Sunday, August 31, 2008

Moving Forward - Getting Ready to Begin a New Year

During the past 2 weeks at Qatar Academy we have witnessed a flurry of activity getting ready for students to start the academic year on August 31 (tomorrow). From a technology point of view we are transforming the campus with mobile computing and wireless networking and moving towards a 1:1 laptop program. To do this a massive hardware changeover is taking place with hundreds of older desktops being taken off campus to be replaced with a combination of desktops and laptops. All teachers have now received a new laptop, although in some cases it is not the one they will end up with in a week or 2. We have had to give out many student-allocated laptops (DELL Latitudes) as the HP Tablets arrived with the incorrect OS, and the additional DELL XPS's have not arrived yet (sigh). As part of the standardization of classrooms, all teaching rooms will receive a digital projector mounted on the ceiling.

Our approach is to foster a blended learning environment with students and teachers having choices as to what they want to learn with and where they want to learn. We are continuing to maintain 11 computer labs across campus (having closed 2 labs at the end of last year) as well as PCs in libraries but have now introduced some laptop carts (when the carts arrive) in the senior school as part of the transition to student-owned laptops by the end of the year. All classes in the primary school have 3 student-use laptops, with plans for grade 4 and 5 to have additional class sets of smaller laptops (Asus EEE PC or the new smaller HP - we have yet to decide the final model). We are also blending MacOS with Windows across campus, with some teachers electing a MacBook, and the installation of a new iMac lab (when the hardware is cleared through customs) and a new higher specs 15-unit iMac lab to support the IB Film Studies course (yes, we don't do anything by halves here in Qatar).

Hand-in-hand with the surge of hardware is a push from the administration to take online learning and mobile computing and 'technology integration' seriously. The 'E-Learning for Life' initiative was talked about a lot at meetings, openings and amongst faculty. There is a sense of excitement and empowerment amongst some teachers. There is also a methodical plan to support teachers in the development of skills to improve their own teaching and learning using technology. This professional development plan includes ongoing meetups and sessions during and after the school day as well as 'binge' PD opportunities involving visiting speakers to the school. I am excited to be welcoming Gary Stager to Qatar in November, Kim Cofino to come back in February, and of course the Flat Classroom Conference in January.

A significant change for me this year is the move to an adminsitrative position where I have no classes of my own. As my daughter just said to me on her way to bed prior to the first day back, 'What are you going to be doing tomorrow Mum?', with disbelief that I could fill my day in without teaching a class. Well, a significant amount of my time now will be spent in meetings and planning sessions and organisation of others. However, I am also a part of the TIF team (Technology Integration Facilitators) and will be in other teachers' classes as needed and supporting them with professional development. I am in two-minds about this change in status, the first time in nearly 25 years that I have not had my own classes! Being the pragmatist I am (sometimes) I realise that this now gives me the opportunity to make a difference in other ways, by continuing to plan and promote the use of 21st century learning using technology tools and support teachers in their journey along this road. I will still have many close links with students and keep in circulation with many classes, but will also have the freedom of a more flexible schedule and be able to flex a leadership muscle.

Here is the slideshow I presented to the whole faculty earlier this week. This was the first time since arriving in Qatar that I have had the opportunity to speak to the entire school. I remember a couple of weeks ago reading Jeff Utecht's blog (can't find the exact post just now) and how he was skyped into the start of a school year staff meeting in the USA and how he tried to make the session interesting and stimulating because really all the teachers wanted was to either be back on holidays or getting their rooms ready.....that's what I like about Jeff, he always hits the nail on the head. So, I aimed to be light-hearted, show some tools, try to inspire and create excitement for the year, as well as encourage everyone to be on the same page as we start our adventure again. I created an animoto of my holiday, played Taylor Mali's 'What a teacher makes', quoted Henry Longfellow, and attempted to relate the E-Learning journey of Qatar Academy - where we had come from, where we are now and where we are going to in terms of E-Learning and information technology. I also invited my colleague, Mike Boulanger, Head of IT in the Primary School to talk about the TIF initiative and how primary classes in particular did not have scheduled IT classes anymore. (I will talk more about this later).

[The orientation workshop sessions run for all staff last week are detailed on our e-Learning wiki.]

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Friday, August 29, 2008

Announcing: Flat Classroom Conference in Qatar!

Hang onto your hats! This is exciting news and we have been working in the background getting this ready for release.
Here it is, our inaugural Flat Classroom Conference: Leadership Workshop and Student Summit. Yes, we are combining educators, leaders and students in a powerful event that will provide an educationally flattening experience for all participants.

Full details available on Flat Classroom Conference website.
Also, come and join our Ning and the Flat Classroom Conference Group and receive updates.

Press release
August 29, 2008 - Doha, Qatar - Flat Classroom Project co-founders Julie Lindsay and Vicki Davis in conjunction with Qatar Academy and the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) announce the first Flat Classroom Leadership Workshop and Student Summit to be held January 24-26, 2009 at Qatar Academy in Doha.
This event is targeted to teachers and students of past, current and future 'flat classroom' collaborations as well as Information Technology teachers and Directors and school administrators who are responsible for pedagogical development with ICT in their schools.

Two strands: 'Leadership Workshop' and 'Student Summit' will meet separately and in combined sessions to discuss best practice and promote global collaborative leadership as part of a global flat classroom.
Participants will be given the opportunity to develop leadership skills in using information technology, particularly Web 2.0 tools, to connect, communicate and collaborate.

The conference will take place in the city of Doha, State of Qatar, with sessions hosted by Qatar Academy. The conference objectives include:
  1. To provide an opportunity for participants and supporters of the Flat Classroom Project and it's sister, the High School Horizon Project to have an educational and cultural exchange via an organized gathering.
  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 focus on enhancing digital citizenship and fostering best practice methods for online learning in ways that can be shared synchronously and asynchronously with other schools around the world.
  4. To provide further opportunity for pedagogical development using emerging ICT and creation tools in differing modes.
  5. To promote leadership skills for 21st century learning amongst participants of all ages with an increasing leadership role for students in education practice.
  6. To provide an opportunity for participants to explore and experience what it means to learn in a 'flat classroom' with extensive involvement from students and teachers
  7. To advance our approach to the next stage in the establishment of educationally viable and valued global classroom(s) and all this means for relationship building and the development of independent and cultural learning for teachers and students.
The conference format will be plenary sessions with keynotes and 'flat classroom' opportunities as well as summit and leadership strands with round table discussions, hands-on workshops, and panel discussions.

Confirmed presenters and workshop leaders include:
  • Don Knezek (CEO, ISTE) and Lynn Nolan (Senior Strategic Initiatives Officer, ISTE)
  • Vicki Davis (IT Director Westwood Schools, Camilla, Georgia, USA), Flat Classroom Project Co-founder
  • Julie Lindsay (Head of Information Technology and E-Learning, Qatar Academy, Doha), Flat Classroom Project Co-founder
  • Dr John Turner - Flat Classroom teacher and leader, PLC, Melbourne Australia
Student Summit details
Students internationally and locally will come together in Qatar with the purpose of learning more about how to connect, communicate, collaborate and create using Web 2.0 tools. They will be encouraged to foster interactions and to use the power of the 'flat world' to take action and make a difference to the world through enhanced cultural understanding. It is expected the skills and friendships developed at the summit will be taken back to their own schools and countries and further interactions and actions planned for the future.

A number of scholarships for students and accompanying teachers are available. Our aim is to encourage participants from around the world to attend and wish to support this by providing funds to cover registration and accommodation. Students and teachers who have been past or current participants in the Flat Classroom Project will be given priority however we strongly encourage all interested applicants.

We invite teachers to apply on behalf of their students. Up to 4 students will be considered for sponsorship from each school.
Applications must be submitted by October 12, 2008. Successful applicants will be notified by October 19, 2008

More information about student and teacher scholarship opportunities is available form Julie Lindsay, Head of Information Technology and E-Learning at Qatar Academy,

The full press release is available online.

For more information about registration details, hotels and conference strands and schedule see the Flat Classroom Conference website. Contact us via email if you have any questions.
Registration Deadline: October 26, 2008.

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Saturday, August 23, 2008

Digiteen Project and ISTE NETS.S

As part of the NECC08 conference in San Antonio last June, Vicki Davis and I presented at the NETS Connect lounge for 30 minutes on how the Digiteen project aligns with the NETS.S (educational technology standards for students). Here is the slideshow we used, as uploaded by Vicki to her space.

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Sharing my Classroom Part 4: Grade 9 Digiteens

This story is about the evolution of a unit of work. In my grade 9 semester 1 class last year I ran a digital citizenship challenge within my own classroom. I wanted the students to learn how to use Web 2.0 tools and how to be responsible online citizens and students. I also wanted them to share their findings and experience with other students within the school in the form of a presentation.

This unit follows the IBO MYP Technology curriculum guide
  • Area of Interaction: Community and Service
  • Guiding Questions: How can I become a responsible citizen when using technology? How can I make others in my community aware of the importance of being a conscientious digital citizen and behaving appropriately when using technology and online resources?
  • Learning Objectives: The students will work in pairs to create a lesson based on one of the nine elements of digital citizenship
The unit was based on the book 'Digital Citizenship in Schools' by Mike Ribble and Gerald Bailey (available from the ISTE bookshop). I built a Digital Citizenship project wiki to which all students joined. Working in pairs they investigated, designed, planned and created content on a wiki and put together a lesson to be delivered to Grade 4 and 5 students. One example of student work is the Digital Health and Wellness wiki. Another is the Digital Security wiki, where you can see clear investigation, planning, uploaded artifacts, reflections and my assessment at the end. There is also some evidence of discussion. We used the wiki interface to communicate, interact and publish and as a holding place for all artifacts for the lesson to be delivered.

In semester 2, using the same concepts I developed the unit, in conjunction with colleagues Vicki Davis and Barbara Stefanics, into a global project called Digiteen. This time we continued to use the Ribble and Bailey book for inspiration and also added the PBS series Growing up Online as stimulus for discussion and interaction. We created an educational network using a Ning, also called Digiteen, and required all students from the 3 classes (Austria, Qatar and Georgia, USA) to join and interact.

We placed all students in teams across the 3 different schools and set aside working wiki pages for them to collaborate on and create content based on their given topic. See Digital Literacy and Digital Etiquette as examples.

We then asked each school and class of students to come up with an action that was realistic and doable within the timeframe that would ultimately make a difference to their own school community and spread the word about the need for digital citizenship awareness. My students at Qatar Academy decided they wanted to develop lessons and deliver these to the upper primary school (as had been done in semester 1). Student Environment Team B, consisting of Hessa, Spencer and Juan created a lesson (based on the wiki content created as a global collaboration) on Safety and Security, Etiquette, Rights and Responsibilities.

A great slideshow by Hessa, Spencer and Juan!

Westwood decided they also wanted to make a difference by creating lessons for middle school and elementary school and proceeded to use the wiki format once again to plan how to get the message across and interact with others in their own school.

Vienna International School however decided they wanted to raise awareness of the whole school, not just a part of it, and prepared an amazing event that took the school and the students by storm.
ACTION On Friday, May 19th VIS Digiteens took school action by:
1. Seeking all 600+ students in grades 6 through 11 to agree to responsible, ethical and legal uses of digital technologies (download file).
2. Raising parent awareness through the school newspaper and parent newsletter.
3. Using their digiteen logo for all digital citizenship activities (ie. posters, badges, advertising)

The wiki documents their day and the excitement that was generated from this action.
This video, taken by Barbara during the weeks before the action day, shows how engaged the students were as they worked on the project. Typical activities being done during the video are communicating with their team partners via the Ning, researching their topic, adding content to the wiki and preparing for the action as a class.

The Ning was also used to gather final student reflections and comments about the project. You can read a long reflection from Felix. From Najwa, the following quote -
"During this project i learned a lot. I managed to learn and explore about something that I thought I knew a lot about when in fact I knew close to nothing. The internet, we all think that we know everything about it. Well in fact all we know is the basic knowledge, the knowledge needed to survive the online world. We were missing the knowledge that we needed to save our self from that world. This project helped me realize what effect and territory the internet had on me and how what I need to do to gain control over my life again and to be effected by the internet as little as possible........The internet is not rocket science but is life changing and important."
From Hessa
"The objective of this project, was to reach out to the younger generation of internet users and teach them how to become positive users of this educational tool. Our goal was to send this message across by educating them about the importance of using the internet for its educational and entertainment purposes. The impact that this project had on the students, was a positive one, as the fact that they shared their personal experiences with cyber bullying and digital safety, made the experience much more meaningful and significant. However, as we are reaching out to only one class, the impact of the overall concept can be passed on by the students to their friends however, the lesson would be more meaningful if it were to be taught to a whole school rather than a class. I felt that in order for me to truly make an impact, I created a blog with my fellow colleagues, that focused on real-life stories of problems which have occurred because of being a negative digital citizenship. The site is as follows, The objective of this site is to encourage people to share their stories about their experiences as digital citizens, in order to set examples for readers as to what and what is not considered good digital citizens. Also, readers can add any relative stories in the news that interest them about this matter. Finally, I feel that with the creation of this blog, we can add it to the school wiki and it could be accessible to the whole school, and therefore the overall impact that this project is going to have on our community is increased."

From Haya
"I always thought of this project as just any other class project but now I think of it as so much more. When we learned about digital citizenship it made us aware of many other things relating to technology. Things we never thought of until we started the project. Since that time all I wanted to do was make others also understand and discover digital citizenship. That is what motivated me and the rest of my group to teach younger kids about this. They are the future generation and hopefully the information we pass on to them will stick with them and help them become more aware of the world around them. I also hope that it will help them with their decisions, decisions that will affect the world we live in."

Another interesting spin-off from the project was the interest taken by Wall Street Journalist, Christopher Lawton. Chris joined the Ning and invited the students to respond to questions, this was after seeking permission from teachers of course. The answers provided by the students are vital reading as they give an insight into how many hours they spend online, what they do, what they have found to be shocking while studying digital citizenship and general discussion about their work etc.
Amongst the many comments and answers I could share with you from the students I have chosen this one from Abdullatief which is riveting in its simplicity and honesty -
"There were many issues that I discussed that happened to me and to my friends. For example I was once playing an online game and because my name “Abdullatief” was an Arabic, Islamic name I was called a ‘Terrorist’ because of my name and that was quite harsh because that person not only made fun of my name but they also made fun of my religion and culture. Another example would be when one of my best friends sent a bomb threat to the director of the school just as a prank, but it turned out to be serious and he was kicked out of the school. Even though that was one of my best friends he still deserves his punishment because he used the internet for terrorism and that is something really serious in these days."

This was truly another amazing and eye-opening project and I thank my colleagues, Vicki Davis and Barbara Stefanics for their dedicated work and support. This is what flat classroom looks like! We are communicating, connecting, collaborating, creating and interacting and sharing across the globe, to enhance our own and our students understanding of their place in the world.

The Digiteen project will re-surface this year as a global, collaborative project. If you are interested in learning more about this and/or in creating a similar project in your school I invite you to join our Flat Classrooms Ning where all the great conversations about projects and collaborations are taking place right now!

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Sharing my Classroom Part 3: Grade 8

This post, and the next two posts on my blog have been in draft format for over 2 months! I need to post them, get them out there and then I have them off my conscience. They are part of a series that includes sharing my classroom part 1 and part 2
I am determined to get this written up for these reasons:
  • I can share what I was doing in my own classes last year, and I taught across 5 year levels
  • I have an historical record via this blog of development in pedagogical approach
  • I am leaving a legacy, or at least more descriptive details, of classes that I used to run but this year pass onto colleagues to shape and format as their classes
Grade 8 - Digital Portfolios
Digital portfolio creation is a particular passion of mine. I am an avid supporter of Dr Helen Barrett and followed the research and work done supporting digital portfolios using different mediums. I spent hours years ago creating a curriculum and putting it on a blog, only to have it lost in the virtual world through schoolblogs becoming defunct (I have backups). My own digital portfolio has evolved from this static version (about to die for good soon) to this wiki version.

I am also an avid supporter of Bernajean Porter and her Digitales site. I hope to find time this year to explore and learn more about Shaherazade in Second Life and the development of digital storytelling using a virtual medium.

So, taking the digital portfolio concept of publication, artifacts and reflections I have added a dose of digital storytelling (in a very minor way in this example) and asked students to create a portfolio using a wiki and other Web 2.0 tools with the addition of a personal video/story as a personal artifact to share with the viewer.

The curriculum is on the class wiki and is written for an MYP Technology class (Middle Years Programme, IBO).

Unit 1: Digital Portfolio
This unit follows the IBO MYP Technology curriculum guide

  • Area of Interaction: Homo Faber
  • Guiding questions: How can I showcase my experiences and work as a student here at Qatar Academy to a wider audience? How can I best document and reflect on the learning process in order to develop and grow as a learner? How can I best communicate my growth as a learner to my audience?
  • Learning objectives: All students in Grade 8 at QA will create a digital portfolio this year. This will be used to showcase their individual learning and to share artefacts, reflections and experiences with their family and other members of the QA community.
Students started by setting up a blog, a delicious account and exploring other Web 2.0 tools such as Animoto. Then, following the MYP design cycle they investigated, designed, planned and created their own portfolios.

One of the most powerful aspects of a portfolio, and this can be done in different ways using digital tools, is sharing reflections about progress as a learner. From the curriculum wiki here is how I set up the reflection part.

Writing a Reflection
Each artifact on your digital portfolio should have a reflection. Once again, be creative about this. A reflection can be written in 3 paragraphs however, if you have uploaded an essay for example, maybe your reflection could take the form of an image (with text) or a PowerPoint embedded on the page, or it could be an audio/video file.

As a suggestion the reflection can cover these three areas:
  • What? - Describe what the work is about. For example, this presentation is about a country and the requirement was .......Make sure you talk about what was expected for this work and what time it took you to complete it. Was it a group project? What input did others have to this work?
  • So what? - Now talk about why this piece of work is significant. Is it something you are proud of? Is it something you received a high grade for? Is it something developmental that helped you reach a new level in the subject? In other words why have you chosen THIS artifact for your portfolio?
  • Now what? - Now talk about how doing this work has improved you as a learner in the MYP program. Has it helped you organise your time and work efficiently? Has it demonstrated that you are capable of doing mathematics and so now you have a lot more confidecne than before? What are you now going to do with the new knowledge and skills you have gained from doing this work? How is this moving you along the path of life?
The final stage of the design cycle, evaluation, is also important as this gives students a chance to peer review each others work. One way I have set this up in my class is as a formative assessment excercise. Students created a personal blog post, describing thier portfolio and discussing some strenghts and weakneses and providing a hyperlink to the portfolio. Their peer then posted a comment to the blog post after reviewing the portfolio.

Examples of Digital Portfolios: Grade 8 0708 Qatar Academy
Many more examples can be found on the digital portfolio school wiki, howevere here are my favourites for last year.

Ali - Good use of Web 2.0 tools, video gives us an insight into his life
Burhan - interesting use of multimedia
Dale - Good variety of artifacts, images and reflections. Shows internationalism
Karen - Blog - vibrant, good video
Lara - An excellent example of creative graphic work and use of Web 2.0 tools
Some others to explore include:
Layanne - Blog, Leila, Maryam - Blog

Useful Web.2.0 resources for digital portfolio creation:
  • Wikispaces - a great way to publish instantly and focus on content as well as web publishing skills as needed
  • - for uploading a PPT and embedding into a wiki
  • - for creative use of images and adding a widget to the wiki
  • Voice thread - for adding images and voice commentary via a wiki widget...very cool!
  • Animoto - for creating 30 sec videos and embedding on your blog (can then link to from the wiki)
  • To embed documents try these:
    • Scribd - Publish yourself online....good for uploading essays and other word-based documents
    • Docstoc - Upload and embed docs online
    • Issuu - You publish and embed
    • Calameo - Create and share virtual publications
The challenge with a digital portfolio is to keep it updated (sigh!). With students however I believe it should be part of what they do as an embedded activity across all curriculum areas, not just a unit of work in information technology. That is the challenge for us at Qatar Academy this coming year. The digital portfolio work will now start in grade 6 (the first MYP Year) and, with a push from the IT department, it will be part of what all teachers do. The ultimate culmination within a school is to run student-led conferences supported by digital portfolios. This is where the constructivist part and student-led learning part really comes into play, rather than the focus on the tools and the IT tasks. The opportunity to show others your progress and the learning experiences you have been part of can be a revelationary experience for both students and parents. I have seen this happen before and want to see it happen here as a distinct activity that moves teachers, students and parents away from the marks-based achievement syndrome.

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First week back in Qatar: Haze and Daze and the Bridge to Success

After a month (almost) on the Gold Coast in Australia, coming back to the haze, heat and humidity of Doha is a bit of a shock. But not for long! There is so much to do and so little time to do, nose to the grindstone, and full steam ahead with the new school year.

What's new in Qatar? Well, for a start, the bridge on our compound linking Education City Community Housing Lot 1 with Lot 2 is now officially open (no more climbing over the barrier) so, as an early morning activity (and I mean early morning to try and beat the heat) we have been walking around the paths, through the gardens and over the bridge.

ECCH Bridge 1
The Bridge between ECCH Lot 1 and Lot 2

Sunrise from ECCH bridge
Sunrise from the Bridge looking across the compound housing

I have been thinking about this bridge as a metaphor for my experiences in Qatar so far. This time last year I arrived to a challenging teaching load and administration responsibility, I also arrived with a container full of mouldy belongings due to a shipping mishap. The year did not start well, the bridge was not completed then but we thought, a couple of months and we will be on it. As time went on the bridge took shape, as did my role at Qatar Academy. Finally the bridge was finished, but not opened! Towards the end of last academic year we could not work out why not...perhaps it is a test of patience, a trial of our ability to still want to get somewhere by having to walk around the long way and cross hurdles designed to impede progress.

Now, the bridge is open, I have assumed a full administrative role within the school, as a team my colleagues and I are focused on providing e-learning opportunities for teachers and students and we have already seen the start of many positive changes on campus that will support a move to 21st century pedagogy using online learning and mobile computing. I invite you to walk over this bridge with me, to enjoy the view into the dessert, the sunrise, the adventure as another year starts to unfold here in the middle east. I have lots of ideas and things to write about, if I can just get through the 'daze' of being back at work. I also have some exciting news to share (coming soon!) and amazing projects, including the Flat Classroom Project 2008, have already started, or are in progress.

So, let's get started!
You must read this amazing post by Andrew Churches,
21st Century Pedagogy. I had the pleasure and honour of meeting Andrew (a New Zealander) at NECC08 in San Antonio this year. Andrew is also infamous for his writings on Blooms Digital Taxonomy.
The pedagogy post starts with this -
"Even if you have a 21st Century classroom, flexible and adaptable; even if you are a 21st Century teacher ; An adapter, a communicator, a leader and a learner, a visionary and a model, a collaborator and risk taker; even if your curriculum reflects the new paradigm and you have the facilities and resources that could enable 21st century learning – you will only be a 21st century teacher if how we teach changes as well. Our pedagogy must also change."

Andrew goes on to say -
"How we teach must reflect how our students learn, it must also reflect the world they will emerge into. This is a world that is rapidly changing, connected, adapting and evolving. Our style and approach to teaching must emphasise the learning in the 21st century.."

I agree Andrew, and I would add also that change for the sake of change is not the goal (I have been to enough leadership sessions to have a grasp of this). We need to change our pedagogical approach to improve learning outcomes, to make a difference to the way students view and interact with the world, to make the world a better place to live in overall.

I believe education is the door, developing 21st century approaches to pedagogy is the key to open that door. We are so close, yet in many instances so far from having this key and being able to effectively share this key. Let's keep the discussion alive and growing. I certainly will this year!

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Flattening the World Again: Flat Classroom Project 2008 Invitation

Flat Classroom 2008 Project Announcement

As a follow up to the award winning Flat Classroom project (see 2006 project, 2007 project), educators Julie Lindsay (Qatar Academy, Qatar), Vicki Davis (Westwood Schools, Camilla, GA USA), are announcing the official pre-planning of the Flat Classroom Project 2008. Up to ten classrooms will be selected for this years project from a globally, culturally, and ethnically diverse student populace. Applications are due by September 8, 2008 and classrooms or schools may apply online via this form.

This year's project will incorporate a study of the ten flatteners as outlined in Thomas Friedman's book The World is Flat, The Flat Classroom project earned inclusion in edition 3.0 of his book. (pages 501-503). This year's project also includes the six senses of the conceptual age as outlined by Daniel Pink in his book A Whole New Mind. This project already includes schools from four continents but the goal is to include schools from six continents (except Antarctica.)

Accordingly, this project will include four primary components:
  1. Editing and updating previously created information (Mass Collaboration, Symphony)
  2. Creating Digital Stories using the 6 senses of the conceptual age from Daniel Pink's book, A Whole New Mind
  3. Post Project Reflection - Students will post their reflection on the process on the project ning.
  4. Student Summits, Weekly Teacher Meetings, Awards Show - Held in Elluminate - check the calendar for links
This year's project has four primary methods for facilitating communication:
  1. Flat Classroom Project 2008 wiki - This will be our product.
  2. The Flat Classroom Ning (with private groups for teachers, leaders, student groups, and educators).-- This will be our connection piece that will allow us to make and cement the connections and manage the workgroups.
  3. The Flat Classroom Google Calendar to create cross-time zone calendaring and Timebridge to schedule meetings.
  4. Student Summit, Weekly Teacher Meetings, and Awards Shows - Hosted in Elluminate - check calendar for links.
Interested classrooms are invited to read the requirements below and review the project outline before filling in the online form for consideration. Participating classrooms will be announced on Friday September 12, 2008 on the Flat Classroom Ning. Educators interested in being expert advisors and judges are requested to review the requirements and sign up by joining the Judges 2008 or Expert Advisors 2008 groups on the Ning

Information Session in Elluminate
A teacher information session will be held in Elluminate Monday August 25 at 4pm EDT, 8pm GMT, 11pm Qatar, 6am Tuesday August 26 Australia. After the information session, the recording will be viewable here.

New Face to Face Conference in Planning Stages
Also, look for an upcoming announcement about the first Flat Classroom Conference to be held January 24-26 in Doha, Qatar. Student participants, experts, teachers, and judges from this flat classroom or any of the past projects, Flat Classroom or High School Horizon Projects are encouraged to apply for the conference and are given preference. Space will be limited.

Project Requirements
We are looking for classrooms from around the world and from a variety of educational institutions to participate. Some fluency with online learning tools and experience with creating multimedia is preferred. Access to the Internet in conjunction with availability of Web 2.0 tools for student use including being able to open and use a Ning, wiki and blog. The project in its current form is more suitable for Grades 10 and above. Grade 9 or a mixed age level class may be possible as well.

It is essential that teachers who take on this project are engaged and willing to commit class time as well as personal time to make the project work. Attempting a flat classroom project for the first time can be a steep learning curve. Teachers are asked to attend regular online real-time meetings and to communicate and interact with other teachers and students in the project weekly. As a true 'flat classroom' all participants are on the same level or 'playing field'.

Opportunity for Simultaneous Projects
Julie and Vicki are also willing to mentor additional groups of teachers who wish to create their own "flat classroom" - style project. The only requirement is that best practices must be freely shared and all rights are Creative Commons Share Alike. Email if you have a pair of teachers, located in different places, who would like to be mentored.

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Friday, August 08, 2008

Sun, Sand, Sunset, Olympics

Will you remember what you were doing the opening day of the Beijing Olympics 2008?

Here in 'paradise' in Coolangatta with wonderful weather here is a selection of what our typical day looks like.

On the beach....never too old to make a sand castle

Walking at sunset

Shoes....footsteps on the sands of time......

Sunset across Coolangatta beach

Then, of course, today Google has a commemorative image for Beijing!

Have a great August 8, 2008!

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Saturday, August 02, 2008

Embracing Constructivism: Some Resources

I was going to use the word 'stumble', but this is not correct. I have deliberately gone back to explore some online spaces after catching a tweet from Gary Stager about how pleased he was with the recent workshop on Constructing Modern Knowledge.

I have a special interest in this field of exploration, but particularly as Gary will be coming to Qatar Academy in November this year to work with teachers and administrators with our 1:1 emerging program and I am also planning to ask him to include sessions on constructivist pedagogy. Then again, the two are interdependent, or in fact the same idea anyway, as I see it.

My journey started earlier this week with some words of wisdom from MIT's Mitch Resnick as he shared ideas with TechLearning re definitions for constructivism and constructionism,
"I interpret Piaget's Contructivism as more a theory of how people learn, where Seymour's Constructionism is more of an approach to learning, it's a strategy for education. I see them as somewhat different. It's not that one replaces the other. Constructivism is more about the way people learn and Constructionism is more a suggested strategy, an educational approach, to help people learn."
He then states,
"I should add that, although I feel I'm very influenced by and a strong believer of this Constructivist approach to learning and Seymour's Constructionist strategies for education, it's important to be up front about the fact that it's not easy to carry out a Constructionists approach to learning or to set up an educational approach taking seriously Constructivist ideas."

I then explored the Constructivist Consortium and joined the Anywhere, Anytime Learning group that has a searchable database of laptop, Tablet PC and other computing programs in schools. The Constructivist Consortium provide a list of books to read that are from I am interested to see 'Summerhill' by A.S Neill has been revised (in 1995....I am behind the times!). I read this book in the early 80's when completing my education diploma and it had an impact on me then. As a young teacher in a government system (Australia, Victoria) I had no real way of implementing some of the concepts. Even now I struggle to meld constructivist concepts with the demands of the particular school I am teaching in. What comes first - the constructionist approach or the demands of curriculum and assessment, or should they be hand-in-hand? Like the use of technology, I think pedagogical approach is a mindset, it needs to be ubiquitous and benefit all stakeholders.

Then there is the work by George Siemens and his writings about connectivism. He has a book, Knowing Knowledge, that is available for download.

Then there is the new Google release this week, Knol. A knol is an authoritative article about a specific topic, it is searchable and anyone can contribute...constructivist in approach.

Let me know by way of reply to this post if you know of any other 'must read' or 'must know about' websites and resources for finding out more about constructivism, constructionism, connectivism and a pedagogical approach to teaching and learning in the K-12 classroom.

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