Monday, December 14, 2009

Telling the World: Flat Classroom Student Summit in Practice

This presentation is part of the 'Kicking it Up a Notch' section of the K12 Online Conference 2009.

Here is the presentation:
"Telling the World: Flat Classroom Student Summit in Practice"

The world is their audience, literally, when high school students embark on a Flat Classroom Project. As a culmination to the 12 week global collaborative project students have the opportunity to present their research and findings in real time through a virtual classroom. Guests internationally are invited to attend and ask questions and interact with the students. This experience goes beyond the usual classroom sharing model and promotes awareness of the scope of a global audience, confidence in public speaking and enhanced cultural exchange. This session shares highlights from recent Flat Classroom Student Summits and provides a pedagogical approach that allows safe collaboration and sharing and pushes the limits of classroom experience into a blended 21st century and Web 2.0 model.

This session showcases student work from the Flat Classroom project and shows how students present their research and learning to an international audience. Using a virtual classroom, Elluminate, students from around the world present to their peers and to educators and guests and field questions. The aim of this session is to show how powerful an online learning community is and how Web 2.0 tools can support and enhance the learning experience globally.

This presentation fits into the 'Kicking it Up a Notch' strand as it shows how real-time global collaboration is possible for students. It also shows how having a global stage as a platform for learning output supports alternative assessment models and provides real-world experiences for students at high school level. This presentation supports "Bridging the Divide" by sharing how student's work from around the world, (research and output) can be brought to a global audience. It also shows how by implementing opportunities like an online student summit, intentional as well as unintentional learning occurs in ways that can be unpredictable but provide a bridge to better understanding of different cultures and systems.

Questions for discussion:
  1. How are you 'flattening' your school and/or classroom by providing synchronous meetings between students globally? Is this considered important? desired? necessary? by you? your colleagues? your administration?
  2. If experiences such as Flat Classroom Summits promote global citizenship and enhanced cultural understanding, how can we embed this practice into what we do everyday as educators? What has to change in education to make this possible?
  3. Is it really possible to have an asynchronous online learning community when we see how powerful this virtual real-time handshake can be to all participants? What are the essential challenges of blending both asynchronous and synchronous modes across the world?
I welcome your comments!

Also, a special invitation to join us THIS WEEK as we embark on more student summits. See the Flat Classroom 09-3 wiki for more details!


Anne Mirtschin said...

Having just been involved in the latest FCP, I would like to endorse the fantastic learning outcomes that such involvement brings. To answer the questions:-
1. I see ‘flattening my classroom’ as essential. I teach in a small rural, prep to year 12 school in country South Eastern Australia, where students are isolated geographically and culturally. The world is constantly flattening and skills for global interaction and communication are essential. The most obvious flattening occurs when my year 9-11 students join in one of the Flat Classroom projects. This enables students to interact, collaborate and work in virtual teams via wikis, nings and actually meet in the virtual classroom via elluminate. Synchronous meetings are a little difficult for us as we fall into the Asian time zones and language differences can provide a barrier to effective communications. However, we have successfully used skype to videoconference with schools in Singapore, Malaysia, Phillipines, Thailand China etc where English is taught as a first or second language. Another virtual classroom software – discoverE has been used. If classes in the USA are willing to return to school in the evenings then connections can be made synchronously with skype, discoverE, elluminate or coveritlive. My colleagues see it as important and are gradually making connections of their own. I have found it is important that they have ownership of the connections and communications. The administration also see it as important and the International Division of our Department of Education also feel it is necessary. Although most would see it as essential, fear of the unknown, perceived lack of skills and understanding, time factors etc prevent many of them pursuing it further.
2. Heavy filtering of the internet, perceived security and cybersafety issues when dealing with students online need to be reconsidered. Teachers need time to ‘play’ with many of the web2.0 tools that allow synchronous and asynchronous connections and communications so that they feel confident. Data driven testing will often block experimentation between countries. At senior levels, final exams and curriculum driven courses do not allow time for working with others across the globe. Countries need to look at internationalizing education and working on common syllabuses. Schools may need to consider 1:1 laptops. We need to bring parents on board, include them in the summits as they have a very ‘real’ voice with leadership in schools.
3. As far as I am concerned, it is possible to have both asynchronous and synchronous virtual interaction and collaboration. The asynchronous links mean that when education or the classrooms can become synchronous, the learning outcomes a even more powerful. I can still hear the excitement in my male student’s voice, when he said “she was in my group”, as the female student spoke about her involvement in the FCP in the student summit. The challenges of blending the two, are time zone differences, differing holiday times, festivals, times of essential data testing and final exams etc. However, even then, education no longer needs to be restricted to school hours, as it can be 24/7/365 and past FCP teacher meetings have been able to find a common suitable time across all time zones to meet online. In my country school, student internet access is a problem as not all have the internet on at home. However, any readers of this post, who are considering taking part in the FCPs should not delay, but enrol when they are next advertised.
Thank you again, Julie and to Vicki Davis for enabling us to synchronously and asynchronously connect.

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Thanks a lot for a bunch of good tips. I look forward to reading more on the topic in the future. Keep up the good work! This blog is going to be great resource. Love reading it.
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