International collaboration is no longer really a challenge.  Sure–there are time zone differences, perhaps sometimes a firewall to go around, but in general, collaborating via Google Docs makes things pretty darn slick.  It helps that all the members of my group, @teachertara@anndurham13  and @paulbrowne  have all drank the collobaration Kool-Aid.  The biggest problem we ran into was inconsistent/insufficient internet access.  We divided up tasks, giving each component of the agreement to a single member.  After we had roughly hewn out the bulk of the project, we all shifted into editing-mode.

Collaboration shares the load and opens new possibilities.

Early on in the process, we made a conscious decision not to meet in person–even though it was certainly possible (3 out of 4 of our group were in the same physical school, and one even in my own department!).  We made this decision because we wanted to really embrace the idea of digital collaboration.  I’m glad we did, because I learned the power of Google doc collaboration.  In particular, we used commenting, highlighting and strikethroughs.   Commenting was particularly powerful, as it allowed us to have ‘mini-discussions’ about individual items.   We had dreams of a group Skype, but the bandwidth issues of Myanmar put a stop to such data-heavy dreams.

I have to admit that I started out unenthusiastic about this topic, and I am not totally satisfied with the nature of the product that we produced (though I was satisfied with the process of creating it).  We started off with user agreements from Jakarta International School and Taipei American School, keeping/modifying/creating as we saw fit.  It feels like another user agreement, like the 72 pages of legalese that I am forced to agree with if I want to upgrade my operating system.

I am very glad that we removed a line about not pursuing litigation against the school–that just seems like an instant-school-culture killer–not to mention the fact that it would be worthless in court.  I am reluctant to embrace the idea that this document needs to be presented in such a ‘contractual’ manner.  Sure–kids mess up, cross boundaries, and do stupid stuff online.  But when that happens, do we really need to pull out the signed contract and say, “See here–you agreed not to do this”.  That implies there was a choice.  In reality, there is no choice.  The student must take the computer, must sign the contract–so presenting it as something they agreed to out of their own free will is disingenuous.

I do appreciate that we we were able to keep the agreement realistic.  No banning of games, no banning of chargers in the classroom–this was an agreement that students could realistically abide by.  We looked for ways to encourage a healthy balance in the student’s life.  Gaming –like chocolate–is a great thing, in moderation.   Plus, it is never a good idea to create a rule you are not willing/able to enforce!

In an effort to make the document more digestible to students, Tara cooked up a nice “snippet-version” of the document:

Credit to Tara Barth

Thanks to Tara Barth for making our pages-long agreement into a more student-friendly form.

Overall, it was a pleasant process, considering the topic (which I considered about as interesting a watching paint dry!).  I am really looking forward to collaborating with COETAILers on further projects–hopefully with some specialized content and tools on display.