2013. Vol.4, No.9, 533-539
Published Online September 2013 in SciRes (http://www.scirp.org/journal/ce) http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/ce.2013.49078
Copyright © 2013 SciRe s . 533
Global Collaboration in Teacher Education: A Case Study
Greg Neal1, Terry Mullins2, A ni t a Rey nolds2, Mark Angle2
1Victoria University, Melbourne, A u stralia
2Concord University, Athens, USA
Received July 17th, 2013; revised August 17th, 2013; accepted August 24th, 2013
Copyright © 2013 Greg Neal et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attri-
bution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the
original work is properly cited.
Effective online collaboration is a valuable instructional approach appropriate for 21st century teaching
and learning. This paper describes a case that involves two higher education student cohorts from the
United States and Australia engaged in a global collaboration to promote an authentic teaching and learn-
ing experience. The collaboration aims to involve students in sharing, reflecting and synthesizing new
knowledge to make a comparative analysis between education systems from the two countries. The global
collaboration is matched against an Assessment and Teaching of 21st Century Skills framework to com-
prehend and justify this approach as part of a teacher education course. This case advocates the value of
having future teachers using online resources in a global context as a way to effectively integrate new
content with various technology resources to develop new learning and new relationships beyond their
Keywords: Teacher Education; Global Collaboration; 21st Century Teaching and Learning
“Teacher preparation programs should prepare teachers
with the values, skills, and knowledge to not just keep
abreast with the times but also be ahead of their time.”
(Asia Society, 2013)
The biggest influence on student learners is the effective
teacher with effective teaching strategies (Rice, 2003; Hattie,
2009). The “knowledge transmission” model of education that
predominantly existed in the 20th century is no longer adequate.
With appropriate pedagogical approaches including the strate-
gic use of 21st century learning tools, there is now a recognised
need for new teachers to be properly prepared for today’s learn-
This paper reports on an initiative happening between two
universities from the United States and Australia who have
developed a global collaborative partnership for their pre-ser-
vice teachers. It involves the pre-service teachers from the re-
spective universities globally connecting and exchanging in-
formation and therefore gaining new knowledge about each
other’s education systems. The collaboration aims to have stu-
dents from teacher education courses examine the similarities
and differences from each nation’s education systems including
school cultures, teaching methods, inclusion and diversity prac-
tices, assessment strategies and current educational issues. The
global exchange requires the integrated use of different online
applications that are recognised as relevant resources to their
own future teaching practices.
Now in its second year of operation, the global collaboration
has already expanded into additional semesters for both univer-
sities and the initial findings reported in this paper highlight the
early positiveness of this initiative. It has already demonstrated
improvement in digital literacies for the pre-service teachers
who have also recognised the approach as a teaching method-
ology appropriate for today’s learners. Collaborating with stu-
dents from around the world in meaningful, real-life projects is
a necessary approach for developing 21st century literacies
(ATC21S Consortium, 2013; Partnership for 21st Century Skills,
2013). This project has challenged higher education students
beyond the conventional university-based practices.
Preparing Pre-Service Teachers for New
An unconscious challenge for pre-service teachers is the im-
pact of bringing personal practical knowledge and prior ex-
perience from their own schooling and therefore the learning
situation. These prior opportunities are highly likely to influ-
ence their learning in teacher education programs and according
to Edwards (2000) personal knowledge and prior experience
can be very resistant to change. “One of the important goals for
teacher education is to help pre-service teachers view teaching
as more than simply applying routine practices. In certain cases,
this means that pre-service teachers need to reconstruct their
established perceptions of teaching and learning in order to
learn and adopt new ideas.” (Hyeonjin et al., 2012).
Now in the 21st century a major goal of schooling, including
university schooling, “is to prepare students for flexible adapta-
tion to new problems and settings. Students’ abilities to transfer
what they have learned to new situations provides an important
index of adaptive, flexible learning” (National Research Coun-
cil, 2000: p. 235). According to Niess et al. (2007) this may
require pre-service teachers to “unlearn how and what you have
learned and relearn your subject with the technologies as tools
in order to support you as you learn with and about the tech-
G. NEAL ET AL.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
nologies as learning tools.” (p. 75)
Teaching practices that include problem-based learning and
cooperative learning promoting shared knowledge-building
encourage students to be active participants in the learning pro-
cess and are important aspects of effective teaching and learn-
ing. The shared knowledge building is an integral part of 21st
century learning and brings together ways of thinking, ways of
working, tools for working and a global connection (ATC21S
Teacher educators from Concord University, West Virginia
and Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia have established
an international online collaboration project where pre-service
teachers are expected to share and exchange information by
engaging in weekly professional dialogue. As part of the 5
week collaboration, pre-service teachers are expected to inves-
tigate educational similarities and differences of real world
teaching foci including school systems, teaching methods, in-
clusion and diversity practices, assessment strategies and cur-
rent educational issues. The inclusion of various information
and communication technologies (ICT) resources is an integral
part of the exercise and a mix of synchronous and asynchronous
tools are supported and encouraged in order for students from
their respective institutions to report and present their compara-
tive understanding as part of their assessment requirements.
The global collaboration was organised in university teams
of pre-service teachers (3 - 4 per group) and the teacher educa-
tors coordinated the matching of teams from each university.
The pre-service teachers were then assigned a weekly topic to
explore with their global partners and used predetermined ICT
online applications. Students were required to discuss the given
topic and share and reflect on similarities and differences be-
tween the school systems in the United States and Australia.
They were to gather their shared knowledge via online sources
while accounting for time differences when using synchronous
communication. Their gathered information and shared knowl-
edge was required as evidence that they engaged with the dif-
ferent online collaboration tools over the 5 week journey. The
pre-service teachers were also required to present a final prod-
uct for their course assessment requirements and to highlight
what they synthesised from the collaborative exercise.
With the increase in the integration of ICT into teaching and
learning, two main forms of peer-learning are often used inter-
changeably: cooperative and collaborative learning (Thompson,
2004). Teasley and Roscelle (1993) argue that cooperative
work “is accompanied by the division of labor among partici-
pants, as an activity where each person is responsible for a por-
tion of the problem solving” whereas collaboration requires the
“mutual engagement of participants in a coordinated effort to
solve the problem together” (p. 235). Underwood and Under-
wood (1999) further argue that the focus on whether coopera-
tion or collaboration takes place depends on issues such as re-
sponsibility for the tasks, the decision-making process, and the
characteristics of the social group.
Where collaborative knowledge-building happens, students
become the constructors of collective knowledge (Scardamalia
& Bereiter, 1999). However, the effects of learning on achieve-
ment for the individual will be mediated by the cohesiveness of
the group members. Even as far back as the eighties, Cohen
(1986) stated, “if the task is challenging and interesting, and if
students are sufficiently prepared of skills in group processing,
students will experience the process of group work as highly
rewarding” (pp. 69-70). Individual students participating within
collaborative learning situations contribute to collective re-
sponsibility and motivation for learning. Effective collaboration
requires “roughly equal participation, genuine interaction among
the participants, and the synthesis of work into a unified whole”
(Ingram & Hathorn, 2004: p. 215). Such shared learning ap-
proaches will encourage decentralisation of decision-making
from the lecturer to pre-service teachers and empower them to
play a key role in self-directed learning, and:
“... the ability to work productively in teams, in both so-
cial and work settings, especially in situations where the
various team members may have diverse backgrounds,
experiences, and opinions. Indeed, it is in just such an en-
vironment that collaborative work can bring the greatest
benefits.” (Roberts, 2005a: p. vi)
Theoretical Framework and 21st Century
It is widely recognised that teaching and learning in the 21st
century requires the effective use of technology resources. The
focus on 21st century is to move beyond the instructional
teacher delivering subject matter (years ago referred to as the
3Rs-reading, writing and arithmetic) that students attempt to
retain and then show their understanding through examinations.
Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training &
Youth Affairs (2008) stated that using technology effectively
enables students to become capable ICT users, problem solvers,
creative, communicators, collaborators and informed citizens.
This was later modified by Trilling and Fadel (2009) who put
forward the notion that learning involves the 3Rs (content)
multiplied by today’s necessary life skills, the 7Cs (critical think-
ing, creativity, collaboration, cross-culturalism, communication,
computing and career).
The Assessment and Teaching of 21st Century Skills (ATC21S)
(2013) consortium (which includes Australia and the United
States) provides a further framework that outlines 21st century
skills, knowledge, and attitudes into four categories:
Ways of thinking: creativity/innovation, critical thinking,
problem-solving, decision-making, and learning to learn;
Ways of working: communication and collaboration/team-
Tools for working: including information and communica-
Living in the world: citizenship, life and career and per-
sonal, and social responsibilities, including cultural aware-
ness and competence.
The attributes from the different research supports commonly
shared language that portray the need for 21st century teachers
to go beyond the delivery of content to move students into new
ways of thinking, working and communicating in a global con-
text. It is now an imperative that teacher education ensures new
teachers develop and utilize these common attributes as part of
their practice for the benefit of teaching and learning today’s
students. This paper highlights a case that uses the ATC21S
framework to report on a shared learning experience where pre-
service teac hers are e ngage d in new learning appropriate for the
A Case Study
The use of a case study approach was used to examine the
G. NEAL ET AL.
Copyright © 2013 SciRe s . 535
global collaboration from the cross-institutional exercise. Mer-
riam (1998) suggests special features of qualitative case studies
are particularistic, descriptive and heuristic. This case study is
particularistic because there is a focus on a particular teaching
and learning situation. The process reveals what is occurring
with students in a global collaboration experience as part of
their university studies. It is descriptive because recounts from
staff and students’ perceptions are gathered from teaching and
learning practices. Importantly, it’s heuristic because the tea-
cher educators discover and confirm new understandings in re-
gard to student use of ICT resources in the global share-ex-
Data was captured from the experiences of the preservice
teachers as they described, explained and reflected on the in-
formation exchange between the two universities. The qualita-
tive data assisted the researchers to understand the collaborative
approach from the voice of the participants. Data captured
throughout the initial stages of the work included narratives and
work samples as evidence of dialogue. One university also used
a pre-post survey with the same cohort of students as a way to
measure changes in particular attitudes and skills with technol-
The limitations in this research have been identified as hav-
ing only focused on two relatively small cohorts of preservice
teachers, approximately 40 from each of the two universities.
Both universities are located in low socio-economic regions; a
broader socio-economic background may reveal different re-
An Initial Perspective
For this paper, the ATC21S framework is the selected way to
examine how the global collaboration assists pre-service teach-
ers in their development to become 21st century teachers and
learners. The framework provides identified categories that
define important characteristics of skills appropriate for today’s
learners and are important indicators of pre-service teachers
readiness to teach. It is relevant for this investigation because
according to ATC21S (2013), “Collaborative problem-solving
sp a n s all four categories.”
Ways of Thinking
A key organising principle of the Teacher Education program
at Victoria University is called Praxis Inquiry. The notion of
“praxis” means the integration of practice and theory in cycles
of investigation so that a particular situation is understood and
improved. Praxis Inquiry involves “reflection on action” for
social and educational change to benefit all participants (Che-
rednichenko and Kruger, 2002). The process involves cycles of
describing, e xplaining, theorising and ch a n ging practice.
The emphasis for this global collaboration project was also
on supporting students to think in a process of inquiry learning
with ICT applications. Each week a teaching and learning topic
was provided to the students as well as a designated ICT appli-
cation as the required resource to be used to exchange informa-
tion online. Each pair of pre-service teachers were required to
gather information from an online exchange of inquiry, come to
a deeper understanding of each issue and how it is relevant to
their own teaching in Australia. The weekly topics included:
The sch ool systems
Issues in Education
The collaboration began within the context of an overseas
exchange of information relevant to education. Using the Praxis
Inquiry process thus entails all paired members to take respon-
sibility for initiating and guiding their own learning. As each
issue is encountered and investigated, the process needs to be
documented as the basis of discussion and reflection.
In Victoria University’s situation, the documented exchange
of information was presented to the lecturer as a weekly report
of what was learned from the exchange. In the initial weeks
preservice teachers tended to describe and present the informa-
tion from their local context and simply relayed it to their over-
seas partners. For example, one group emailed their week 1
response (small part of response shown below) and included
relevant web links to enable ease of further exploration of the
Schooling in Australia starts with a kindergarten or pre-
paratory year followed by 12 years of primary and secon-
dary school. In the final year of secondary school, Year 12,
you can study for a government-endorsed certificate that
is recognized by all Australian universities and vocational
education and training institutions. Australia has a na-
tional curriculum framework to ensure high academic
standards across the country. All schools provide subjects
in the eight key learning areas…
Following this initial exchange of information the response
from their US partners was to also describe their school sys-
tems. At times, some preservice teachers started to draw some
conclusions from the shared information (and used emoticons
as part of the developing relationship):
Concord pst1—The school system is Australia is very
much like the one here in the US. The only difference is
some elementary schools only go K-4 and the middle
school goes 5 - 8. The education here is also mandatory
and free. Some students use to have to pay for breakfast
and lunch but in some counties, this year, they started free
breakfast and lunch for all students. It seems to me that
education and teachers are quite well respecte d in Austra-
lia. The collaboration between high schools and universi-
ties are alike here in the US as well. Some courses are of-
fered for college credit while you are in high school. The
higher education in Australia seems to be just like the
higher education in the US!)
Toward the end of the 5 week program there was a notice-
able shift to presenting the exchanged information beyond the
descriptive stage and more aligned to asking and responding to
ontological and epistemology questions allowing the opportu-
nity to engage in conversations. One example below was taken
from a shared Voice thread (conversations in the cloud) ex-
PST 1: Is standardized testing a fair way to judge compe-
tence? What are the benefits of NAPLAN2? How much
homework should a student have? Is creativity as impor-
1PST—acronym for preservice teacher.
2NAPLAN—The National Assessment Program for Literacy and Numeracy
is the measure through which education authorities can determine whether
Australians schools are meeting important set standards.
G. NEAL ET AL.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
tant as literacy? Should teachers be subject to perform-
ance related pay? Should Principles be given more power?
Should government schools receive more funding than
non-government or private schools? What are the issues
surrounding indigenous people and education?
PST2: [Name] you have made some good points. Per-
formance pay is a very significant issue and one that I am
not in favour of. I believe teachers should all be working
together and openly sharing resources, information and
anything else that is relevant. This will help to create and
design better lessons for all students which will further
develop students’ knowledge and education.
PST1: A big challenge as a future teacher is to encourage
students to take risks and be creative. This is increasingly
challenging because of curriculum restrictions, what is in
the curriculum and needs to be taught, and also the con-
sideration of standardised testing such as NAPLAN.
Other groups used Web Links to provide extra possibilities to
extend the learning, for example, one group’s response in-
Teachers in Australia are put under pressure and there are
very high expectations of them to produce the results.
There is talk of putting in place a pay-by-results system
that would work with the teachers whose students perform
well in national tests being paid a higher wage. http://
Other groups also reacted and responded to the information
provided by their overseas partners. One example is shown
below where the preservice teachers from the two universities
are engaged in a th e ory-practice dialogue:
VU pst—The most commonly used instructional approach
in an Australian primary classroom is the together-apart-
together3 approach. This is used for literacy and numeracy,
as well as integrated studies. The class will begin each
lesson together to discuss the topic of the lesson.
Concord pst—Elementary school uses much the same
format although they do not call it together-apart-together,
it does not have an official name. The teacher will give a
mini-lesson to the class, and then split them into groups or
send them off by themselves to complete work. At the end
they will come together and share, and she/he will give
out the homework for that lesson (each lesson of the day
has different homework). Some schools are trialing a new
concept called “project based learning”, where discovery
is the key for students. This involves students working in
small groups or on their own to do “projects” on topics
they have chosen for an assigned list. They may use class
as well as home time to complete their projects, and when
one is finished they begin another.
VU pst—It sounds like it’s similar to the Cathy Walker
Approach some schools use here, where the students
choose something to learn about in an “investigation”.
Then to promote higher order thinking skills, teachers in
Australian primary schools are able to use a variety of
strategies in their teaching. There are no set rules on the
way in which the curriculum must be delivered, so long as
the outcomes are being met in each year level. As a group,
we have witnessed various methods in our teaching prac-
ticums. Bloom’s Taxonomy is a common theory, where
the remembering, understanding and applying of content
is supplemented by analysing, evaluating and creating. By
extending lessons in this way, students are able to expand
their thinking on a topic.
Concord pst—For most US schools, Blooms Taxonomy is
required to be used in the elementary classroom. All of
our Concord contacts have laminated Bloom’s posters on
their classroo m walls, and it is referred to constantly while
classes are running.
Ways of Worki ng
In this collaborative project the use of online communication
occurred through synchronous and asynchronous communica-
tion forms. The synchcronous communication included email
and Skype and is a “potentially powerful medium for support-
ing collaboration and social negotiation” (Jonassen, 2000: p.
244). The synchronous communication used included Voice-
thread, Google Docs and a wiki allows time for the respondents
to reflect before replying. The term progressive discourse is
used to describe both forms of online conversations as a process
in which members of learning teams can negotiate and synthe-
sise viewpoints. Progressive discourse is associated with a form
of inquiry learning (Sherry, 2000) and is a an important inten-
tion of this project as expressed by one of the VU pre-service
I thought it was odd at times that people were trying to
write facts when I felt the answers should have instigated
more discussion/debate, not always a right or wrong an-
As part of this project each group requires specific content
and technology responsibilities to effectively communicate and
work with other members of their immediate group and with
groups from afar—a dual challenge that was generally well
handled by the various groups. However, it was noticeable that
the local groups needed to be reasonably well established in
order to work effectively as a local team before they were able
to engage effectively with another group from overseas. One
preservice teacher from Australia made comment from her
The challenge was twofold. One was the difficulty in
communicating via groups on both sides. It actually
would have been easier just to communicate one to one.
That would potentially also increase the chances of en-
gaging in a long term post course relationship with your
Concord collaborator. From our end each group found it
difficult to liaise with its members. From their end they
did not really seem to know each other. The other chal-
lenge was using a potentially new and different commu-
nication form every week. However I do understand this
was one of the aims of the exercise. I guess it depends
whether the outcome is to use new and different forms of
communication or develop a solid relationship with the
3In Australia, together-apart-together is more commonly referred to as
whole-small-whole which refers to lessons that have whole classroom
teaching focus, then group work, followed by whole classroom conclusion.
G. NEAL ET AL.
Copyright © 2013 SciRe s . 537
potential learning that comes from it.
It remains integral not to take social interaction in groups for
granted nor forget the lack of attention to the social dimension
of teamwork outside of the task context. There is research that
shows that some computer based environments do not com-
pletely fulfill expectations on supporting interactive group
learning, shared understanding, social construction of knowl-
edge, and acquisition of competencies (Kreijns et al., 2002).
While it is recognized that group learning situations encourage
students to collaborate, enforced online learning contexts are
not necessarily conducive for all students. Online group activi-
ties can be quite different from traditional interactions that re-
quire new skills and behaviours for the participants (Brindley et
al., 2009). Shared online learning situations for example, can
create friction or frustration between students who are relying
on others to fulfill their work obligations. The interactiveness
and the working relationships of the different groups varied be-
tween the preservice teachers:
I was disappointed to hear some groups just divided up
the questions and addressed them individually. I enjoyed
our work as a team. (VU pst)
Generally the preservice teachers in this global project were
willing to participate in the online environment and a typical
response below highlights the positiveness of social connect-
edness of a well-formed group working on this global collabo-
I found university class group work was split up by the
most bossy person and people would really work indi-
vidually. But in this project we actually did group work.
There was no bossy person that decided what our roles
would be so our process unfolded much more fluidly and
smoothly. We shared the load. I learnt from everyone’s
responses and I was glad to see such a positive/fluid
means of group work... I liked this model of working.
The selected ICT tools used in the project remain important
to the success of the global exercise. For example, the use of
Skype as a synchronous experience created real time commu-
nication challenges and made communication hard for some of
the activities (VU pst). This is further elaborated by another
I found that the communication via email or wiki was the
easiest due to each group responding in their own time in-
stead of finding a mutually suitable time to chat via Skype
for example when the time difference was a difficult chal-
lenge to overcome. This lead to us often rescheduling
Skype chats and eventually rushing through the chat in
order to either get to bed late at night or get ready for uni-
versity in the morning.
Establishing communication protocols and making joint ar-
rangements for real time communication remained a challenge
for the different groups. The preplanning organization to enable
the synchronous communication was highlighted by one team
member from Concord expressing her concern to her lec-
About this Skype call—I have given the Australia team
my Skype contact information and have not heard any-
thing back from them about the call. We were trying to do
it this morning but still heard nothing back. I will try
again at 7 am but they have not added my account or any-
thing like that and I do not have their username to add
their account. We sent them all the answers to our ques-
tions and they sent them back but other than that I don’t
know what to do about it. They said that it is hard for
them to meet up and Skype because of their labs and
placements. (Concord pst)
Tools for Worki ng
The role of teachers/lecturers incorporating ICT effectively is
an important part of 21st century learning. Teachers/lecturers
are expected to be more than just information givers. With the
introduction of ICT into their bank of resources, pre-service
teachers need to learn how to scaffold learning: teachers at all
levels will have to change what they teach, “they will have to
shift from teaching content (a body of knowledge) to facilitat-
ing process (supporting learning)” for individual clients (Spen-
der, 1998: p. 11). Effective practice requires teachers to suc-
cessfully guide and direct students through an immense amount
of data, teach the students skills for locating useful information,
and to then use higher order thinking strategies to deal with the
Pre-service teachers need a sound understanding of the role
ICT can play in mediating more effective learning through the
development of higher-order thinking skills and to “rethink the
learning experiences that they offer students and further, to
explore how the technology might be used to support those
learning experiences” (Owen, Calnin, & Lambert, 2002: pp.
The ease of it means that a potential flow on to school stu-
dents is a natural extension given many schools are in-
volved in blogging etc. (VU graduate now teaching)
Different applications were integrated into the global col-
laboration to allow students who lack specific computer Inter-
net skills to acquire them while working with the content as-
pects of such exercises. Developing a familiarity with the col-
laborative computer applications hopefully transcend the prac-
tice into their teaching and learning situations as part of being
21st century teachers.
I learned how to use a few things I was not familiar with
beforehand. (VU pst)
Subjects like New Learning [which included the global
collaboration project] gave good practice and knowledge
about new ICT resources that I could use as a teacher as
well as providing valuable experiences to learning exactly
how to use unfamiliar ICT resources or Web 2.0 programs.
The VU pre-service teachers completed surveys during the
year to ascertain changes in their technology skills before and
after their involvement in this collaboration. For two questions
specifically about collaboration and communication, a statisti-
cal analysis was undertaken to determine any shift in the results
over the time of the project. The two questions are shown in
Table 1 with the results from each of the surveys before and
after the collaboration.
G. NEAL ET AL.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes.
Global collaboration pre and post survey questions.
Collaborate for professional purposes, such as
online professional communities Survey 1 before collaboration exe r cise 10 21 2 1.76
Survey 2 after collaboration exercise 0 16 17 2.52
Select and use a variety of digital formats to
communicate information Survey 1 before collaboration exercise 7 25 1 1.82
Survey 2 after collaboration exercise 0 15 18 2.55
Significant differences5 were substantiated for both questions.
At the start of the year 30 percent of the respondents indicated
they were “not confident” collaborating for professional pur-
poses, however by the end of the year all students indicated that
they felt some degree of confidence in this area, with 51.5 per-
cent indicating that they were “very confident”.
At the start of the year 21 percent of the respondents indi-
cated they were “not confident” selecting and using a variety of
digital formats, however by the end of the year all students
indicated that they felt some degree of confidence in this area,
with 54.5 percent indicating that they were “very confident”.
The mean score for both questions also showed a general im-
provement in confidence over the time of the collaboration.
Whilst the value of the collaboration has been shown to sta-
tistically improve pre-service teachers confidence, the integra-
tion of the new technology applications with given topics does
remain an extra burden for the novice technology user. The
combination of new ICT applications with a new topic can be
quite overwhelming as described by one such pre-service tea-
I just wanted more time to get my head around the tech-
nology as I am slow with some new forms of media...
This would have given me more confidence and interest
in the collaboration. But having to learn the new technol-
ogy as well as do the topic areas sometimes felt too over-
whelming. (VU pst)
Living in the World
A global collaboration provides a new context for pre-service
teachers to engage with others over an extended period of time.
It aims to provide another perspective from which to formulate
and confirm thinking around particular global issues. In this
case it enables the opportunity to contrast and compare differ-
ent school systems, ways of teaching etc. through an authentic
learning experience. The online collaboration attempts to make
individual pre-service teachers think beyond their immediate
environment and their localized knowledge about curriculum,
assessment requirements and teaching and learning practices as
part of a team of developing new teachers.
The questions provoked a lot of thought around my values
and why I wanted to be a teacher. This was useful in that
point in time in the course. I was glad of the way our
group approached the communication. One of us would
have a go at all the questions. That would stir up the rest
of us to respond to their position on each question. (VU
The collaboration was an extension into the social and/or
working lives of the participants to further promote and en-
courage ongoing global communication. This would be such a
valuable outcome and enhance the participants 21st century
skills as evidenced by one of the pre-service teachers now em-
ployed in a full-time teaching position:
I developed a good solid relationship with one Concord
student. I can definitely imagine that I would communi-
cate and potentially developed a collaborative project as
we become embedded in our schools as teachers (newly
employed VU graduate).
To extend the global collaboration into their own classroom
practice highlights the value such a project can do to promote
21st century teaching and learning:
As a future teacher I would you try something similar, per-
haps in a classroom, a new age pen pal. (VU pst)
Discussion and Findings
There are many individual teachers and lecturers who are
endeavouring to transform the 21st century teaching and learn-
ing process by encouraging individuals, and collective groups,
to perform functions, solve problems, and apply different
thinking strategies to achieve social and academic objectives. In
an effort to integrate technology applications with knowl-
edge-building, that is to provide authentic learning, the global
collaboration between the two universities described in this
paper has challenged the conventional teaching practice often
experienced in university teaching.
The collaborative online learning promotes opportunities for
students to use shared strategies to support their knowledge
building. Evidence from the pre-service teachers indicated how
they perceived the online learning tasks and were able to
(re)evaluate, modify and reflect throughout the process. The
pre-service teachers that proactively engaged in exchanging
information were able to respond and reflect that enabled them
to co-construct relevant knowledge in a purposeful way. As
well, the global exchange focused on understanding more about
international issues and content and provided some first-hand
4The mean is determined by the arithmetic average of the 3 responses and
expresses the measure of central tendency. In the 4 questions in the ta
the higher the mean the m ore positive the response.
5“How conf id ent are you that you have the knowledge, skills and abilities to:
collabo rate for profes sional p urposes, su ch as online p rofession al communi-
ties?” A repeated measures t-test showed a significant difference beyond the
0.5 level: t (32) = 7.76; p = .000 (two-tailed).
“How confident are you that you have the knowledge, skills and abilities to
use ICT to ... select and use a variety of digital media and formats to com-
municate information?” A repeated measures t-test showed a significant
ond the 0.5 level: t
G. NEAL ET AL.
Copyright © 2013 SciRe s . 539
experiences beyond their local education environment.
However, the importance of good working relationships is
significant within and between groups and the ICT arrange-
ments can exacerbate social problems and be inimical to learn-
ing. Working with local and global partners requires negotia-
tion and collaboration. The inclusion of ICT, can also add to
social pressure. There was a presumption that simply placing
students in collaborative situations would provide a set of posi-
tive learning opportunities for all.
The asynchronous form of communication gave students the
opportunity to have a delayed text conversation that supported
inquiry-learning tasks. These forms of delayed communication
forums allowed the pre-service teachers to consider the infor-
mation before responding, and provided the opportunity to be
strategic with the information they share. The synchronous
forms of communication received a mixed reaction. These ap-
proaches demanded immediate and impromptu responses and
reflected on the individual’s knowledge about a topic. It placed
individuals in a real-time position that lessened the experience.
As well, the synchronous exchange caused some organisational
challenges such as the ability to manage mutual online meet-
ings given the time difference betwee n countries.
The inclusion of different ICT resources also challenges the
expert and novice ICT user in different ways. Clearly the col-
laboration assisted students to gain in confidence using differ-
ent media, for professional purposes and becoming familiar
with online communities. However, while the group members
were to act as support for each other, some groups became less
collaborative and more cooperative. That is, they formulated
plans to have individual group members act on behalf of the
group usually as a way to be more strategic to ease the work-
load amongst group members or to help overcome organiza-
In its first year of operation, the positive recounts from the
pre-service teachers strongly suggest that the experience has
much merit and is worth further developing. Decreasing the
collaborative groups to smaller group numbers e.g. 1 - 2 only
per group, will enforce more individuals to engage in profes-
sional discourse and promote reflective strategies as part of the
ongoing dialogue. As well, the focus on the process of dialogue
exchange is important to highlight new learning and be able to
show what has changed for them as global educators. The inte-
gration of different ICT resources will only be fully realized
if/when the pre-service teachers use the tools in their own fu-
ture teaching practices.
Further studies are required to ascertain the long term value
of this type of collaboration including the need to investigate
what impact this approach has on the preservice teachers after
they graduate and become practicing teachers.
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