I am very interested in the iEarn Collaboration Centre. I think that the Get to Know Others project would be perfect for my World Geography classes. I envision starting this project the second month of school when we study the U.S. and Canada. That would be the appropriate time for students to study their own culture here in the U.S. (which would include the variation of cultural characteristics that students bring from other countries). Students can look at how the U.S. (and Houston in particular) is a melting pot and then make their contributions to the collaboration in the form of reports about their daily lives and special ceremonies as well as drawings for each. If I understand the project correctly, then my students will be able to see what other students around the world have submitted. It would be great if I could filter our search of the collaboration to first explore the contributions of students in Latin America since that is the second region we study. Then for each unit we could explore the submissions of actual students in the region we are studying. I think students would reach a new level of sensitivity and understanding about their place in the global world. I also think having the continued comparison between their lives and the lives of other actual people their age will increase retention. I would also like to use Google Docs to have students share their reflections and revelations of this project with other class periods. Or instead of using Google Docs, I could have the students include this as part of their blog assignment for each unit. I think this idea also lends itself to a year end look at cultures around the world. I could have students build their own final project (last 2 weeks of school) using what they learned from this collaboration project. I think their are a lot of possibilities with iEARN. I tried to register but since they are revamping the site, I cannot register until August 5. I plan to register as soon as possible. I believe I still have some more information to gain from how this will work, but I fully intend to use it if possible.
Just in case that does not work out, the other idea I had was to incorporate collaboration in the immigration project (also during the U.S./Canada unit) that I do with the kids. In this case, I would probably have students share their reflections on immigration after having conducted their interview of an immigrant. I think this can be a sensitive subject so I will allow students to keep their actual interviews or the source of their interviews private. Students will definitely have choices with regard to what type of collaboration they participate in for this project.
I use Skype all the time in my personal life, so I know how the tool works. However, I think I would like to get my feet wet participating in an already on-going project before launching my own (as is also suggested on the iEARN site).