ISTE 2019Creative
Constructor Lab
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Edtech Advocacy &
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Research: A Story of Global Collaboration

Location: Posters; Level 3, Skyline Ballroom Pre-function, Table 15

Participate and share

Participate and share : Poster

Sunday, June 24, 7:00–8:30 pm
Location: Posters; Level 3, Skyline Ballroom Pre-function, Table 15

Dr. Casey Cohen  
Hear the story of my dissertation, "iTunes U to Facilitate Global Collaboration." I wrote an iTunes U course on Holocaust literature with a colleague from Amsterdam. We taught the course simultaneously as our students collaborated. Find out what happened!

Skill level: Beginner
Attendee devices: Devices useful
Attendee device specification: Smartphone: iOS
Tablet: iOS
Participant accounts, software and other materials: It would be helpful for attendees to have the iTunes U app downloaded on an iOS device so they can access the global collaboration course I used in my research.

Attendees will also be able to view a student blog from any internet web browser.

Focus: Digital age teaching & learning
Topic: Communication and collaboration
Grade level: PK-12
Subject area: Language arts, Social studies
ISTE Standards: For Educators:
  • Use collaborative tools to expand students' authentic, real-world learning experiences by engaging virtually with experts, teams and students, locally and globally.
For Students:
Creative Communicator
  • Students choose the appropriate platforms and tools for meeting the desired objectives of their creation or communication.
Global Collaborator
  • Students use digital tools to connect with learners from a variety of backgrounds and cultures, engaging with them in ways that broaden mutual understanding and learning.

Proposal summary


The Partnership for 21st Century Learning’s (P21) Four Cs of the 21st Century: Creativity, Communication, Collaboration, and Critical Thinking.


All references to “the researcher” are references to myself, the presenter.

The study sought to capture the bounded and unique experience of writing and teaching a global collaboration course through iTunes U and how the participation in the course impacted students and teachers. The purpose of this qualitative, bounded case study was to understand how the medium of iTunes U facilitated a high school global collaboration experience for participating teachers and students in Philadelphia, PA and Amsterdam, Netherlands and the academic and social benefits that participating in such a unique experience offered to students and teachers. In the global collaboration course used for this study, students collaboratively created and published content. For this study, the term “benefits” was defined as “positive effects on academic, social, and emotional growth” that developed as the study progressed. The following research questions guided this study in order to understand how iTunes U facilitated a global collaboration course and the benefits that such a course offered to students.
1. How does using an original iTunes U course facilitate global collaboration?
2. How does the experience of participating in an original iTunes U course with students from another country facilitate social, emotional, and academic growth of students?
3. How does the experience of participating in an original iTunes U course with students from another country prepare students with a skill-set that will help them beyond high school?

Research Design
As Creswell (2013) advised, qualitative research can be thought of as a narrative that unfolds as the researcher progresses through the study. Accordingly, the effects on academic, social, and emotional growth that developed as the study progressed, how they impacted the students participating in the study, how the medium of iTunes U influenced these impacts, and the challenges and benefits presented to teachers were considered. This was the first time an original iTunes U course was used (and documented) to facilitate a global collaboration course to classes in two countries in tandem. Hence, the intent was to capture and document the experience of this “intrinsic case” so it has the potential to transform teaching and learning in the future (Creswell, 2013). Furthermore, this study was considered a bounded case study because it sought to understand the collaboration aspects of one course within iTunes U.

The case study method is commonly used in qualitative research; however, seminal case study methodologists define it differently (Yazan, 2015). The common features of case study research include an investigation that collects data from a wide variety of sources that tell the story of a situation or circumstance (Yazan, 2015). The researcher collected data from students, administrators, teachers, and an iTunes U expert in the form of interviews, focus groups, student work, photographs and videos, observations, and journal reflections. The researcher selected the story of the creation and teaching of a defined global collaboration course. This strategy also helped the researcher gather data that would tell a narrative or story (Creswell, 2013). Yin (2009) explained that case studies are experiential or practical investigations that go into depth to study a circumstance or situation. Merriam (1998) agreed that case studies focus on a practical story while paying attention to details and description.

The researcher sought to facilitate an in-depth study of how iTunes U could facilitate global collaboration as well as how that experience impacted students and teachers. Stake (1995) added that the circumstance or situation of a case study is set or defined. The researcher selected a global collaboration course that took place over a set period of time. Merriam (1998) further suggested that case study research is interactive and hands-on. The researcher played an active role in the writing and teaching of the global collaboration course as well as in the data collection by interacting with the participants of the study on a daily basis. The researcher developed the research plan to match the stated purpose and to adhere to the definitions provided by seminal case study researchers including Creswell (2013), Stake (1995), and Yin (2009).

The Setting:
The study took place over the course of the time the two teachers taught the global collaboration course for the first time. The course ran from January 30, 2017 to June 2, 2017. The two central locations of the course were the two schools: Philadelphia Performing Arts: A String Theory Charter School (PPA) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and de Nieuwe Internationale School Esprit (DeNise) in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

PPA opened a high school in the fall of 2013 under the supervision of the String Theory educational management company. It is an Apple Distinguished School that serves students in grades K-12 with approximately 200 students in each grade. Students in grades K-4 attend school on two neighboring campuses, and students in grades 5-12 attend school in a third campus where each student’s primary (and only) learning tool is an iPad. The teachers of these grades create all original content and courses, which they publish in iTunes U. The school uses no paper, no pencils, and no textbooks. Students who attend PPA live all over the city of Philadelphia. Students are accepted to attend the school through a lottery system. The only requirement to apply to the lottery is residency in the city of Philadelphia. The first graduating class of PPA graduated in June, 2017.

DeNise is a new international school for immigrant students to the Netherlands. It was created in 2014 and has a student population of 250 students in the secondary school and 150 students in the primary school. Like PPA, all students in the secondary school have iPads to complete their school work. The school uses multiple platforms, including iTunes U to deliver course content. Teachers at DeNise can select the platform they would like to use to deliver their content. Also, similar to PPA, teachers at DeNise are encouraged to collaboratively create original instructional material.

The participants of this study included the secondary school teacher from the Netherlands, Amsterdam who was one of the co-teacher/course writer of the global collaboration iTunes U course, a selection of American students who participated in the global collaboration course taught via iTunes U and who attended the school in Philadelphia, a selection of Dutch students who participated in the global collaboration course taught via iTunes U who attended the school in Amsterdam, administrators from the school in Philadelphia who are responsible for daily operations and implementation of iTunes U at the Philadelphia high school, and an iTunes U expert to participate in the research before, during, and after the global collaboration course experience.

The researcher selected ten students (over the age of 18) who attended the school in Philadelphia and were enrolled in the global collaboration iTunes U course. All students were members of the first graduating class of PPA and took all their high school classes through the medium of iTunes U. The researcher selected four students (between the ages of 15 and 17) who attended the school in Amsterdam and were enrolled in the global collaboration iTunes U course. The researcher selected the combination of teachers, administrators, an iTunes U expert, and the students based on Creswell’s (2013) recommendation to use a “purposeful sampling” that will show different opinions, “multiple perspectives”, and “maximum variation” on the case (pp. 100, 156). The students themselves, however represented “ordinary cases” chosen from among all the students participating in the global collaboration course (Creswell, 2013). When brought together, the participants represented a “combination or mixed” sampling so that they would be able to represent the different interests that would make this case a unique story (Creswell, 2013).

Data Collection Procedures:
The researcher used bounded case study research methods as recommended by Creswell (2013). A case study was appropriate for this study because the researcher sought to capture and gain an in-depth understanding of this unique case from start to finish, as well as capture the effect of the experience on students as it unfolded and after it happened (Creswell, 2013). The researcher used different data in response to the different research questions.

The interview protocol was a list of questions related to each research question (see below). The researcher conducted the interviews and focus groups with the PPA students three times throughout the case study. The first interview and focus group took place within the first two weeks of the beginning of the global collaboration course. The second interview and focus group took place within two weeks of the midpoint of the global collaboration course. The third interview and focus group took place within the final two weeks of the course. Each individual interview and all focus groups lasted for approximately 30 minutes and took place either from 7:30 a.m. - 8:00 a.m., 12:30 p.m. - 1:00p.m., or 3:30 - 4:00 p.m. These interviews took place at Philadelphia Performing Arts: A String Theory Charter School. The researcher audio recorded all of these interviews and focus groups.

The researcher conducted one focus group with the Dutch students at the conclusion of the study. The researcher conducted this interview electronically via Facetime. The researcher audio recorded this focus groups.

The researcher conducted two interviews with Administrator 1, Administrator 2, and the iTunes U expert. The first interview took place during the first two weeks of the beginning of the global collaboration course. The second interview took place after the global collaboration was completed and the researcher shared selected examples of data including student work with them. The researcher conducted these interviews either in person (with Administrator 1) or electronically via Facetime (with Administrator 2 and the iTunes U expert). The researcher audio recorded all of these interviews.

The researcher followed Creswell’s (2013) advice to collect data from a wide variety of sources to help ensure the researcher was able to gain a deep picture of the story of the case. In addition to collecting data in the form of interviews and focus groups, the researcher also collected content from the original iTunes U course (written by the two teachers in the study), kept a folder with the work created (and published) by the students selected to part of the interviews and focus groups, and photographed and filmed the students participating in the study as they progressed through the course. Every two weeks from the beginning of the course to the end of the course, the researcher selected at least five examples of student work and spent at least thirty minutes capturing photographs and videos of students experiencing the course. As recommended by Creswell (2013), the researcher shared the photographs and videos of the students (participating in the study) as data as well as conducted conversations with the student to discuss their reactions and reflections on what they saw.

Additionally, the researcher conducted at least three observations, focusing on the students participating in the study at the beginning (within the first two weeks of the start of the course), middle (within two weeks of the course’s midpoint), and end (within the two weeks of the end of the course) of the course. The researcher conducted these observations during three different types of class sessions in which the students from Philadelphia collaborated in different formats (written, live video, recorded video, etc.…) with the students in Amsterdam. The researcher used Creswell’s (2013) observation protocol that called for the researcher to record observations paired with questions and reflections.

Finally, the Dutch teacher wrote regular reflections on the writing and co-teaching process of leading a global collaboration course taught via iTunes U, as well as on her perceptions of the students’ experiences, which the researcher also used in the data collection process.

The researcher began to collect all data with the beginning of the global collaboration course and concluded the collection of data within the months following the end date of the course. As the researcher collected the data, the researcher organized it into folders for each of the major research questions to ensure the proposed protocol were followed and that the data from different sources addressed each research question (Creswell, 2013). Furthermore, the researcher made all efforts to adhere to the confidentiality of all participants of the study by using fictitious names for each participant, and the researcher stored all data on a password protected computer.

A bounded case study was appropriate for this study because the researcher sought to capture and gain an in-depth understanding of the case from start to finish, as well as capture the effect of the unique experience on students as it unfolded and after it happened (Creswell, 2013).

Treatment of the Data:
The researcher used the methods Creswell (2013) recommended for treatment of data in bounded case studies. After each round of interviews and focus groups, the researcher transcribed the recordings and provided those who participated in the interviews and focus groups as well as the appropriate parents and guardians an opportunity to review the transcripts. Then, the researcher sent the transcripts to the Dutch teacher for her to review and respond to the transcribed data. The researcher let the students who participated in the study know what work, photographs, and videos of them would be used as data and obtained their approval to use each piece.

The researcher shared the selected work with the Dutch teacher for a second opinion to confirm that the work was a fair representation of the work the students participating in the global collaboration course created. The researcher also shared personal observation notes with the students who participated in the study, as well as with the Dutch teacher, for approval to use as data. Additionally, the researcher showed the Dutch teacher which excerpts of personal written reflections the researcher used as data and obtained permission from the Dutch teacher to use each selected piece.

The researcher reviewed all approved data that emerged from the interviews and focus group transcripts, as well as the approved data from the documents, photographs, videos, observations, and journal reflections. The researcher took the “holistic” approach and looked for common themes, patterns, and issues and presented the findings in a thorough description of the case followed by the overall meaning and or lessons the researcher derived from the data (Creswell, 2013, p. 100).

To begin this process, the researcher organized each piece of data per which research question it was intended to answer by making marginal notes (Creswell, 2013). The researcher next looked for common themes in the data and use a coding system to organize the data into the major themes as recommended by Creswell (2013). To find the major themes, the researcher used the note-taking strategy while summarizing the major themes and then created codes for each theme, as taken from Creswell’s (2013) list of suggested analytic strategies. The researcher followed Creswell’s (2013) advice that organizing data that emerges from qualitative studies should become a process unique to the study itself, and accordingly kept an open mind to making changes to the proposed analysis plan if the data better lent itself to another strategy. Additionally, the researcher paid attention to the number of times each code occurred in the data, but did report those numbers in the findings as they presented a quantitative approach, per Creswell’s (2013) advice. The researcher developed original codes based on what the data presented. The researcher used the “categorical aggregation” process and looked for multiple instances of recurring ideas to emerge (Creswell, 2013, p. 199). After separating the data into codes the researcher grouped similar codes into larger themes.

Following the coding and theming process, the researcher next interpreted the data to discover the larger significance. The researcher synthesized how the themes united to answer the research questions (Creswell, 2013). The researcher developed “naturalistic generalizations” from the data to be applied to facilitate future global collaboration courses using iTunes U (Creswell, 2013, p. 200).

The researcher will conclude the data analysis process by representing the data with graphs, charts, and diagrams that will help show the relationships between the various forms of data share (Creswell, 2013). Additionally, after creating an initial draft of the themes and visual representation of the data, the researcher plans to present the information to the participants in the study to obtain feedback on the initial findings (Creswell, 2013). The researcher will represent the data in a way that represents the story and process of the case, paying specific attention to the participants and setting, to capture the specific aspects and details of the case itself (Creswell, 2013).

Research questions:
The researcher developed the following interview protocol questions and data collection methods to use with each research question. The pronoun “you” can be substituted for “students” for interviews with school administrators and the iTunes U expert.

Research Question 1: How does an original iTunes U course facilitate global collaboration?
1. How did / does the iTunes U global collaboration experience help you connect with peers across the globe and how did it facilitate the connection?
2. How and why did / does the interface of iTunes U facilitate your ability to form global connections and collaborations?
3. How and why did / does the structure (posts, calls to action) of the iTunes U global collaboration experience facilitate the collaborative process?
4. How and why did / does the organization and design of the iTunes U global collaboration experience facilitate the collaborative process?
Data collection methods: excerpts of iTunes U course, journal reflections from Dutch instructor, student focus groups with American and Dutch students, interviews with Administrator 2 and iTunes U expert, photos, and videos of students taking the course in action

Research Question 2: How does the experience of taking an original iTunes U course with students from another country facilitate social, emotional, and academic growth of students?
1. How did / does the iTunes U global collaboration experience foster new relationships?
2. How did / does the iTunes U global collaboration experience change you as a person?
3. How did / does the iTunes U global collaboration experience help with your organization skills?
4. How did / does the iTunes U global collaboration experience inspire you to create work / content in new ways?
Data collection methods: interviews with American students; focus groups with Dutch students, student created content; interviews with Administrators 1, Administrator 2, and iTunes U expert

Research Question 3: How does the experience of taking an original iTunes U course with students from another country prepare students with a skill-set that will help them beyond high school?
1. What did the iTunes U global collaboration experience do to improve your communication skills?
2. How did / does the iTunes U global collaboration experience teach you to communicate in ways to communicate you had / have not used before?
3. What did the iTunes U global collaboration experience do to foster independence?
4. What did the iTunes U global collaboration experience do to enhance your technology skills?
Data collection methods - interviews with students, focus groups with students, student created content, interviews with Administrator 1, journal reflections from Dutch instructor.


I am in the process of finalizing the analysis and coding of my data. Based on the themes I found in my initial findings from my interviews, focus groups, and other data collected, my expected results are below:

iTunes U can facilitate a global collaboration experience because it provides:
-An organized system of distributing materials in a way students located in more than location can access at the exact time in the exact same manner.
-A way for students to have a direct two-way to communication with each other via iTunes U private course discussions.
-A unique and well organized way to distribute the contents of a course in a way that makes it easy to reading and follow, engaging, interactive, and story-like (due to the interface and layout of information, posts, materials, and notes).
-Students with opportunities to have a say in the writing of the course in which they are taking by contributing exemplar materials and by making suggestions to teachers that can be implemented in the course instantly.
-Students with seamless access to recommended applications.
-Students with choice and ownership in the creation of the content they create for the course.

Participating in a Global Collaboration Experience Taught via iTunes U provides benefits to students involved that include:
-The development of more advanced technology skills as related to using the iPad and iOS apps.
-An increase in confidence in using technology (iPads and iOS apps) independently.
-An increase in students’ general academic independence.
-An increase in students’ ability to communicate via a variety of methods and modes.
-An increase in students’ ability to collaborate with peers in person and remotely.
-An increase in students’ ability to lead a team.
-An Increase in students’ organizational skills.
-A rise in students’ friendships.


Previous studies on global collaboration between two secondary schools have focused on the social and emotional benefits of such projects, more than on the actual knowledge being studied and the effect the collaboration had on the specific content knowledge the students learned (deEca, 2014; Hopper, 2014; Loveland, Miyakawa, & Hirayama, 2004; Stornaiuolo & LeBlanc, 2014). Studies conducted on global collaboration projects between higher education entities tended to focus on content more, yet the researchers focused their content on teacher education, as the participants in the studies were preservice teachers (Cooper & Mitsunaga, 2010; DeZure, 2012; Ertmer, Newby, Liu, Tomory, Yu, & Lee, 2011; Knutzen, & Kennedy 2012; Neal, Mullins, Reynolds, & Angle, 2013; Ross & Doveston, 2015). Additionally, the literature showed a gap in documenting how the medium (i.e. web platform) used facilitated the global collaboration itself. While previous studies acknowledged how the use of Web 2.0 tools enhanced the product of global collaboration projects, the research did not describe how technology facilitated the delivery of the project or how the teachers facilitating the projects communicated the directions for collaboration requirements and assignments (Ertmer et al., 2011; Hopper, 2014).

While there are emerging studies and research that are beginning to analyze the benefits iTunes U can provide to teachers and students (Boden, 2012; Hung Wei, Yingqi, & Morris, 2016), there is much to be learned (Brabazon, 2009; Hung Wei, Yingqi, & Morris, 2016) especially in the area of how iTunes U courses facilitate and enhance student learning, different types of growth (social, emotional, and academic) and collaboration, as well as how iTunes U can help facilitate student assessment (Brabazon, 2009; Hung Wei et al., 2016). While there is an abundance of literature that pointed to the benefits of global collaboration in education, there has yet to be a study that documented what administering a global collaboration via an original iTunes U course added to the experience and how it has the potential to transform future educational global collaboration experiences. Churchill and Wang (2014) advocated for a future study on how iTunes U can facilitate any kind of student collaboration.

A global collaboration project taught via the medium of iTunes U has the potential to utilize the benefits of global collaboration projects (Cook, Bell, Nugent, & Smith, 2016; Ertmer, et al., 2011; Hastie, I-Chun, Nian-Shing & Kinshuck, 2010; Hopper, 2014; Knutzen, & Kennedy, 2012; Neal et al., 2013; Ross & Doveston, 2015; O’Rourke et al., 2011; Peinaar, Wu, & Adams, 2015; Redmond, 2014; Williams & Staulters, 2014). It also has the potential to integrate those benefits with the benefits of iTunes U (Boden, 2012; Hung Wei et al., 2016; LaFollette, 2015; Peranginangin & Alamsyah, 2013; “IMUS is the First University in Southeast Asia to Join iTunes U,” 2011). Furthermore, a global collaboration project taught via the medium of iTunes U has the potential to integrate the previously stated benefits with the benefits of the use of original curriculum design, (Ciampa, 2013; Huang et al., 2012; Geist, 2011; Kerr, 1992; McFadden, 2012; Rupley, Paige, Rasinki, & Slough, 2015; Villano, 2005) and mobile learning (Attard & Northcote, 2011; Churchill & Wang, 2014; Ciampa, 2013; Flower, 2014; Geist, 2011; Miller, 2012; Rossing, 2012; Suárez-Guerrero, Lloret-Catalá, & Mengual-Andrés, 2016; Walters, 2011; Young, 2016). Such an experience also utilizes the benefits of 21st Century skill education (Breslow, 2015; Brusic & Shearer, 2014; Dallacqua, Kersten, & Rhoades, 2015; Eng, 2015; Gibson, 2009; Henriksen, Mishra & Fisser, 2016; Hunt, Wright, & Simonds, 2014; Keane, Keane, & Blicblau, 2014; Neal et al., 2013; Nichols, 2016; Pellegrino, 2014; Saavedra & Opfer, 2012; Siu Cheung et al., 2014; Soulé & Warrick, 2015; Zimpher & Howey, 2013) in ways that can create rich and unique learning opportunities for students.


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Dr. Casey Cohen, Rose Tree Media School District

After teaching secondary school English in the city and suburbs of Philadelphia and Boston for ten years, Casey Cohen is the Director of Technology Innovation and STEM Programs for the Rose Tree Media School District. Casey received her B.A. at the University of Michigan, her Ed.M. at Harvard's Graduate School of Education, and her Principal Certification at the University of Pennsylvania. Casey is earning her Ed.D. in the Global Educational Leadership Program at Lamar University. She is a proud member of the Apple Distinguished Educator Class of 2015 and proudly shares her work around the globe.

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