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It goes without saying that the more carefully an activity is planned, the more likely it is to go well. It is also true that even with carefully planned activities, unexpected things can happen.

Here are some of the things it pays to be aware of...

Obviously, activities need to be matched to the needs and abilities of the students involved. A less obvious element in this is the amount of time (per week, number of weeks) a class is scheduled to spend on a topic. It's useful to learn as much as you can about the relevant aspects of your partner school's syllabus and term times, so 'windows of opportunity' to work together on specific topics can be identified and exploited.

Given the constraints which national curricula, central directives and other pressures on time may introduce, it isn't always possible to pursue innovative, interactive projects in normal lesson time. Global Connections teachers have used a number of different models, dictated by the circumstances in their schools, and size of the time zone difference between them and their partners.

  The two primary schools have the shortest school day and the largest time difference: every videoconferencing session required communication with parents to bring children to school early (US) , or let them stay late (UK). (The commitment this required has been well rewarded with some excellent work, some of which is featured in the activities section.)

Other class sized partner groups were able to link up with at least one member of the partnership participating during normal school time. Mutually convenient times are not always easy to organise due to timetable overlaps, so it may be necessary to plan the release of some students from other classes for a short time. Obviously, this requires the co-operation and understanding of other staff...

With small groups / classes, organisation becomes correspondingly easier in some ways, but contingency plans become more important. It pays to try and plan things so that particular activities or events aren't dependent on just one or two key students, in case they are absent for the critical session! Shorter, focussed projects were noticeably more effective with smaller groups.

Some things can't be planned for, but it helps to know they may happen. A session may have to be cancelled at short notice because the school is closed due to heavy snow. One carefully planned and organised link-up on this project has been missed because a severe ice storm wiped out all the (microwave) telecommunications in the vicinity of one of the participating schools. When disappointments happen, the quality of the relationship and the shared commitment built up by the participating teachers becomes even more important. Weather differences!

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