In addition to making sure that students have opportunities to be active, reasons to listen and respond to each other, and an appropriate physical environment in which to work, teachers must consider other factors when designing effective computer-enhanced collaborative projects.
First, teachers should consider what they know about their students and, as much as possible, tailor the conditions to students’ needs and abilities. For example, if two students work better autonomously but others need more scaffolding and structure, their teacher should consider these needs when designing projects and choosing tools.
Second, developing effective groups will encourage effective interaction in the language classroom. Creating effective groups in technology-enhanced language learning classrooms requires the teacher to pay attention to the same factors as in any language learning situation, such as the students’ first languages and cultures, educational backgrounds, and levels of target language proficiency. For group tasks that require students to use computers, the teacher may also need to consider students’ levels of technical expertise and keyboarding proficiency.
Third, it is important to make the technology fit the project and not vice versa. Although teachers may be tempted to design a project around software or a website that they really like, the project will more likely meet curriculum and other goals if these goals, and not the computer tool, are the basis for the project.
Fourth, teachers can consider what will encourage students to interact in the target language. If two or more students in the same group speak the same first language, make sure that they document their collaboration in English in some way. Finally, make sure that the outside experts, electronic mailing lists, or distant students with whom students will interact have agreed to participate in the project and know what is expected of them. Following these tips will make the project more efficient and effective for all participants. Examples of how these tips work in practice are presented in the next section.