I always look forward to this conference and this year it was held at Warwick so it was a lovely opportunity to bring this brilliant community right to the heart of my work context. The keynotes were inspiring, the connections and presentations helpful, the sheer amount of experience and expertise in educational technology awesome. (and that's not a word I use lightly!) Since the conference finished on Wednesday however I have been mulling over my contributions. I spoke about #oie and #clavier on wed morning and Languages@Warwick development on the wed afternoon. I thought it might be helpful to summarise what I have learnt about using technologies for international interaction in a simple 5 point way for anyone who is thinking of taking this on in their own context. So here goes:
1. Choose your technologies carefully but choose your partners even more so!
It may be almost impossible to find tech that everyone likes, but this matters not a jot if your collaborators don't trust each other. You will inevitably need to compromise on timings, activities, objectives - play the long game, agree to make progress gradually and take your teachers and students with you. If you're unhappy or resentful don't pretend everything's fine, establish clear communication right from the start and respect the opinions of others.
2. Connections precede collaboration.
Allow time to let all participants get to know each other. Our experience shows that this is best done by proxy, that is to say carry out some tasks (profile writing,photo sharing etc) which allow the participants to discover each other without the pressure to work together immediately. If you are meeting in an online space each participant will want to build an identity in the space. Remember how you felt on arriving at the school disco or a party in a new house? You probably spent a while thinking about how to dress and then had a few drinks in the kitchen or chatted with familiar people first.
3. Ensure a good level of presence.
There's little worse than entering an online space expecting to meet people and finding an empty space. Worse still if no-one replies to your messages. Tumbleweed moments! Plan to have sufficient "animators" in the space to welcome each new arrival and facilitate the mingling. Lead by example.
4. Be open to ideas. Resist the urge to control everything. If people are to engage they must be given the space to make a contribution. They may want to do something you had not planned, you will not know how that will turn out unless you try it. Be flexible and generous with your time and support.
5. Celebrate every small win. It is important to growing the activities that you surface the impact of the activities you do. Use hard data as well as participant narratives to ensure that you have a clear picture. Communicate the findings openly and creatively so as to engage onlookers. Careful: Don't make unsubstantiated statements, that will come back to bite you!
Collaboration is complex, see below the waterline!