Sunday, January 24, 2010

Create the Future!

Last weekend 50+ educators from 8 schools in China and beyond came together at my school, Beijing (BISS) International School, for a 2-day workshop called 'Create the Future'. Co-presented by me and Kim Cofino, and sponsored also by EARCOS it was a chance for exploration and networking. The wiki portal described it like this:

"Embrace Web 2.0, 1:1 and online learning in conjunction with multimedia for your classroom through this project-based workshop. A hands-on approach is emphasized with opportunities for learners at all levels to explore, discuss and model 21st Century pedagogy using digital tools. Break out sessions will include personal learning network and digital portfolio development, digital citizenship best practice, and Web 2.0 toolbox. Participants will also work in teams on 'flat classroom' objectives including Web 2.0 skill building, global collaboration and project management.
This workshop is designed to open doors to new modes of teaching and learning and focus on the learner (teacher and student) as a communicator, collaborator and creator."

What did we do?
The workshop schedule shares the format and intention of this event. Essentially we wanted participants to UNDERSTAND and PARTICIPATE in the following:
  • Connectivity and how it can build a PLN (Personal Learning Network) that feeds into everyday needs as a professional educator and learner
  • Collaboration and how students can be collaborative within the class and then how local and global projects can be designed to extend this collaboration further
  • Creation and constructivism and how through 'doing' rather than passively 'listening' to others better understanding is achieved
  • A 'Project Challenge' where each team designed a collaborative project that could potentially be implemented in the ear future
Sessions included presentations from Kim on PLN development, 21st Century education and global collaboration during which there was time to reflect and discuss. This open presentation style Kim uses is excellent for allowing people to react to what they are seeing and hearing in order to better digest and make sense of it. Breakout sessions provided hands-on exposure to Web 2.0 tools, including VoiceThread, and creating an online community using the Learning Confluence Ning. Over the 2 days we developed a thriving online community and for many it was the first time they had experienced this networked connectivity or written a blog post.

All participants were put into 10 teams and each team had a wiki to use for sharing resources and final ideas. Each team had members form at least 2 different schools. Each team generally had a curriculum bias e.g. mathematics. arts. We explored wikis as a tool for authentic collaborative work using third-party publishing tools e.g. slideshare, as well as the discussion area for team communication.

The Project Challenge was based on the ideas and concepts found in 'The World is Open' by Curtis Bonk, and involved:
  • Brainstorming ideas for embedding global collaboration into the curriculum and creating a 'pitch' for the chosen idea
  • 'Pitching' this idea to other teams in a rotation format in order to get feedback and refine ideas further
  • Preparing a final multimedia presentation with refined ideas detailing the collaboration in terms of connecting, collaborating, creating, timeline, etc.
Why was it successful as a 21st Century professional development model for K-12 education?
  • Working on an authentic idea that has the potential to be implemented into the classroom IS the key to success for this workshop. In addition, combining educators from different schools meant that the 'global' collaborative aspect was already guaranteed.
  • Teams had a real chance to discuss school situations, curriculum needs and other possibilities while working face-to-face, thereby fast-tracking into something workable much quicker than if doing this via other networking modes e.g. email, Ning
  • Teachers are busy people! Why spend an entire weekend working on the hypothetical? This workshop provided the infrastructure to actually 'create the future' through discussion and development of peer-reviewed ideas alongside learning about new (largely Web 2.0) tools and methods for implementation
What were some of the project outcomes?
There are other great ideas as well, but some teams did not manage to upload their final presentation or explain on their wiki page. It is SO important to do this so that we can all go back and explore and reflect on what emerged from the weekend. I know that some of these ideas will be implemented this year, and others will be picked up again next academic year. I also know that all participants now have the skills and resources to continue with this and make it work in their own curriculum. There are already reflection and ideas to move forward in the educational community developed on Learning Confluence.

What Kim and I stressed throughout the workshop is that the concepts and practices used are not 'add-ons', they can be embedded into the everyday practice and curriculum. For this to happen a change in mindset is needed and an openness to the advantages of being a connected educator willing to connect and collaborate and 'flatten' classroom walls to 'open education' for all learners in the school.

What Next?
Readers of this blog post (especially in South-east Asia): Would a 'Create the Future' workshop be applicable to YOUR school? Do you have professional development days ear-marked for next year and want to embed collaboration, Web 2.0 and 21st century learning into your school? Kim and I are interested in running this workshop again in other schools next year and would love to talk to you!

1 comment:

Kim Cofino said...

Thank you so much for inviting me to BISS, Julie! The workshop was an absolutely fantastic experience. I was so impressed with the enthusiasm and energy of the teachers and the exciting and unique projects they developed together! I can't wait to see the finished student projects!