Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Learn how to Flatten your Classroom at our Workshop

Vicki Davis and I are really excited to announce our first 2-day Flat Classrooms workshop. Although we live on opposite sides of the world, in very different cultures and circumstances, on July 8 and 9 we will be together. It is truly rare that we are in the same place, but we are passionate about duplicating our efforts and encouraging the proliferation of these projects around the world.

We invite educators who want to transform their learning spaces to include global collaboration in their curriculum to join us for a unique workshop at Mary Institute St Louis County Day School in St. Louis, Missouri.

These two days will be a unique opportunity to really drill down to the details of how to hold a flat classroom project and understand the best practice and pedagogy behind such a project. We believe it will be a memorable, special event as it is the first opportunity we have had to truly outline how such a project is conducted, assessed, and facilitated.

Please take time to review the workshop information, what you will learn, and contact us with your questions. Space is limited and on a first come, first served basis.

Because we are busy teachers, we have partnered with fellow visionary, Steve Hargadon to orchestrate this event. He shares our common vision of global collaboration and facilitation. We also appreciate the vision and encouragement of fellow collaborator Elizabeth Helfant at St. Louis County Day School and her insistence that this is something that we need to share with the world.

What will you learn?
Our Aims:
  1. To promote academic excellence through the use of leading technological tools.
  2. To promote connection and understanding between geographically dispersed, ethnically and culturally diverse groups of students in meaningful, global cooperative authentic learning experiences.
  3. To simplify and document pedagogical best practices for such projects.
  4. To duplicate "ourselves" and practices to encourage the open proliferation of such projects as a standard part of global education and digital citizenship.
Course Outline
Workshops have plenary and break-out sessions and include both skill building with Web 2.0 tools and project management. A hands-on approach is emphasized with participants encouraged to bring laptops and take advantage of the wireless network provided.
According to the needs of the workshop participants both introductory and intermediate/advanced breakout sessions can be offered.


  • Flat Classrooms and 21st century teaching and learning
    • What does a 'flat classroom' mean? How do we recognize one? How can you create one?
    • What are 21st century skills? What does a 21st century classroom look like and what does it do?
  • Global Projects and integrated/embedded curriculum
    • A review of characteristics of best-practice global projects and methods to find projects appropriate to your learning needs
    • A look at what it means to embed global collaborative projects into the curriculum

Pre-Project management

Planning and managing a Flat Classroom Project
  • A review of essential requirements and logistics to run a Flat Classroom Project

Seven Steps to Flatten Your Classroom

  • Connect

    • The 5 phases of connection - an overview of essential elements of being a connected educator
    • How to create a PLN (Personal learning network) and explore online connectivity
    • An introduction and review of social networks and networking in education and how to integrate them into the classroom
    • An overview of generic Web 2.0 tools used in Flat Classroom Projects
  • Communicate

    • How to foster an online learning community - teacher and student engagement strategies
    • A detailed look at skills and tools needed for asynchronous and synchronous communication
  • Citizenship

    • How to be a responsible digital citizen - a review of issues
    • Solutions for safety and privacy when collaborating online
  • Contribute

    • How be a reliable and successful online contributor - mastering RSS, social bookmarking and wiki's
    • Breakout sessions for skill development at different levels
  • Collaborate

    • How to manage the extended project community: peer review, expert advisers, judges, researchers
    • How to develop strong collaboration skills amongst students and teachers
  • Create

    • Digital storytelling - How to integrate this powerful practice into a project
    • Managing multimedia online - Strategies for working with multimedia formats and sharing resources around the world
  • Celebrate

    • How to assess and acknowledge student achievement - Review of authentic assessment methods
    • How to run student and teacher summits - Strategies for reflection and showcase sessions

Practical sessions

Lab #1 - Setting up a class or school wiki

Lab #2 - Setting up a class or school Ning

We hope you will consider joining us, Flat Classrooms Workshop

Vicki Davis
Julie Lindsay

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Saturday, April 26, 2008

Wanted! Experts and Sounding Board Participants

All 11 classrooms in the Horizon Project 2008 are busily editing wikis and providing content based on the 6 trends and 7 meta-trends in emerging technologies as studied in the Horizon Report 2008. This is a difficult time for all students and teachers. To be working with content that is not fully documented in text books (of course) and is often still relatively new online, students are being pushed to their limits of understanding.

The wiki editing requirement for the project is to collaborate with their team members (3-5 on a team) to provide content based on a template with headings 'Background', 'Examples' and 'Citations'. Remember of course that topics include Grass Roots Video, Data Mashups, Computing in 3 Dimensions....and 10 more! The hyperlinks just given go to the main wiki page for each topic. Feeding into these are the 4 areas of impact wikis that cover Education, Arts Entertainment and Leisure, Government Politics and Employment, Science and health.

As part of the project we are looking for more people to be involved. This is a true, global collaborative event that includes both students and adults, teachers and experts. We use the wiki medium to collaboratively create content, and the Ning (social networking) medium to foster an online learning environment and support each other.

How can you help?

1. Expert Advisor
Are you an expert or have an educational interest in a field that we are studying as part of this project? See the Teams wiki for a full list of the 13 topics (from the Horizon Report 2008). If so we would love you to volunteer as an 'Expert Advisor'. Here are more details:

We are looking for a group of "experts" who agree to leave 'during project' feedback for the teams during this project. We have two feedback periods: May 2-8 (leave a message for them) and May 9-15 (leave another message).
  • Each expert is asked to take at least two times to read and leave feedback on the main wiki page of the group on the discussion tab.
  • You may also join the group on the Ning and advise and give thoughts there as well.
Your job is to provide feedback and point out resources to the team. You are an "advisor." You may also choose to use delicious and the tagging standard for your group to help them. (Or you may join the horizon 2008 diigo groupfor our standard tag library -- but YOU must send your diigo bookmarks to delicious for this to work -- Learn how to do this.)

More details about being an Expert Advisor

2. Peer Review Classroom
We need sounding board classrooms from all around the globe to come in and give meaningful feedback to the students for their wiki content. We have about 80 wikis to cover in the next few weeks! We are very lucky to have Kim Cofino, Jo McLeay and Steve Madsen as our sounding board leaders. They will show you way and provide lots of sound advice as to how to get your class involved.

Why bother to be a peer review classroom? The experience of asking your students to read and comment on a wiki page gives them the responsibility of learning something about the topic to be able to respond in a meaningful manner. Also they will be responsible for commenting on spelling, grammar, design, structure etc.

Peer review is also part of the new NETS standards from ISTE and is something that we are going to have to do correctly, we need to begin to share best practices.

More details about being a sounding board / peer review classroom

Not convinced yet? Watch this video of two sounding board educators from the Horizon Project 2007, and the Flat Classroom Project 2007, Brandt Schneider and Chrissy Hellyer.

How do you sign up?
We welcome your input and hope you will join us on the Horizon Project 2008! If you are ready and willing contact one of these people: Vicki Davis (Expert Advisors), Kim Cofino (Sounding Board) via our project Ning and leave a message.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Students in Qatar discuss the Horizon Project

This podcast started as a discussion based on the Horizon Project keynote 2008, given by Don Tapscott last week. However the Grade 10 class 'strayed a little' into also discussing and reflecting on the Horizon Project so far and their experiences with it.

Could I also commend one of our partner classrooms in the project, Glenbrook Academy for International Studies in Illinois, and their teacher's Chris Morgan and Ryan Bretag, for organising this wonderful student podcast in response to the keynote last week, 'Our discussion and Don Tapscott's keynote'. I really enjoyed hearing the student responses.

Summary of Qatar Academy student podcast along with the questions/conversation starters that I used to promote discussion -
1. Don mentions that the changes we are seeing are not about the technology but about the change in relationship between teachers and students in the learning process. What changes have you seen? What changes do you want to see?
Interestingly the use of email as a communication tool between teachers and students is relatively new at Qatar Academy. The students are finding it a great way to reach out to teachers, submit work and be in touch. We also discussed evolving this into using IM across the school aas well as the implications of developing a school-wide Ning
2. In Wikinomics Don refers to 'our network being our filter'. Do you have a network to support your learning? How important is your learning network?
This was a difficult question for the class. The concept of having a personal learning network and using peers as filters is still quite out there, however some responses indicated an understanding of the concept and practice.
We digressed here into a discussion about the intensity and distractive nature of being online and how we can all discipline ourselves to be focussed and not waste time.
3. How important is it to you to be a creator of information? How can we turn that information into knowledge and what 21st century skills do we need to do this?
The importance of originality and collaboration and the way these can enhance creativity.
4. What is one aspect of the Horizon Project that you find exciting?
Communicating, exploring technology, collaboration in general to create something new.
The revelation that Social Operating Systems actually has meaning in the real world!
Creating a wiki page with other people, interacting with them.
Peer relations. An interesting blog on the Ning about sleep that was shared by another student. The fact that everyone is different and unique and being able to interact helps us understand these differences.
5. What is one aspect of the Horizon Project that you find threatening or difficult to do?
Uncertainty of what to do in the project, time-zone difficulties, being on the Ning everyday for updates, the pressures of being a Project Manager and keeping everyone on track.
Project Managers need more training before the project starts
7. In 20 years from now what do you think the 6 emerging trends in educational technology will be?
Social networking within the school
Evolution of Facebook .....it will not exist
Connecting people through the network even more - education and business online
Use of devices to facilitate learning and communication
E-books will be prominent, purchase books online.

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Don Tapscott Keynotes our Horizon Project 2008

Just over a week ago now bestselling author, Don Tapscott, of best selling book 'Wikinomics - How mass collaboration changes everything' provided the keynote for our newest project, Horizon Project 2008.

The keynote is available on our project wiki as well as on YouTube. Here it is embedded in this post.

Don talks about the 'children of the baby boomer's' and how they are the first generation to be 'Growing Up Online' (an earlier book by Don). He describes how the baby boomer generation were passive in that they watched more television and were not actively contributing and creating to the extent that the post baby boomer's of today are.
He also talks about the need to move education pedagogically to embrace more student-centered, multi-modal ways of teaching and learning.

What I find exciting about the fact that we have a 4 minute segment of Don Tapscott addressing the project is that this has become a catalyst for conversations and further interactions all over the world. The 240 odd students in the project have also the opportunity to respond to Don via their blog posts and discuss his ideas in more detail. They can also leave a discussion point or message on the keynote wiki itself for Don to pick up. This is where the medium as well as the message contains power. Yes, we could have given the students the book to read (I did encourage purchase and reading the online chapters), however to have the author actually address and endorse the project and to highlight pertinent ideas relevant to our students cuts through into a high sense of understanding and reality. The topic becomes real, the person becomes real, the project becomes a little larger than life. This is such an amazing opportunity for all participants.

For myself I continue to read Wikinomics and try to make sense of the tools we use as 'weapons of mass collaboration' amongst other pertinent ideas. I think my favourite quote from the book is this:
"If an army marching in lockstep to tightly arranged military music is a metaphor for yesterday's workplace, the workplace of the future will be more like a jazz ensemble, where musicians improvise creatively around an agreed key, melody, and tempo"

So! creativity, the wiki workplace, and all that jazz! Way to go I say.

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Friday, April 18, 2008

From Russia with Love

I have wanted to visit Russia for many years. This desire may have been influenced by my communist grandfather and the many books he had via mail-order straight from the USSR itself in the 50s and 60s...... Many of these were patriotic and idealistic showing the people working on the land and in the factories to improve the country. Many of them were also writings from Marx, Lenin and others espousing the virtues of a socialist state. Unfortunately my grandfather died before the Berlin wall came down and the USSR as we knew evolved into Russia.

To visit Russia these days is relatively easy (for an Australian passport holder that is). After securing an online Visa invitation, we made 2 trips to the Russian Embassy in Doha for Visa to be added in our passports, with a total cost of $100 each. Qatar Airline flies direct to Moscow in 5.5 hours.

So the very day that school broke up for Spring break we rushed to the airport and flew into Moscow, to arrive after flight delays at our hostel, Godzillas, at 4am. Sort of early next morning we are off...walking distance to the center and looking forward to a day, and a week of adventure. Here is a very brief overview of our week.

Red Square is amazing. St Basil's, the Kremlin (where we saw the Bolshoi Ballet Company in the State Theatre), GUM Department store (government), Lenin's tomb (not open for visitors the 2 days we were there).

St Basil's Red Square, Moscow

The Moscow metro is a delight, however it is also a challenge to navigate. Luckily we have a colleague working in Moscow who showed us around and got us used to the 'metro maze'. Trains come every 2 minutes on all platforms, from early morning until 1am. Many of the stations are wonderfully decorated, and all in different styles of lighting, painting, sculptures, mosaics etc. I realised coming home that I did not have enough pictures to really show what we saw...I think most of the time we were running to catch another train!
Scene from a Moscow Metro station

We took an overnight train to St Petersburg. Well, this is a place that lives up to it's reputation! Amazing constructions and awe inspiring collections of wealth. You can see why the Russian people wanted change, how can so few have so much amongst so many? We went to the main attractions, Hermitage Museum where the collection of art works, sculptures and other artifacts is in the millions; the Church of Spilled Blood, an amazing church made with mosaics; the Mariinsky Theatre, known as the home of the Kirov Ballet Company, where we saw Tosca.

The Hermitage Museum (former Winter Palace), St Petersburg

Inside and outside the Mariinsky Theatre, St Petersburg

Church of Spilled Blood and St Petersburg canal

Our trip to Russia was a life experience. There is still so much more to see, not sure if we will ever get the chance to go back. Language and communication was a challenge as an English speaking traveler. Unlike many countries we have visited in Asia, Africa and the Middle east, Russia is NOT an English speaking or accommodating country. The script is in Cyrillic which makes it difficult to decipher words eg restaurant is 'Pectopah'. Signs therefore are not in English, shop keepers and other service personnel do not speak English and can be rude about attempts to try and communicate. The language of Russian itself is fascinating but I had no success at all in learning it. Strangely, and I do not mean this to be taken the wrong way, the spoken language often sounds like a record playing backwards to my ears.

Another aspect of the country is the emerging middle class. So many shops in the two cities we visited were aimed at the fashion conscience younger person. Girls in particular were walking around with the latest fashion in clothes and shoes. Prices were expensive to our pockets. However there is lots to buy if you have the money, and people were spending. Food and drink is not too expensive. Beer and champagne is cheap, vodka (of course) was available for sale on every street corner. Mulit-national restaurants were plentiful (Pizza Hut, McDonalds etc) as were localized restaurants with authentic cuisine. The local pub was a warm haven for a meal and a drink and a friendly place to be.

See Flickr slideshow of all pics from Russia

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Thinking about Thinking

Some stray thoughts are going around in my head tonight. Snippets of conversations, blog posts, Twitters, emails and other events have got me to thinking about thinking. You could say I was having a De Bono 'Blue Hat' moment.

I came across this video 'We Think' by Charles Leadbeater, for the first time today and played it to students as an example of how to communicate effectively using simple text and graphics, and also as an example of new modes of thinking and learning in collaborative and creative ways. The term 'We think, therefore we are' is found within the work, a more updated version of Descartes 'I think therefore I am'.

I also revisited Blooms Taxonomy through receiving an email from Open Education who have written a summary of Andrew Church's work to do with 'Blooms Taxonomy and the Digital World'. This work is a great resource and provides additional material to support digital modes of learning and assessment aligned with the revised version of Blooms Taxonomy. Excellent rubrics for using digital tools are shared including such tasks as 'Blog journaling' and 'Threaded discussion'. I am keen to adapt these for my current classes to give them a greater sense of what is expected from the use of digital tools in the learning process.

The issue of plagiarism and how to deal with it within an educational environment came up today via a colleague on our school E-Learning For Life Ning. Beverley's post, 'If you've never plagiarized, cast the first stone....' asks for proactive input and ideas as to how we can reshape our educational objectives (back to Blooms again) to foster better academic practice rather than be reactionary and have to impose sanctions for misdemeanors.

So what do I think about all this? I think originality and creativity rule. I think learning to collaborate and interact with other people, not just in the same room but internationally, also rules. I think we can turn educational practices around by not just talking about Bloom's Taxonomy but actually applying it. I think Bloom's Taxonomy can be enhanced by the use of digital tools and, as Andrew has done, a whole new set of verbs such as blogging and podcasting lead us into exciting and more engaged activities for students and teachers. I think Dan Pink is right, creative people will rule the world. I think we do not focus on creativity enough in schools....too much focus on getting the answer right. I think current assessment methods often do not foster student-centred learning. I think I have thought enough today........

What do you think??

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Monday, April 14, 2008

Horizon Project 2008 Launch - Come and Join Us!

Over the past few weeks about 250 students from 11 classrooms located in 6 countries around the world have been preparing for the official start to the Horizon Project 2008 this week.

This year's participating classes:
  • American School of Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain - Teacher: Rosalind Greehy
  • Baccalaureate School for Global Education (BSGE) New York City, New York USA - Teacher: Madeline Brownstone and Shantanu Saha
  • The Glenbrook Academy of International Studies, Glenbrook, Illinois - Teachers: Chris Morgan and Ryan Bretag
  • Goodland High School, Goodland, Kansas USA - Teachers: Tanya Gray and Aimee Stoffel
  • Kyoto Gakuen High School, Kyoto, Japan - Teachers: Chris Flesuras and Daniel Teuber
  • Presbyterian Ladies College, Melbourne, Australia - Teacher, John Turner
  • Qatar Academy, Doha, Qatar - Teachers: Julie Lindsay and Sam Liberto
  • St. Joseph's College, Sydney. Australia - Teachers Gary Evans and Judy O'Connell
  • Vienna International School, Vienna, Austria - Teachers: Gordon Mathewman and Barbara Stefanics
  • Westwood Schools, Camilla, Georgia USA - Teacher: Vicki Davis
These eleven classrooms will merge their classrooms for a global project envisioning the future of education and society based upon the Horizon 2008 report (http://www.nmc.org/pdf/2008-Horizon-Report.pdf) created by the New Media Consortium and Educause. The classes will write a collaborative report using their wiki (http://horizonproject2008.wikispaces.com) and communicate via an educational "social" network (http://horizonproject2008.ning.com) created for this project.

This project is part of the emerging trend in internationally-aware schools to embrace a holistic and constructivist educational approach and work collaboratively with others around the world in order to create students who are competitive and globally-minded. As a sister to the Flat Classroom Project (http://flatclassroomproject.wikispaces.com) the Horizon Project also lowers or 'flattens' the classrooms walls by emphasizing connection, communication and collaboration as well as higher-order thinking skills and problem solving.

The project managers are in the process of signing up peer review classrooms, expert advisers for teams, and post-project judges. Those interested should go to the project wiki for more information at http://horizonproject2008.wikispaces.com.

What is really exciting is the enthusiasm of the students on the Ning so far and also the many educators who have come on board already to be part of this project.

However, we need more Expert Advisors, Judges and Peer reviewers! We invite you to come and join us and be part of something that is fundamentally changing the face of education. More instructions are available on the wiki pages. Come and join the Ning and leave a message for myself or co-founder Vicki Davis with a request to be included. We strongly believe in the power of the collaborative! We also know that our students perform better and are more engaged when they have support from and interaction with real people and authentic scenarios.

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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

On my way to GETEX in Dubai

It is quiet, relatively, at the Doha airport morning. At 5:45 I had checked in and walked straight through the wonderful e-Gate with my ID card (rather than queue at immigration). At Costa Coffee the croissants have not arrived...but hey, the coffee is great and the sun is shining through the windows.

I am off to Dubai for 2 days, at the invitation of Don Knezek, CEO of ISTE. The GETEX conference is in full swing as of today. My contribution to the event is with the Global Forum on Technology and Innovation in Education. This is a joint ISTE and GETEX initiative. I am thrilled to be part of this international gathering of educators from all academic levels.
The full program can be downloaded in PDF format.

Two sessions I am moderating/co-moderating:
  1. Panel on one-to-one computing (with Sam Farsii, Irving District and Dr Betsy Lowry, John Hopkins University)
  2. Motivating students: Global projects and contests (Dr Ed Gragert, iEARN and Tala Nabulsi Taking IT Global). This session is where I have 30 minutes to talk about the Flat Classroom and Horizon Projects my friend, Vicki Davis and I have pioneered.
For the first session I put together this short video trying to encapsulate the development of mobile, digital and ubiquitous devices in education as I have experienced them over the past few years. It is a little rough......but sincere.

I am excited about the learning that is going to take place in Dubai and I am very keen to make new international friends. Watch this space for updates!

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A Retreat in Retrospect: How to move your school forward

It has been over a week since I blogged about our planned administration retreat/workshop here in Doha for Qatar Academy. You can imagine how exhausted we all felt afterwards.....and then we had relatives visit from Australia over the weekend.....so here at last is a brief report and some links to material.

Well, as usual pretty much everything we prepared for the retreat is available online. So I share this with you, the reader of this blog, one approach to moving your school forward and starting conversations that will likely continue for months.

You can explore the E-Learning wiki and the E-Learning for Life Retreat page to see how we structured this event.

First of all we asked participants to view some material, video and written, so that everyone was on the same page prior to the event. The Did You Know video (Scott McLeod and Karl Fisch) is essential viewing but you do not necessarily need to spend 8 minutes as a group watching this. I also wanted everyone to have watched the video I prepared for the Board of Governors in November to understand why we had special project money approved. I also added pertinent resources to review, including works by Jeff Utecht, Kim Cofino, Scott McLeod, David Warlick......and just for good measure, a blog post written by me 12 months ago about my day. The latter was thrown in to try and raise awareness of what it means to be a global and connected educator these days......I am not sure that people read this....if they did there were no questions or comments.

During the actual get together we remained focussed on providing information while at the same time allowing time for discussion. I was pleasantly surprised at the level of debate and interaction. I was also not surprised at the tendency to come around to the topic of infrastructural issues, such as IT Support (and lack there of) at QA.
Needless to say we talked and discussed issues as per the agenda on the wiki and worked hard for a few hours. The E-Learning for Life team (Mike, Sam and Beverley) contributed amazing insight to what it means to move the school forward. We had planned too much material for the actual meetingg time and despite not finishing until way after 9pm, after a 4.30 start, we still had not really reached any major decisions.

This ongoing lack of final decision making is a concern to me, as someone who tends to lack patience with procedure. However I am learning that there are processes and protocols and that decisions, no matter how much we want them to be made in our favor, are not always made quickly and not always in total agreement with the initial proposal.

So, we continue to develop our plans, refine our goals and objectives, and discuss what the next step is. I have a 3-year Strategic plan, I have an Action plan, I have a large budget to spend, but without a confirmed agreement that this is what we all want for the school. Since the retreat we are hovering over what could be an inspirational move, waiting for reassurance from each other that this is the right thing to do for 21st century learning incorporating mobile computing and online learning.

View the retreat wiki.
Stay tuned for the next installment!

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