How to Design a Successful Project (c)
Yvonne Andres & Al Rogers, 1995
This article is based on "Telecommunications In The
Classroom: Keys to Successful Telecomputing," first published in the Computing
Teacher in 1990.
Check out our Hilites mailing list
and Projects Registry for some great
Over the years, Global SchoolNet (Formerly FrEdMail) Foundation has evolved a number of
guidelines and principles which have led to many successful collaborative projects
involving hundreds of classrooms and thousands of students. Like many aspects of
successful teaching, we have found that planning is the key to success.
The guidelines presented below have been validated in numerous highly successful
classroom based projects on the FrEdMail Network. These guidelines, along with the
template for writing you own "Call for Collaboration" will help guide you
through a successful online learning experience with your students.
- Design a project with specific goals, specific tasks, and specific outcomes. The more
specific, the better; the more closely aligned with traditional instructional objectives,
the better. Avoid "sister school" and "pen pal" projects.
- Set specific beginning and ending dates for your project, and set precise deadlines for
participant responses. Then, make a time line and provide lots of lead time to announce
your project. Post your first call for collaboration at least six weeks before the
starting date. Repeat your call again two weeks before the starting date.
- If possible try your project out with a close colleague first, on a small scale. This
can help you troubleshoot and solve both technical problems as well as problems with the
basic project design.
- Use the template at the end of this article to design your call for collaboration. Then
post your call to our HILITES mailing list
and we'll forward it to our international mailing lists for you. If you provide us 6-8
weeks lead time, we'll re-post it for you again two weeks before the project begins.
your call for collaboration, be sure and include:
- Goals and objectives of the project
- grade levels desired
- how many responses you would like
- contact person
- Time line and deadlines
- Your location and complete contact information
- what you will do with the responses (The best projects provide some form of interaction;
in any case, be sure you provide some form of "payback" to your contributors so
they will have incentive to collaborate with you.)
Also, be sure your call includes examples of the kinds of writing or data collection
which students will submit. This is important to the success of the project.
- Find responsible students and train them to be part of your project. You're probably
already doing this if you are using technology in the classroom. This will be a big time
- At the conclusion of the project, follow through on sharing the results of the project
with all participants.
- If you publish any student writing, send a hard copy to all who participated.
- Have your students collaborate on writing up a summary of the project, describing it,
what they did, what they learned, and what changes they would make in the project. Post
that message on the network for all to see (not just the project participants).
- Send a copy of this summary, along with project proceeds, to your principal, PTA
president, superintendent, and board of education president.
- Have your students send a thank-you message to all contributors.
Below is a Global SchoolNet project template.
It will help you better market your project by giving your readers clear guidelines and
expectations regarding your project. Teachers should be able to tell at a glance whether
or not they wish to participate in your project.
Remember, this is only a template. Please feel free to change in any way which will
best suit your particular project.
After describing your project in this format, send it to: http://www.globalschoolnet.org/gsh/pr/. We will re-post it on
around the world.
Please print and distribute this call for collaboration to teachers
you know who may be interested in participating.
Project: Name of your project
Date: 1 line: Give the starting and ending dates of the
complete project. Leave at least 4 weeks before the
start of the project to permit enough people to respond
to your call for collaboration.
Purpose: 2-3 sentences: give a brief summary of the purpose of
your project: What will students who participate in
this project learn?
Subjects: 1-2 lines: State the curriculum areas which will be
addressed by this project. Most projects are
multidisciplinary... list as many as apply.
Grade level: 1 line: Indicate the appropriate grade levels for this
Summary: 1-2 short paragraphs: BRIEFLY describe the project. This
paragraph should catch the interest of your readers. You
will have a more detailed description later.
Number of participants: 1 line: Indicate the number of classrooms that
you wish to work with.
Give your name and email address. You may wish to
include your school mailing address and phone number.
How to register: Provide complete instructions for registering with
you to complete this project. Don't forget to include
your email address. You may want to request all or
some of the following information:
Your full name:
Your email address:
School voice phone:
Home voice phone:
Hint: When requesting registrations, require potential
participants to be as specific as possible about their
intentions to participate. Many teachers will casually
agree to "participate" and then "forget" or "change
their mind" or encounter some other problem which
prevents them from fulfilling their commitment).
In addition to the above call for collaboration, you should consider
providing some additional details. We recommend the following
Timeline: Break down your project into very specific steps with
dates, including starting and ending dates where
relevant. This should in effect summarize all of the
important steps of the project described below.
Complete project outline and procedures:
Describe your project in greater detail. Make an
effort to be specific regarding who does what: what
the other teachers and students do, what you do. This
description should give participants a clear idea of
what you will expect of them, and they of you.
This section may be one or more pages in length.