened during this project. Just before Christmas, I received an email from a homeless man from Montpelier, Vermont. “Morgan” had come across my Blog while surfing the Net in his local library. In his email he thanked me for creating a unit of study on homelessness for my students and shared a few online resources (one of them was his own Blog) with me. I emailed him back, thanked him for the resources and asked if he was open to my students asking him a few questions about the life of a homeless person. This began an incredibly powerful mentoring partnership between, Morgan, a man who has lived most of the past 31 years on the street, and my grade seven class. My students had an abundance of questions:

·         Why are you still homeless after 31 years?

·         How did you first end up on the street?

·         Where did you learn how to write so well?

·         How do you gain access to computers and how did you learn how to create a Blog?

·         What would you most like us to know about the homeless?

·         What is the hardest part of being homeless? What will your Christmas be like this year?

Morgan, an articulate writer, candidly described the events that led him to a life on the street- a life riddled with family dysfunction, mental illness, inferiority and poor choices. He suggested to the students that homeless shelters in may ways, feed the problem of homelessness by developing a victim mentality in those on the street. He shared his belief that the real solution was connected to dealing with the dysfunction in homes and helping the children who were being molded by the circumstances in their homes. A very grown up topic for these upper middle class grade seven students! Each time I read one of Morgan’s emails, a sobering quiet came across the room as my students listened. Their faces became serious and, almost older. Morgan’s last email came just before Christmas. We had sent him an email card. This is what he wrote to us:

Dear Mrs. Dyck and, her 15 students:


I really appreciated the thoughtful and beautiful card. It means a lot to me. Thank you.


In fact the picture on the card is just how it looks here now, as the trees

and the ground are heavv-laidened with snow.


Believe it or not, winter has always been my favorite season and I really enjoy snow too. Always have, though maybe less now than I once did when I was younger, now I am growing a little older.


There are always blessings to be found in most anything experienced in life, as well as in most people too: i.e., if one knows how, when and where to look for such blessings, as well as being open to them anyway.


Sometimes that means making room for them, by making room within our minds and hearts for the unexpected. We sometimes can manage to do that by tossing aside certain attitudes and mindsets (e.g., ways of thinking) that could otherwise get in the way from what can turn out to be awesome discoveries.


Thank you for being so willing and daring to be open to new possibilities in not only certain matters (issues) of importance, but also in learning more about people (including those who may live homeless or otherwise be in great need within this world) whom you may not know or ever meet and, *most importantly*, within yourselves as well as in each other.


Keep up the good work. Merry Christmas from Montpelier, Vermont.

- Morgan



I don’t think any of us will ever forget Morgan or the lessons learned during "The Eleanor Rigby Project"!


9) Excuse Busters!

January 2004- March 2004

Project Page URL:

Four Grade 6 and 7 classes from Master’s Academy and College, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Online media/technology used:

  • FrontPage 2000
  • Digital camera
  • Internet
  • Email

Project Description 

Many middle school students struggle with organizational issues. In an effort to confront this problem, I created a thought-provoking project called Excuse Busters! 

Excuse Busters was a school-wide (middle school) telecollaborative project initiative created to help our students begin the new year (2004) with a bang! The activities within the project got students thinking about the excuses that interfere with them reaching their true potential. The students began the project by reading an article that explores how excuses stop us from reaching our dreams. From here they looked through some fun sites connected with the topic of making excuses. The goal of the project was to help students identify specific excuses to “bust”. The web site included a goal sheet (in pdf form) that students used to reflect and plan from.

Six classes at Master’s Academy decided to participate in this short-term project. Each class chose a different way to employ the project, some using drama, art and writing as a mode to explore and bust problematic excuses. One class created “Wanted Posters” for their excuse…implying that this excuse needs to be hunted down and put away! The students work will be posted on the web site as classes complete the project.

Student Work 


10) The Starry Messenger Project

January 2004- January 2005

Project Page URL:


Grade 6 classes (2) from Master’s Academy and College Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Pennsylvania, USA

North Kingstown, Rhode Island

Bangladore, India

Trincity, Trinidad and Tobago

Online media/technology used:

  • FrontPage 2000
  • Internet
  • Email

Project Description  

The Starry Messenger Project is the first time I’ve had the opportunity to create a science telecollaborative project. Since my expertise is not in science, I collaborated closely with the Grade 6 Science teacher at my school. Our partnership resulted in significant learning for both the science teacher and myself. The Starry Messenger Project is the result of our collaboration.

Embedded within this project is the essential curriculum for the Grade 6 Space and Movement unit. Each web page presents the content, questions and supplementary links. The organization of the project allows students to move through the content at their own pace, or in conjunction with a teacher-led science class. Using a learning log, students keep track of their learning, in preparation for the culminating activity called The Starry Messenger assignment.

This is a simulation-type activity that will transport students back to 1633, a time when Galileo Galilei was branded as a heretic for his views concerning the movement in the skies. The assignment explains that, in order to be cleared of these charges, Galileo will need 21st century knowledge presented at his defense trial. For this assignment, students will use the course content from this project to help develop a defense case for Galileo’s 1633 trial. Students will participate in a mock trail at the end of the project. The assignment web page contains both benchmarks and a rubric for this assignment (in pdf form).  

Soon as I posted a call for participation, I was inundated with inquiries from teachers home schoolers and individual students from all over the world. In the end our participants came from Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, India and Trinidad. 


11) Come Fly With Me! 

September, 2004- January 2005

Project Page URL: 


Over 50 schools worked on this project. Here are the participating schools: 

Online media/technology used:

  • FrontPage 2000
  • Outlook
  • Internet Explorer
  • Digital camera
  • Excel

Project Description  

In an effort to merge Grade 6 math with science,  I created Come Fly With Me! Students created their own version of a folded paper airplane, flew the plane in a team and then determined the team's mean flight distance. Classroom teams combined their mean flight distances to create a class mean. This final data was posted on the Come Fly With Me! project page and a winner was announced the second week in January.

Description of the Collaboration Results

This was an enormously successful project. I was inundated with requests to join and received emails back about how much the students in their schools enjoyed this project and had over fifty schools join. Several school commented that they plan to make this an annual school event and wondered if I would run the project again next year. 

Not everyone who registered for the project sent in their final data. Approximately 25 schools posted their data, with the winning data coming from a school in Rhode Island. The results from Come Fly With Me! were very diverse. There was a huge difference between flight distances. This discrepancy made me wonder if some classes made errors when measuring their distance or whether the teachers checked their mean results. If I post this project again I will need to address how the results of winning projects can be checked for authenticity.

Here is the final data from the project: 


12) She's More Than Just a Pretty Face (still in process)

November, 2004- 2005

Project Page URL: 


Trudy Campbell's 2 LA classes from Master's Academy

Bill Ivey's Grade 7 LA class from Massachsetts

Donna, New Jersey

Online media/technology used:

  • FrontPage 2000
  • Outlook
  • Internet Explorer
  • Digital camera
  • Excel

Project Description  

This project came about after listening to Shania Twain's recent song of the same name. In the song the singer sings about the many, many jobs that women do in the world with the point being that there's much more to women than looks. This is such an important message for pre-adolescent girls to spend time thinking about and so I decided to create a project that would cause young girls to investigate strong female role models in our world (both past and present), using an LA platform. Embedded within the project are a number of powerful web resources that will lead the girls to audio and video files and web pages that celebrate women's accomplishments across the ages. 

Equipped by these resources, the students will participate in several writing activities, with the culminating project being the creation of a doll concept that will profile the student's famous woman. As students complete their work, participating teachers will send the work to me. I will publish the writing, artwork and digital pictures on the project web site.


COLLABORATION (10 points):



In my projects, collaboration has been promoted by the nature of the assignments and by my ongoing efforts to connect with learners in other countries.

Many of my assignments require or encourage interaction within the classroom itself. For example, in “Beyond Wild Justice”, the Jig Saw Puzzle activity, the Power of Words assignment, and the Tell Us What You Think activity all require interaction between the students within the class and in the virtual learning community. Posting student work on the project web page encourages collaboration among participants and celebrates the common learning that has taken place. 

Maintaining communication with the project teachers is key to developing meaningful collaboration among the teachers themselves. This is one of my favorite parts of telecollaboration. I have learned so much from my partner teachers. Establishing Yahoo egroups among participants is invaluable in establishing a manageable way of communicating and collaborating.

There were exciting opportunities for students to email students from other places in the "We the Children..." project. Through this project, our students had the opportunity to email students in Tel Aviv, Israel. Students were encouraged to voice their opinions on the UNICEF bulletin board on the following site: 

Making an intentional effort to connect with classrooms in other countries helps inject a global attitude into the project, one that naturally lends itself to email correspondence between students beyond your classroom walls. It isn’t always easy to connect with foreign classrooms, the project teacher has to make a conscientious effort to establish his/her own set of connections online (via listservs, education digests and organizations like Global Schoolhouse and iEARN) that can lead to international partnerships. This takes a significant amount of effort but the benefits of establishing such contacts are invaluable to our students' learning.

Over the past year I have partnered with teachers and students in many American states and in Italy, Argentina, India, Thailand and Trinidad. As part of The Eleanor Rigby project, students emailed a class from Inverness, Mississippi.

An interesting thing happened as a result of posting The Starry Messenger project online. Two weeks ago I received an email from Ernan McMullin, Professor Emeritus of the History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Notre Dame. Professor McMullin, it turns out, is a respected authority on this time in history and an author of many books, one called “Galileo, Man of Science”.  In his email, Professor McMullin point out some historical inaccuracies in our Galileo material. He went into considerable detail explaining Galileo’s internment before his trail. Realizing that we were corresponding with an expert on this time in history, we made the changes on the web site that he suggested and responded to his email, asking of he would consider answering some questions from the students here in Calgary. 

In his email, Professor McMullin made suggestions concerning how the project content could be made more accurate. This is an example of how the Internet can facilitate connections with experts that will in turn benefit student learning.





All of my project themes have been conceived as a result of a need seen in my immediate teaching environment. My first preference is to create my own projects as opposed to joining in with other people’s online projects because the project can be tailor-made to the needs of my students and school mandate. Some examples of this are:

  • I’m Leading. Is Anyone Following? project

At the time this project was created, I was Grade 6 Social Studies teacher and one third of the Social Studies program centered on Government. Selling this unit to the students was always a challenge. The vocabulary and concepts studied were unfamiliar and seemingly irrelevant to 11 and 12 year olds. In 2000 I decided that my unit needed a revamping and knowing the appeal of technology (to my students), I decided to create a telecollaborative project about leadership, one of the concepts covered during the Government unit. Our school places a great deal of emphasis on pushing students’ critical thinking skills (moving them up Blooms Taxonomy to the analysis, synthesis and evaluation levels) and so I decided to push my students’ thinking by having them identify benchmarks from which to measure a leader and then use these benchmarks to evaluate their choice of leader. I was more interested in how well they could justify their evaluative statements about their leader than whether I agreed that the person was a great leader. Having to prove their opinions was a challenge for 11 and 12 year olds but by using the supports provided in the project (working paper) my students did very well. My administration was thrilled at the depth of thought demonstrated in the students’ writing (take a look at Neal’s writing:  ) and my students started to see a connection between Government and real life…the people who lead us in our country.

“We the Children…

Three years ago I taught at a school for gifted/talented students. Here, there was an ongoing emphasis on Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences. At this school I was the Technology Integration Coach and I also taught one Math class. Just before the winter break, my administration asked me if I would be willing to be part of an initiative to resurrect a struggling Grade 6/7 class (whose teacher had lost control of). My administration felt that my experience and ability to integrate technology would blow new life into this disrespectful, apathetic group of very smart kids. The class was called STS (Self-directed Studies) and the content of the program could take just about any direction. They asked me to consider creating a project surrounding rights and responsibilities. They wanted these kids’ thinking challenged.

I spent winter vacation writing a new telecollaborative project called “We the Children…” It was designed to meet the specific needs of this group of students and included an eclectic variety of activities that represented each of the Multiple Intelligences.  The topic (children’s rights), while not blatantly dealing with bullying (something that was quite rampant among students) had everything to do with it. Students identified the elements of one of our most basic rights…the right to a safe place. They then used these elements to evaluate the safety quotient of their classroom. Students were quite surprised to see that, when evaluated by “their” criteria, our classroom environment scored very low. Within a few weeks, those gifted mind started to click and make connections that began to show up in how they responded to one another and their teachers. By the end of January everyone who taught and lived with these students commented on the improvement they saw. Many thought the miracle improvement was because of me…I knew it had more to do with the influence of an engaging, relevant topic and the power of telecollaborative technology to change minds and inspire.

I wrote about this experience in the following Education World articles:

Teaching With Heart:

Telecollaborative Project Develops Compassion and Global Awareness

·         The Eleanor Rigby Project project

Meeting the needs of diverse learners in a heterogeneous classroom remains to be one of the biggest challenges facing every teacher. Bogged down by large class numbers and a plethora of academic and behavioral needs can necessitate a teacher directing his or her attention and efforts to those whose learning challenges demand immediate consideration. As a result of this, students whose ability to work independently and whose academic abilities are not of concern are frequently under challenged and spend a significant amount of their day working through material that they have already mastered or waiting for other to finish. In “Proficiency is Not Enough”, differentiation expert, Carol Ann Thomlinson challenges educators to create learning opportunities for upper end learner that take them from basic proficiency to excellence. It was this challenge that caused me to create The Eleanor Rigby Project. Designed from a constructivist perspective, this project began with the students entry-level understanding about homelessness and scaffolded student learning via a variety of activities, each designed to expand their thinking. In the culminating activity, a debate about the criminalization of the homeless, students demonstrated an impressive depth of understanding.

My projects are closely aligned with ICT (Information and Information Technology), Social Studies, Math and Language Arts Alberta Government outcomes: 

  •  Come Fly With Me!

Creating a telecollaborative project that merges math and science has been my desire. I have felt that telecollaborative project have the potential to inject interest into math and by using the flight theme, I have done just that this year. My Master's Academy students joined over fifty other schools to carry out a paper airplane flight activity. Judging by the extensive response that I got from math teachers across the continent, I would say math teachers are looking for ways to integrate technology into math. My students liked the idea that they were working with students from all over the USA and Canada. We posted the schools' flight mean on the project web site- a school from Rhode Island won!


ASSESSMENT (10 points):







Over the past four years, I've “nudged” my peers towards using technology in ways that enhance student learning. The best way, I’ve discovered, is to model it myself. Within my own school, I am presently following the following model with my colleagues:

  • I do it, you watch…
  • I do it, you do it with me…
  • You do it, I’ll watch…
  • You do it!!

As I’ve followed the above process, I’ve had a number of teachers jump on board.  I've hosted after-school technology receptions to profile the telecollabortative project work done by the teachers in our school. It was meant to be a time of celebrating “their” learning. There was food, music and a different online project up on each computer monitor in the room.

Most who attended saw projects but I saw progress… all levels of accomplishment. Some were full-blown telecollaborative projects; others were online projects that only their class participated in and a few were work from telecollaborative projects they had been participants in themselves. Staff dropped in to see what we had been up to all year and many asked if they too could try creating a project next year.

Outside of my school, I have used the Web itself to influence teachers to give shared learning a try. I have also created web pages to house meaningful listerv conversations from MiddleWeb listserv, a listserv I have been active on for several years. Several of these web pages have found their way to staff development sessions all over the United States.

·         Probably the most widely used web site that I’ve created came about in June (2003) when I decided to create a web site to house a moving discussion that occurred on MiddleWeb listserv. The question had been “Who Will You Stand For?” - teachers across the country shared a student that they were going to bat for. I decided to post all the responses on a web site. The response to the web page was powerful. Principles, staff developers all over North America have used this web site in their staff meetings and closing year meetings. This web page continues to move me to tears (turn on your speakers).

·        Sometimes the things I'm  thinking about makes its way online. The following classroom assignment began as a question in my mind, moved onto becoming a math assignment that eventually got posted on a web page so that my parents could observe the learning outcomes. The question was “What Happens In-between Assessments? or "How does the affective domain influences student learning?". The answers to this question were fascinating:

·         The following web site illustrates how I turn a fledging telecollaborative idea into a full-blown telecollaborative project. The web page shows how my project, “Beyond Wild Justice” began. I fequently use this picture when someone ask "How do you even start???" :

·         Teachers frequently are told that they need to learn how to teach smarter, not harder. Most of us wonder what exactly that means. Last spring I created a web page to house the many tasks that MiddleWeb listserv teachers said they find find on their plates! I called the web page, Thinking Smarter, Not Harder? Turn your speakers on to hear the chaos!

·         Part of my role as a volunteer MidLink Magazine editor is to help teachers create quality shared learning projects. A quality telecollaborative project is about much more than connecting students to an endless list of Internet resources, or just restating old information. The following web page, entitled Big Rocks, houses a rubric that will help teachers to improve their project quality:

·         I frequently use a web page format to communicate how I use technology to teach my students (ex: at a parent open house). The following web page gave my administration a visual representation of one a class I taught to middle school students. In this class, the students became the technology experts and used their skills to teach teachers. We called it “Student-led Technology Integration:  (turn your speakers on):

·         The following web site, illustrates both visually and in written form, the importance of implementing Skylights Thinking in your classroom program, the act of using Blooms Taxonomy and various thinking tools.

My involvements as a volunteer teacher-editor with MidLink Magazine is all about promoting and guiding educators in this direction and my ongoing writing for Middle Ground Magazine, Microsoft, MiddleWeb listserv and Education World is for the purpose of enticing, educating and challenging my colleagues to move past just using technology to write report cards word documents and for games. I expand on these involvements in the EMPOWER section of this narrative.


IMPACT (10 points):



 Telecollaborative learning has become a natural part of how I teach. All the efforts above have been born out of my own fascination with the power of hooking students from seemingly unrelated places, and the learning magic that can happen when you do. Since I’ve seen the same magic happen when adults from Boston, Memphis, Calgary, Cary and Raleigh collaborate virtually- telecollaboration produces synergy, learning and growth for all of us. I will never be the same because of it. It rewired my thinking in the same way the students from Tel Aviv, Israel rewired my Canadian kids thinking about what constitutes a safe place. I am very aware of the potential telecollaborative projects have in reforming attitudes and inspiring kids to make a difference in their world. I think that is why I am especially drawn to social justice themes. Our students have the energy and idealism to take our world by storm…all they need is the resources and our guidance!

Current education thinking guru, Parker Palmer, pithy description below suggests a powerful visual image for me of how this uncommon teaching approach of partnering two very unlike quantities together for a common good produces actual learning magic:

 "Physicists have shown that subatomic particles behave as if "there were some communication between them" even when they are "too far apart to communicate in the time available." These so called particles, widely separated in time and space, seem to be connected in ways that make them act less like isolated individuals and more like participants in an inactive and interdependent community."

 ~ Parker Palmer, The Courage to Teach (p.96)

On the following page from my electronic portfolio I explain how virtual collaboration has impacted me (put your speakers on  :>)     :Brain Exchange





  I have used the following online sites to promote my online projects. With practice, I have learned how to write concise, engaging “calls for participation” on:

  • Classroom Connects’ “Net Happenings”
  • iEARN
  • MiddleWeb listserv
  • Teacher Learning Network listserv
  • EduHound Weekly
  • Global Schoolhouse
  • EdTech listserv
  • MidLink Magazine
  • The Classroom Flyer
  • Talking It Up With Colleagues
     A number of my participants have come onboard after watching the outcomes of my projects and by dialoguing about this way of integrating technology into classroom learning.





I believe it is very important to have ongoing communication with participants so that they don’t lose site of finishing the project. I send my participants ideas for implementation, reports on how activities went in my class and resources that I come across that support the topic of the project.

I have also created an egroup so that members can communicate easily with each other. I am the moderator of the egroup. Participants have enjoyed being able to see each other’s emails to me and to each other as well. Having an egroup has been very advantageous as I write this application, as I am able to go back and read what participants wrote and what I sent them as we went along. 

I intentionally create resources for my projects that will help teachers and students carry the project out as authentically as possible. Clear explanations, assignment benchmarks, assessment rubrics and checklists and graphic organizers (designed to help organize students thinking) are part of all my projects. Please refer to the ASSESSMENT section of this narrative for further information and examples of how I directly assist my project participants.

From time to time, project participants may not have the web page building skills (or the server space) necessary for creating or posting their project work. This is especially true when dealing with international participants. It would be a shame if these limitations prevented a class from participating in a telecollaborative project. The Israeli class that partnered with us on “We the Children…” had no access to web page software or server space, so they sent their work to us and I created the web page for them. It was housed on the ABC Charter server as well (it has now been moved to the Master’s Academy server). They were so thrilled to see their work live on the web!

Last year I worked with three 16-year-old Argentinean students. Even though these students are not working with a teacher in Argentina, I would like to work with them and guide them through the main parts of the project. This week I emailed a plan for them to follow and they have already sent some of their work to me. One of them only speaks French so I have used a translation tool (from the ePals site) to translate any correspondence we will have into French for him. I believe my students and I will be stretched in new ways from collaborating from with these highly motivated international students. It has been exciting to see their work come in, knowing that these students are doing this project on their own and on their own steam! Here is one of their recent pieces of work:  




“When it comes to technology in education, you can create it, you can design it, you can produce it, you can legislate it, you can order it, you can restructure it, give it standards and outcomes for it. But the bottom line is that if it is going to happen, teachers are going to have to make it happen.”              

      ~ Jacqueline Goodloe, Washington, D.C. teacher

A significant part of my teaching and writing efforts center on promoting telecollaboration among my school and virtual colleagues and equipping them to create their own online learning opportunities. 

Over the past three years I have been asked more and more to help my workplace colleagues implement global collaboration into their classrooms. We meet on preps and after school to help that happen. In my city and province I lead professional development sessions, connect teachers with curriculum appropriate online projects to consider and model the creation and operation of telecollaboration within my own classroom program. This summer I have been asked to lead a three-day technology institute for a staff of teachers in Maine. 

Over the past year I have been called upon to lead daylong workshops and conference sessions within my province and in the United States. My “Wired and Inspired” workshops and presentations give me the opportunity to share telecollaboration with a broader audience and keep me inspired as well!

I have benefited greatly from my volunteer affiliation with MidLink Magazine, a non-profit ezine that serves as a major clearinghouse for collaborative projects in grades 3 through 12. MidLink’s teacher-editors develop some of the Web projects, while others are initiated by individual teachers from schools around the world. Teacher-editors post projects quarterly, and a complete archive is maintained. Special sections include a “Web Honor Roll” of recommended sites and a “Teacher Resource Room” with useful guides on topics such as rubrics, Web publishing, and browser management.

I am involved in creating content for the magazine, determining the direction of upcoming issues and communicating with teachers who approach MidLink for guidance or a desire to use MidLink to post their projects. Realizing that there was need for a resource that would help teachers create meaty online project work, I have spearheaded the creation of a new MidLink feature called “Big Rocks”. This feature provides teachers with the main guideposts for creating quality telecollaborative projects and will be added to on a quarterly basis:

MidLink’s close association with North Carolina State University and SAS in School has facilitated me in stretching my own integration and writing skills and learn from educators who are perpetually "on the grow." As I've continued to work with these institutions I have become all the more convinced that educators need to model the telecollaboration that we want to see in our classrooms, first with our colleagues around the world. It is because of these virtual partnerships that I am so passionate about creating telecollaborative projects in my classroom doings because I've experienced the benefits and synergy of it myself.

 Middle Ground Magazine, with a circulation of 30,000, takes my writing into a variety of places…schools, teachers’ homes, colleges and universities and administrator’s offices. My Electronic Thread column profiles technology integration initiatives and ideas- I have had the opportunity to point educators towards shared learning projects and challenge them to consider new ways of wiring their classroom programs. My January, 2003 column focused on telecollaboration and is entitled:

Telecollaboration: A Linking of Minds  

My affiliation with Microsoft allowed the message about the power of online projects to go far and wide:

Can I Imagine Teaching Without Technology?    

Education World is one of the most widely read education ezines on the Web. My articles run several times a month- many of them center on educating readers about the value of telecollaboration and meaningful technology integration. Here's one where I wrote about my students’ peer editor participation in Global SchoolHouse’s CyberFair:

In November, 2004 my first book, The Rebooting of a Teacher's Mind, was released by the National Middle School publishers. In the book I reflect on my newly assimilated way of thinking about teaching and learning. Woven seamlessly within this new paradigm is my telecollaborative work from the classroom.I

As a regular participant on MiddleWeb listserv ( ), I often have the opportunity to point teachers towards the value of cross-cultural collaboration. Here is one of my recent postings and a teacher response:


Conference/Workshop Speaking

·         November 2002: joined my MidLink colleagues in Dallas, Texas to present a session at NSBA- National School Board’s Technology and Learning Conference. Our session was called “Harness the Power of Web Publishing to Motivate Your Students”.

·         November, 200: presented at the National Middle School Convention in Portland, Oregon. My session was called "Training Wheels: Helping Middle School Students Meet Their Learning Potential".

·         July 2003: presented “Wired and Inspired Learning: Using Telecollaborative Projects to Motivate Student Learning” in the Global Gallery at NECC in Seattle, Washington.

·         November 2003: presented a daylong workshop called “Wired and Inspired Learning: Using Telecollaborative Projects to Motivate Student Learning” for the Central Alberta Regional Consortium in Lethbridge, Alberta.

·         November 2003: presented “Wired and Inspired Learning: Using Telecollaborative Projects to Motivate Student Learning” at NYSCATE in Albany, New York.

·         March 2004: presented a daylong workshop called “Hitting the Learning Target” for the Southern Alberta Regional Consortium in Edmonton, Alberta.

·         April 2004: presented “Wired and Inspired Learning: Using Telecollaborative Projects to Motivate Student Learning” at the Alberta Teacher’s Association Computer Council Conference in Banff, Alberta.

·        April 2004: presented “Wired and Inspired Learning: Using Telecollaborative Projects to Motivate Student Learning” at the Alberta Middle School Convention in Red Deer, Alberta.

·    November 2004 I presented my project, "We the Children..." at the 2004 Global Junior Challenge. The project won first place in the 11-15 year old category.

  • November, 2004 I presented the use of telecollaborative projects in the language arts classroom in an at the College of Education at North Carolina State University.


I am honored to be included among those considered for the Global Schoolhouse Shared Learning Award. I count myself lucky to have been mentored by some of the most inspirational educators in this land. Spending time in their company has changed how I think and teach. Their presence in my life has been a blessing to me and has benefited my students.


Brenda Dyck

Calgary, Alberta, Canada



GSN's ROLE (10 points):    TOP

a. What are the biggest challenges or obstacles you have

encountered in conducting OCL projects?

Challenge One: It is a challenge to get the word out to a broad base of teachers.

Challenge Two: Keeping project participants involved for the long haul.

Challenge Three: For a number of years, the physical setup of the project was so time-consuming I could almost not do it along with my teaching load.

Challenge Four: Professional development that focuses on shared learning (or telecollaborative learning) is hard to access.

b. What could GSN do to help you meet those challenges or overcome those obstacles? You may want to suggest possible new online organizing and conducting an OCL project easier?

Idea One:

Getting the word out to teacher in as many different places as possible:

Over the years I have learned that the more places I post a "call for participation" the better because I reach a difference audience, depending on where I post. So in addition to using the Global Schoolhouse registry, I post in places like iEARN, MidLink Magazine, various email digests, newsletters and listservs. I think it would be wonderful if GSN created a portal where teachers could access new places to post their projects so that their contact audience was broadened.

Idea Two:

Keeping project participants involved for the long haul. 

I have learned the importance of keeping in contact with the teachers throughout the duration of the project by using a Yahoo egroup to streamline correspondence and just touching base. The more I do this the more participants finish the project, the more learning there is for both the participants and me and the apt participants are to join me for another project. Could GSN create a space on their site where lead teachers of a project could set up a correspondence area- maybe even create a template that's ready to go so that it doesn't take much time for the teacher to set up.

Idea Three:

For a number of years, the physical setup of the project was so time-consuming, I could hardly manage it along with my teaching load. 

My technology skills were in an early stage and it took me an enormous time just to get the project set up. Had their been a project template to use I would have grabbed it in those early years. I've done enough projects that I have devised my own web page format so it doesn't take me long to get my project idea onto a web page. Could GSN create a few templates that would get new adopters of technology going, until they were confident enough to create their own? I think this would encourage newbies to try telecollaborative projects out.

Idea Four:

Professional development that focuses on shared learning (or telecollaborative learning) is hard to access. 

When I first began I would have benefited from a "hints" newsletter that was purely about telecollaborative learning- the method behind the madness (for example: the research that supports its use, articles about how to "get your ideas" from your head onto a web page, possible hot topics to consider, motivational stories from projects, testimonies, links to articles that would expand knowledge about this model of leaning, a Dear Abby column where teachers can write in and ask questions etc). Could GSN create a once a month digital publication that included these suggestions. I envision it to look like a newspaper with pictures, links and several constant features that would change every four weeks or so. GSN sends out links and project bulletins, but what I'm talking about would serve as a form of ongoing PD for teachers who are making their way in this exciting way of teaching.


c. How could you work with GSN to develop and test new resources, tools or programs?

My classroom could become a place to pilot and test these new resources and programs. I also have developed a large network on teachers who use technology in innovative ways. My connection with these people could lead to other piloting places for emerging GSN projects and resources. My writing skills would be useful in the mix as well.