Sunday, December 09, 2007

Sharing more Flat Classroom Summit Experiences

Yesterday the flat classroom from Vienna International School under the direction of Barbara Stefanics presented their Student Summit. This group of students are the youngest class yet to be part of the Flat Classroom Project, being in Grade 8 and around 13-14 years old, compared to the other students who are Grade 10 and above and about 15-18 years old.

These VIS students did a fantastic job! They confidently cam on audio and video and talked about their experiences, discussed the issues they felt were important and shared their learning with us. The recording of the Elluminate session will reveal a certain maturity and confidence emerging that maybe the students didn't really know they had until actually put on the spot and asked to communicate live with whoever came into the Elluminate room.

Here is a collection of images from the VIS class. The first image is of Millica who did the presentation on behalf of herself and David (an absent peer). She spoke succinctly about how they had worked out the four 'C' words to align with different Web 2.0 tools and online uses. Listen to the recording to find out more!

BubbleShare: Share photos - Safe Toys

I also want to share Vicki's contribution to the Flat Classroom 2007 teacher summit from the other day. I have blogged about this already however I am now putting Vicki's screen shots of her cartoons up front in this post. They are so real!




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Saturday, December 08, 2007

The Power of the Collaborative: Students 2.0

I found this through a Twitter from Kristen Hokanson this afternoon. yes, I know ...I am supposed to be writing reports but, hey, Twitter was still open and......

Then I watched the video and explored the Students 2.0 website (in it's infancy)...and then I discoverd one of the leaders of this initiative is a Flat Classroom student from MICDS, Anthony C, who blogs at Two Penguins and a Typewriter, and who created the video called 'What Happens When the World Goes Online', for the Connecting the World Online topic, which has a quote from Friedman's The World is Flat spoken by me at the start...and then goes on to interview Pat Bassett from NAIS who talks about the Challenge 2020 program...I was just in Madrid 2 weeks ago at a presentation about this from a rep. from NAIS, maybe it was PAT.....I feel like I am going around in a circle here!

Video teaser for Students 2.0

Students 2.0 Launch Teaser from Sean on Vimeo.

So, a group of 'out there' students have got together and decided to blog and create multimedia and change the world. I am so looking forward to this! Kudos so far to you all.

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Friday, December 07, 2007

Flat Classroom Student and Teacher Summits

Julie's image for the Teacher Summit reflection

I am still buzzing from the online
Flat Classroom Project 2007 Student and Teacher Summits we had yesterday.
There are 7 classrooms included in this project and for the teacher summit we managed to get 4 teachers in the Elluminate room at the same time.
Julie Lindsay: Qatar Academy, Qatar
Vicki Davis: Wwstwood Schools, Georgia USA
John Turner: PLC, Melbourne Australia
Barbara Stefanics: VIS, Vienna Austria

Unable to attend but deserving special recognition for their hard work and dedication to the project are:
Simon May: SAS, Shanghai China
Barrie Becker: LACHSA, California USA
Elizabeth Helfant: MICDS, Missouri

For the student summits PLC led the way last week with a session, view the recording here. John's comments from an email after the summit session:
What a blast - 3 of my students presented through Elluminate this morning [2 hrs ago]
Audience was only one but much appreciated - Donna a Year 7/8 teacher in Georgia [many thanks to Vicki for this]
Students found it an experience both information [presenting to a Web 2 world] and empowering (having to present in new forms)
Makes the week worthwhile. Now back to the mundane

Both of Vicki's classes from WW presented yesterday
This next recording in Elluminate includes the two student summits from Vicki's class at the beginning and then at the 6:55 time mark the teacher summit starts.

I highly commend the students from WestWood High School for their presentations and ability to use the back channel chat facility to keep conversations going and to answer questions while the presentations were going on. There were a number of visitors to these two sessions including Yara, a student of mine from Qatar Academy, and John Maklary, one of the sounding board teachers for the project. One of the highlights was when John's student, Leila, (13 year old peer reviewer!) came to the mic and explained to us all why she enjoyed being a reviewer and what her class got out of being part of the project. John shared with us that at this point the class turned a corner, they then realised that there were real people on the end of these wikis and videos. The power of real-time interaction should not be underestimated. Leila went on to say her favourite video was from Google Takes over the World topic, the one about news bulletin etc. Well, that's Yara's video...and Yara is here with us online! you can speak to her now! What a joy to be able to connect people/students using stable, effective and user-friendly software like Elluminate.
Here are some images from the PLC and WW student summits:

BubbleShare: Share photos - Cheap Hotels Vegas

The teacher summit reveals interesting interaction and sharing of images, thoughts, and ideas based on our experiences working through the Flat Classroom Project again this year. Both Barbara and John are also experienced 'flat classroomers' as they were part of the
Horizon Project last April/May as well.
When listening to the recording don't forget to fast-forward to the 6:55 time mark for the start of the teacher summit.

Some points made:
John Turner
  • We need to start thinking more visually hence the use of Comic Life to prepare this reflection
  • This project enhanced motivation and responsibility of students
  • Project needed good time management skills
  • Learned from using Web 2.0 tools and want to embed this learning into the curriculum
Barbara Stefanics
  • Watching the engagement of the students and being able to share this is important
  • Being able to bring in new and useful technologies, can be overwhelming for students until the essential tools are identified
  • Timing of the project can affect a classroom's effectiveness in joining and sustaining (holiday's interrupt the flow)
Julie Lindsay
  • Global Collaboration 3.0: this project has raised the bar in terms of what a global collaborative project can do
  • Key terms the 7 'Cs': Connect, Communicate, Cooperate, Contribute, Collaborate, Create, Celebrate (also ideas from participants: Collect, Construct, Citizenship)
  • Enhanced cultural understanding
Vicki Davis
  • Set of cartoons as to what it means to be a flat classroom teacher
    • Living in multiple timezones...adds to the exhaustion
    • Issues with video file formats....Zamzar are best friend but expires after one day
    • Challenging teachers to come on board with knowing and using the Web 2.0 tools
  • This project covers all of the NETS.S standards
  • Moving to a creation-based classroom from a consumption-based classroom!
  • Peer pressure and creation focus: a new way of teaching
  • Enlightening and enjoyable...but a struggle and lots of issues to work through
Here are some images from the teacher summit in Elluminate:

BubbleShare: Share photos - Safe Toys

We have more student summits over the next few days and also a student awards ceremony to celebrate the culmination of the project (we have 20 or so hard working judges from around the world viewing student videos right now!). For more details about times check the opening page of the Flat Classroom Wiki. We invite you all to come and join in! We have an Elluminate room for 100 so there is lots of room!

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Saturday, December 01, 2007

Flatten Your Classroom: ECIS 07 Presentation

It is almost a week since I was in Madrid at the ECIS (European Council of International Schools) annual conference for 2007. I have a few blog posts about this not finished yet! It was a great conference with excellent presentations and representatives from many schools and areas around Europe, Africa and the Middle East, not to mention the USA contingent.

As part of the ECIS IT team I co-presented a session called 'Web 2.0 Cocktail' where a few of us highlighted our favourite Web 2.0 tools. I featured wiki's and Twitter. Luckily the wireless Internet held up long enough for me to Twitter through and receive a couple of replies from international colleagues during the session...this always looks impressive (or at least odd enough for people to want to have a go themselves!). We had a packed room for this session and fielded many questions. The only down side was an inadequate Internet connection...but then again I am very spoilt having had the opportunity to present at NECC.

For my own presentation I had a spot on the very last morning, with about 1.5 hours available to talk about, "Flatten your classroom and embrace 21st century global learning". This was a wonderful opportunity to take the time to really look at the concepts behind the Flat Classroom Project and the Horizon Project and to feature student work. The audience were receptive, keen and interested. Most of the student work featured was 'hot off the press' from the current Flat Classroom Project 2007 and ECIS had set up an excellent sound system (thank you!).

Here is the slideshow as uploaded to my account. However I have had to take out all of the embedded multimedia but in most cases there are direct URL's to the online material.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

I have to convince the BoG to adopt e-Learning

This presentation has taken a lot of sweat and effort from many people globally. I am not joking. When I was invited by the Director at Qatar Academy to present the E-Learning For Life (E4L) vision to the Board of Governors (BoG) I immediately thought about showing what other international schools are doing and how this compares to where QA is now. What better way to explain why I am asking for so much money when the power of images and the explanation of implemented programs from other schools can reveal what is possible. I discussed this in a recent blog post as well.

Thanks to my wonderful and supportive PLN (Professional Learning Network) I contacted some of my colleagues; educators that I respect and who are working at schools I already know have moved forward into 21st century adoption of best-practice use of e-Learning ideals. These include Jeff Utecht (Shanghai American School), Kim Cofino and Justin Medved (International School Bangkok) and Madeleine Brookes (Bangkok Patana School). I asked if they could contribute images and share their IT learning environments.

Well, here is the result: E-Learning For Life: A 21st Century Initiative for the Next Generation. Catchy title? Will it inspire the Board? Will they want to move QA into the next level and support our vision for this school to be one of the best in the Middle East? I am so nervous about this presentation (tomorrow!) and the fact that the Director has said 8 minutes is the limit, with some time for questions and discussions. I have written two versions of the IT budget for next year..the 'essential budget' and the 'special project' budget which effectively doubles the essential one. But it's not about the money, it's about the attitude and the wanting to do it right. Tomorrow is a chance for us to try and show there is a better way into 21st century modes of learning. I have tried to show a balanced approach to all of the considerations we are currently discussing.

My E4L team have been over and over the presentation with me. We have pruned it down to the basics and now I have recorded it using Camtasia Studio. This is such a great piece of software as it allows you to record a PowerPoint presentation and edit and enhance it later. I actually exported it to Windows Movie maker as well and did further edits, you know the extra breathing and odd phrases that don't belong.

So, I have it under 8 minutes and really want to show this video tomorrow rather than talk live. I wonder if that will be appropriate? I sound nervous on the video...I sound like I am reading my lines (OK, sometimes I am reading lines....!). However, the BoG have such a large agenda for their meeting I feel this will be the most efficient use of time. After the video I can then answer questions. What do you think??

Thanks again to my extended network and to the support I have had locally and globally. Wish me luck!

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Friday, November 16, 2007

Assessing the Reading Level of Your Blog

This is an interesting one just popped into my blogosphere this morning via Jeff Utecht who got it from Doug Johnson.

cash advance

According to this online testing device my blog is 'Junior High School' reading level. It would seem that in comparison to Jeff's test, my blog is a little harder to read however I am on the same level as this what it means? As an observation and as an international educator I am once again disappointed (that's not the right word, but it does give me a 4-syllable word that affects the next test!) by the US-centric terminology and result of the test. What is Junior High? Can we have an age level? Can we have a grade level? I think internationally that would be easier to understand.

Through a comment from Paul Hamilton to Jeff's post I also explored Juicy Studio for more statistics (3 syllables!).

The results show that my percentage of 3 or more syllable words is just under 15%.

The Gunning Fog Index is explained as:
"The result is your Gunning-Fog index, which is a rough measure of how many years of schooling it would take someone to understand the content. The lower the number, the more understandable the content will be to your visitors. Results over seventeen are reported as seventeen, where seventeen is considered post-graduate level."

The Flesch Reading Ease: "The result is an index number that rates the text on a 100-point scale. The higher the score, the easier it is to understand the document. Authors are encouraged to aim for a score of approximately 60 to 70."
OK, so I have a 64.31 here ...doing alright so far.

The Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level:
"The result is the Flesch-Kincaid grade level. Like the Gunning-Fog index, it is a rough measure of how many years of schooling it would take someone to understand the content. Negative results are reported as zero, and numbers over twelve are reported as twelve."

In comparison to the first test this one gives more detail but it is interesting to see how the two have lined up together. Essentially my blog is readable by people who have had about 7-10 years of schooling, are in the early years of high or secondary school. The discrepancy (4 syllables?) between the Gunning Fox (10.29 years) and the Flesch-Kincaid (7.08) meters is interesting...but a scholar of research and statistics needs to explain these in more detail for clearer understanding.

Philip Chalmers of Benefit from IT provided the following typical Fog Index scores, to help ascertain the readability of documents.

E-Learning blog has the same index score as Time or Newsweek!

What does all of this mean? It has made me think about my blog and why I am writing it. I delivered a PD session the other day to teachers about getting started with blogging. I told them blogging had changed my many ways. I told them that I mostly write for an audience and thanks to you (the person now reading this post, yes YOU!) I am gratified to know that someone is reading this blog. My audience were amazed! The concept and practice of blogging for an international audience is amazing. I try to keep some sort of erudite content in my blog but the loftier posts that link in with the blogosphere and comment and draw in on recent conversations take me a long time to write. The easier posts for me are the grass roots 'this is what I am doing and this is what my immediate circle of colleagues are doing'.

How readable is your blog?

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Blogging to Support Literacy

This afternoon the Qatar Reading Association has a 'teachers teaching teachers' workshop on the Education City campus. Teachers from Qatar Academy and other schools in Doha have assembled to share best practice.

Session 1 Encouraging and Including the Reluctant Contributor
Chad S and Diana W from Qatar Academy

My presentation
Blogging to Support Literacy
is on my presentaiton wiki

This post has been moblogged at the workshop as an example of mobile blogging.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Edublog Awards for 2007

The Edublog Awards are back again in fine form for 2007. Nominations are open until November 21.

So, step up and nominate a blog, a wiki, a blogpost, an educational use of social networking and more!

The associated Digizen award is also worth looking at. According to the website:Entries must be accessible online, ie, can be hosted on a school server, website or on a public web service (such as Bebo, Myspace, Blogger) that is accessible without a username or password. For information about the range of social networking services available, and ideas on how best to use them within an educational setting, you can see our section on social network services. See the digizen website for more details.

Here are the categories for the Edublog Awards for 2007:

1. Best individual blog

2. Best group blog

3. Best new blog

4. Best resource sharing blog

5. Best designed blog

6. Most influential blog post

7. Best blogged research paper or project

8. Best teacher blog

9. Best higher-education student blog

10. Best librarian / library blog

11 Best educational tech focused blog

12. Best elearning / corporate education blog

13. Best educational use of audio

14. Best educational use of video / visual

15. Best educational wiki

16. Best educational use of a social networking service

17. Best educational use of a virtual world

18. Best educational use of open source

19. Digizen’s 14-19 competition - note, this award is not run by the Edublog Awards, but they are delighted however to be promoting it and supporting young peoples participation.

20. Conveners award

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Thursday, November 08, 2007

Are you able to help Flat Classroom Students with Video Clips?

Our Flat Classrooms are buzzing this week as students go full swing into producing their multimedia artifact. The work is individual and 'judged' according to a rubric. Each students belongs to a topic team as well as a concept group and is given the challenge of creating a short piece of video that reflects both of these ideas. For example one of my students, Yara, is in Group 7, Google Takes Over the World and in concept team 2, Story and Empathy. She has plans to create a video that tells a story about the impact of Google in her life.

The objective of this blog post is to open the door of the flat classrooms even wider and invite input from the global community to help the students finish their video work. One of the requirements of the video is to have a short clip outsourced from their classroom/school/country. Some students for various reasons have not managed to get a clip so rather than have them miss out we have created a wiki page of last minute requests. Have a look and if you are interested and able you too could be part of a flat classroom multimedia artifact! For example, one student is asking for someone to video opening a laptop while at the beach...any takers? Ten seconds of video, send it according to our video requirements and we will be delighted to receive it and give you credit!

For more information read the requests page and leave a message via the wiki page and/or discussion tab. We only have a few days to do this as the deadline is looming.

Thank you in advance global community!

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E-Learning for Life: Help needed convincing the BoG!

My school Director has invited me to present my 'E-Learning for Life' strategy for Qatar Academy to the Board of Governors (BoG) in two weeks time. This is a great opportunity....and I am nervous!

In my new position as Head of Information Technology /E-Learning at Qatar Academy I have the challenge of helping to move the 10-year old PreK-12 school (now an IB World School) into the next 5-years of strategic development. This is an exciting challenge for a number of reasons. Firstly QA is owned and managed by the Qatar Foundation which in turn has been formed by a decree by the Emir himself. In other words the school is owned by the ruling family in Qatar. As you may also know Qatar is one of the top 5 richest countries in the world. You may also know that Qatar is one of the most 'developing' countries in the world right now. It is in the Middle East but it is progressive and taking a global approach to providing educational resources for people in Qatar and beyond. Not only this, it has a vision of excellence and is building a magnificent Education City on a huge campus that includes a number of reputable tertiary institutions such as Carnegie Mellon, NorthWest University, Texas University.

I have 15 minutes to convince a group of powerful board members that the school as a whole needs to embrace new pedagogies that involve a whole new mindset. I have 15 minutes to review where QA is now, where we could be and how we can get there! I have 15 minutes to outline the plan for the next 5 years and ask for support for this vision in terms of agreement and money!

OK, I need YOUR help on this as well!

I want to be able to show best-practice from around the world. I want to say, yes Qatar Academy is a great school, however look at these best practices around the world and look at what we need to do to be one of the best as well.

Can you help??
  • Do you have ideas of what it means to be a 21st century school?
  • Do you ideas of what a 21st century classroom looks like?
  • Do you have images to support your ideas?
  • Do you have a new installation, a new classroom with an effective learning space/design?
  • Are you willing to share as part of global collegiality?

I invite you to share your ideas and your images on my planning wiki. It is open for editing now, you shouldn't have to become a member as such, but if you do I can quickly fix that!

I am inspired already by the writings of David Warlick (read the comments to his post), Kim Cofino, Jeff Utecht, and Kristin Hokanson and I know there are many more inspirational colleagues out there. So, my challenge and request to you is to share your ideas either via a comment to this blog post and maybe share a link to other resources I can review or by posting some material on the wiki.
You will be given full credit! I value your input to this challenge!

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Friday, November 02, 2007

The Straw, the Camel and the Ning

There comes a time when it just becomes the right thing to do. Yesterday decided it was time to offer advertisement-free student networks for educators!

My colleague Steve Hargadon educational consultant for Ning, has been instrumental in persuading them that we need safe environments in which to assemble as an online community of students and educators. Steve wrote a blog post about this a few hours ago with full details on how to now sign up for an ad-free Ning. Also check out Ning in Education for more details.

Let me share briefly the real story behind yesterday's decision. Vicki Davis and I along with 5 other wonderful classroom practitioners as well as a host of other dedicated educators are congregating on the Flat Classroom Ning for the Flat Classroom Project 2007. This week I noticed the Ning was throwing up some embarrassing and inappropriate advertising. It happened about 2 days ago in the middle of my Flat Classroom Grade 10 class. I was very disturbed but luckily the students just laughed it off at the time. I am back in the Middle east again this year, in Qatar. I know when I worked in Kuwait a few years ago things were very touchy about a lot of things to do with sex, gambling, pork, alcohol, Father get the picture? Here in Qatar however the atmosphere is more relaxed. However this type of advertising is not going to win any friends amongst the parents...and it only takes one to object and there goes the program. I have some girls in my class who will not have their photo online, will not be seen and are nervous about some of the tools we are using. I cannot afford to jeopardize this project that is going to have far-reaching consequences and will only bring people closer together around the world by a silly advertisement! We are living in a time of great adventure but also of great ignorance. We need to be careful, I cannot educate my students and their parents all at the same time. This is going to take longer, and misconstrued information about classroom activities is to be avoided.

So, at home that night I kept checking the Ning......all the adds were as normal...hmmmm, OK maybe I imagined it? Later the next day it appeared again. What to do? So I sent a message via Twitter asking my global colleagues to check if this add was coming up for them. I had a number of responses saying the adds looked fairly normal for Google.....hmmmm, is this only visible in the Middle East? I chatted with Steve and he filled me in on his campaign to have Ning provide ad-free spaces for educators. Steve is such a great colleague, he even offered to pay for the subscription for the Flat Classroom Ning himself! I emailed Ning with our concerns and asked for them to consider taking the ads off. When Vicki came online we had a discussion and she saw red! Another email to Ning asking that they support education and social networking. An hour later and the ads had been removed form our Ning!

The power of social networking and global collegiality is immense. Thanks Steve, thanks Vicki but above all thanks Ning for offering us this great service. We love your space, thank you for being approachable and considering the needs of K-12 educators.

By the way, just in case you were wondering, here is the advertisement that kept reappearing.

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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

You have to be out there and doing it

I just spent 20 minutes responding to Stephen Downes' post re my post this week, but his blog is telling me, even though I am logged in, that this is spam. So, why waste a good 20 minutes, here are Stephen's thoughts followed by my comments......some 'flat thinking' to brighten your day.

On Stephen's Web he wrote:

Julie Lindsay enthuses about Dean Shareski's 'Flat Classroom Project keynote Address' (Vicki A. Davis does too) and posts the video on her website. "Yes, we all agree 'design does matter' but what also matters in this flat world is immediacy, communicating a message so that the concepts are accessible, and having fun doing it." I like this sort of initiative, but I'm less comfortable with the use of the word 'flat', as in 'The World is Flat', when it so evidently is not. It's a nice metaphor, but it's mostly intended to allow rich people to feel comfortable with their wealth, by fostering the belief that the wealth has spread around the globe, which it hasn't, and won't, so long as we think in terms of doing the same sort of thing things we have always done, like, say, 'classrooms'. Julie Lindsay, E-Learning Blog, October 29, 2007.

This is my response:
Stephen, you know I dislike overdone cliches as well however I think you have missed the point of our project. It is early days yet to start focusing on spreading the wealth more evenly around the world. Before we do that we need to get people to talk to each other and to understand how to best communicate ideas and how to respond to ideas and initiatives of others. By joining a number of geographically challenged (in terms of diverse time zones and school calendar requirements (southern and northern hemisphere) classes we are providing an opportunity for young people to do just that by experiencing the highs and lows of non-face-to-face communication and collaboration.
You know I still think David Warlick gives one of the best examples of the concept of a 'flat classroom', and he included this in the recent K12 online conference keynote when he diagrammatically showed a bell-shaped curve where students were in the lower parts and teachers and 'knowledge' were on the top of the bell. He then proceeded to flatten that until essentially everyone and everything was on the same level. To me this means opportunities. Everyone has the same opportunity to practice good communication, everyone has the same opportunity to learn from each other, everyone has the same opportunity to be creative and original.
It is hard for me to expound on this and sound sincere when I am working in one of the top 5 wealthiest countries in the world (Qatar: a land where the students order take-away sushi for lunch and bring the latest of anything you can think of in terms of gadgets to class). But if you keep in mind that I have also lived in Zambia and is not about the money (yes, I know Friedman has his disbelievers) it is about doing different things in the 'global classroom' and bringing the world in and going out to the world at opportune times. This can and does make a difference to all participants. And it doesn't matter if you use the latest tech gear or a 'hole in the wall' PC for a village in India, the aim is to connect, communicate, create a relationship and celebrate differences and similarities.

By the way, just to let you know the Flat Classroom Project is featured in the new edition of The World is Flat (Friedman) in the chapter called 'If It's not Happening, It's Because You're Not Doing It', Pg 501-503. So, acceptable terminology or not, we ARE out there doing it and, along with other educational pioneers doing similar projects, showing by example how curriculum reform can make a difference to the world.

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Saturday, October 27, 2007

Design Matters and Flat Classroom Project 2007 Keynote

I am excited to announce the Flat Classroom Project 2007 Keynote Address
delivered by Dean Shareski

The Flat Classroom Project 2007 Keynote Address from shareski on Vimeo.

This post started out as an analysis of Dean's presentation for the K12 Online Conference. However, in the time frame of less than a week, Dean graciously accepted our invitation to become the Flat Classroom Project Keynote presenter and reworked his material into a fantastic 12 minute video. I am so thrilled we are able to share, foster and permeate such great talent, and take advantage of the work of such a dedicated educator. This is what 21st century learning is all about! Kudos and thank you to Dean!

The details below are from Dean's excellent K12 presentation. When you watch the Flat Classroom Keynote you will see how Dean has expertly redone this piece and honed in on essential design concepts and related these in a friendly, non-lecturing, and at times humorous manner. I can't wait to sit in class with my flat class students and watch and discuss this with them.

Yes, we all agree 'design does matter' but what also matters in this flat world is immediacy, communicating a message so that the concepts are accessible, and having fun doing it. You know I believe that Dean has epitomised the message in Pink's book, A Whole New Mind, through the creative and fun way he relates a story.

Notes from Dean's K12 presentation
Dean Shareski K12 Online conference presentation called 'Design Matters' in the Classroom 2.0 stream. MP4 movie (iPod ready) Supporting wiki: Design Matters

Based on the ideas of Dan Pink (A Whole New Mind) and Sir Ken Robinson
'Creativity, Design and Learning are inseparable.....'

Brings in three different perspectives from others:
  1. Christian Long: school design to focus on learning
  2. Clarence Fisher: design based on making spaces for what you want to happen in your classroom; classrooms as studios; an open learning environment; role of the teacher to one of the members part of the learning process
  3. Dr Richard Schwier: Do no harm, be creative, talkative and experimental; does it work, is it beautiful, is it inspiring?
  • Storyboarding is essential before using software or hardware to create a multimedia product
  • Include a clear purpose (what is the purpose, to persuade, to amuse, to shock?), then learning can be productive and software tools can be explored
IMAGERY: Are you visually literate? (most of us are visually illiterate!)
  • What are the elements of good imagery? of good photographic design?
  • Aim for high quality images that convey powerful ideas
  • Visual literacy matters!
  • Use images to support and enhance ideas
  • Use sites like flickr and flickrstorm to find better quality images and to not violate copyright laws (see MORE great flickr tools)
  • Don't use clipart
  • Position key elements to create emphasis
  • Whitespace sheds light on what is important
  • Use transitions to create space between ideas (eg short instrumental excerpts, effects such as fade, dissolve or wipe)
CONSTRAINTS (keeping it tight)
  • Design learning that is attainable and has built in conciseness
  • In the words of Gary Stager, 'Edit it one more time and make it shorter'
  • 'Four slide' idea (could be used for Flat Classroom student summit)
  • Editing is hard work but IS a critical skill
  • 'Good writing, like good design, is about elimination'
INNOVATION (seeking significance) re Dan Pink
  • Thinking differently is a critical skill all kids will need to have
  • Provide opportunities for kids to try things and build significance and creativity
Rules for creating multimedia:
  1. Avoid templates (even Bubbleshare and Animoto lose their significance after you have seen a few); they tend to hijack the design process
  2. Start with a blank slate
  3. Use innovative features of software: how can this be used to create emphasis e.g. slow motion effect
  4. Branding matters: for individuals and classrooms

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Bringing the World into the Classroom

I have just sat down to breath and eat lunch at 2:45 this afternoon. It has been another hectic day at the e-Learning chalk face here in Qatar. I am being challenged and extended in many different and exciting directions, each of which is taking my time and energy.

The day started with a 7am meeting with the e-Education Project Manager from ICT Qatar. What an interesting meeting! ICT Qatar was decreed by the Emir in 2004 as an organisation to promote and support e-Learning throughout Qatar. Their initiatives include the e-schoolbag and a pilot program is being run at an independent school in Al-Wakra (a gas mining town about 40 minutes drive north fo Doha). We exchanged ideas and discussed plans for possible joint exchanges in the future. I was so impressed with the Project Manager. She was an articulate and educated Arabic woman and had lived in different countries including UK and Singapore and really seemed to know what she was talking about. I am looking forward to receiveing the research material she promised me that is showing huge increases in educational outcomes from the Table PC implementation.

After teaching two classes I then drove in my friends large blue Jaguar car to the next meeting, on the Education City campus, but what the heck, it is still warm outside and any excuse to ride in the Jag! This meeting was with the Qatar Foundation Director for Information Technology, the Assistant IT Director and also representatives from EDS, the outsourced IT Support company now on campus. Our agenda was to discuss the needs and requirements for supporting learning at QA with IT infrastructure and service. What is your vision for learning with IT. I was asked? How can we support this vision? What do you need? Let's work together and find the funds and do what is needed....OK, sounds good..... There is another blog post in there for another day!

So, after the meeting back in the Jag (no lunch!) and straight to my Grade 10 Flat Classroom Project class. We are working through wiki editing issues, communication issues and of course they are all trying to decide what their topic will be for the personal video. Some of the conversations I had with my students during this class really made me realise
how easy it is to bring the world into the classroom and to make learning REAL and EXPERIENTIAL.

I started the session by asking them if they had any inside information about the rumour around today that Thomas Friedman (The World is Flat) was coming back to Qatar (I missed him when he was here in September!) in November to give a lecture series. I know that someone in my class must have a relative connected with the Foundation or the royal family and be able to find out for me. I told them this would be an amazing opportunity to meet the author of the book we had designed the project around. I told them I would email Tom myself over the weekend and ask what was up, and that if he does come I would try to set up a meeting for our class. 'What, like a field trip?' they wanted to know. Better! was my response. This will be a unique opportunity to be in the same room as an international best-selling author and to speak to him about the topics you are studying now, the ten flatteners. So....I continued, what would you say to Thomas Friedman?? Do you know your topic well enough yet to be able to converse, ask questions give opinions?? My class were a little stunned, but at the same time I know most of them understood what I was saying. Will they rise to the occasion if it happens? Some will I know.

Another conversation was about the topic 'Connecting the World Online', one of the Flat Classroom topics. The student tackling this one is floundering so I was trying to give her suggestions as to how to focus it. I suggested talking about Qatar and how the Internet is changing about Qatar Academy and how more and more connected this school is each year....then I reached into my pocket and found the business card of the QF IT Manager and said, right, send this person an email and ASK HIM! What are the plans for connecting Qatar and the Academy in the future? Where is this all going? Don't research it in books or even online, talk directly to the people who make the decisions, tell him you are my student! Well, she took down the email address...we will see what happens.

And yet another conversation with the student tackling the impact of workflow software went like this....I had emailed her the blog post by Jeff Utecht from this week where he talks about scenarios and the use of IT as a student, a teacher and a parent and how software can enhance communication etc. Such a great post Jeff! So this student is now understanding her topic much better and is inspired to move towards planning a digital story using some of the ideas in this blog post. 'Contact Jeff', I told her. Talk to him about this, maybe ask him to record a short video clip and include it in your video.

It should not be intimidating to a teacher to bring the world into the classroom. There are real people out there only too willing to interact and communicate with students in K-12 schools. Learning should not be confined to the walls of the school or to what Google throws up. Learning should be real and we have the tools to make these connections immediate, spontaneous and REAL. These IT supported learning situations and opportunities are what makes my day worthwhile and makes me excited about education and teaching. One colleague this week said, we need to make IT exciting so that other teachers will buy into it and use it....well to do that we need to bring reality into everyday life within a school and evolve pedagogy to embrace alternative methods. When researching and defining cutting edge IT areas in particular there is no better way than to bring the experts into the classroom, either for real or virtually.

How are you bringing the world into your classroom?

Photo by Moontan, uploaded July 27, 2005

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Digital Learning Team

I am venturing into the realm of students teaching teachers. As a full IB (International Baccalaureate) school Qatar Academy offers the PYP, MYP and DP programmes. The MYP (Middle Years Programme) includes a Community and Service component where students are to find needs within the community and work towards helping and/or solving those needs. This is often problematic in cultures such as the Middle East where kids are not usually allowed out independently to interact with society. A school such as ours usually finds set programs and defines opportunities, such as Animal Shelter, where students can join and participate and help out thereby satisfying the 'hours' or 'projects' required for their C&S commitment for the year.

After requests from teachers for help with implementing Web 2.0 (and other) technologies I have instigated the 'Digital Learning Team'. This is a group of student volunteers who work towards C&S points by doing the following:
  • Sign up with a sponsor (Head of E-Learning or other appropriate teacher) and fully participate in an orientation session to be aware of school-wide needed e-Learning skills for teaching and learning
  • Find a need amongst the teaching faculty for e-Learning development and training
  • Design 5 e-Learning lessons and produce a handout for each lesson
  • Schedule sessions with interested teachers and deliver the 5 lessons (this can be done in groups, with a one-to-one ratio)
  • Make a short journal entry for every lesson: 1 paragraph for EACH entry- homeroom teacher signs
  • Choose one or more of the learner profile attributes (below), and discuss how you demonstrated that quality during this project (1 paragraph or more).

  • Make a final journal entry clearly stating what you contributed and learned, as well as what others may have gotten out of the experience.(2 paragraphs or more)
I discussed this with my Grade 9 class today encouraging them to take an interest. I told them how I had deliberated over the title and didn't want it it include the term 'technology' as it sounded too 'nerdish'. They laughed at me and said, well digital learning team sounds just the same to them! OK, back to the drawing board.

Any advice as to what to call a student team of software savvy students who will go forth and multiply gratefully accepted!

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Monday, October 22, 2007

Flat Classroom Project 2007: Multicultural and Holistic

This week the intense work starts on the Flat Classroom Project for 2007. Over the past month students have been finding each other via the Ning and via the topic wiki pages. Now the real work starts! Each of the 7 classrooms and over 100 students must help to edit the wiki pages from last year AND create a personal video, with a segment outsourced to a team member, in a less than 4 week time frame. The videos this year are using concepts from Dan Pink's book 'A Whole New Mind' as inspiration. Students have been placed in one of these concept groups:
We are aiming high once again with this project and expect a lot from the students. Already I am pleasantly surprised, or should I say delighted at the output and commitment shown by the top few who have started dedicated virtual conversations and planning towards the end goal.

Here is the music widget from the main wiki page that has a few of the audio introductions from students. Note: to hear more introductions go to the personal page of each student on the Ning.
One of my personal favourites is the one by Zak from Los Angeles County High School for the Arts called, 'Zak's Flat Classroom Blues'.

Find more music like this on Flat Classroom Project

Classrooms for this 2007 project include:

United States:
Los Angeles County High School for the Arts (Barrie Becker)
Mary Institute St Louis County Day School, Missouri (Elizabeth Helfant)
Westwood Schools, Camilla, Georgia, USA (Vicki Davis)
Shanghai American School (Simon May)
Vienna International School (Barbara Stefanics)
Presbyterian Ladies College, Melbourne (John Turner) PLC wiki work
State of Qatar:
Qatar Academy, Doha (Julie Lindsay). Grade 10 MYP Technology. Class wiki

Once again we are challenged by time-zone issues, hemisphere issues, English language issues to name a few however we are excited by the opportunities for cultural understanding and for heightened modes of interaction and communication facilitated by Web 2.0 technologies.

Invitation to be part of the Flat Classroom Project 2007
We invite other educators to be part of our project by taking on one of these activities:
  1. Classroom peer reviewers: If you have a classroom that has a spare 1-2 lessons we invite you to do peer review of student work on the wiki.
  2. Digital story judges: All students will have their multimedia artifact (digital story) judged by a team of educators. There is a rubric designed specifically for this.
  3. Expert advisers: We invite experts in the field of the 11 topics (Based on Friedman's The World is Flat) to help encourage the students as they contribute content to the wiki page and define their video topics.
So, come on board and join our project, we would love to have you involved. Let us know you are interested by either emailing or by joining our Ning, stating in your profile you are interested in being part of this, and sending either Vicki or myself a message.

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