Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Flat Classroom Voices from the Middle East

Leading up to the Flat Classroom Project 2007 I have been working with a new class of Grade 10 students in my new school, Qatar Academy in the Middle East. I am pleasantly surprised how much I like this new class. They are generally keen, working well and very excited about joining online with other students to create products together.

Here are some comments from students and from my own flat classroom diaries that you may find insightful. It is in chronological order.

September 19: Toomie
I am eager to commence this project. I think it will be very interesting and will broaden our horizons a little. it is also an interesting way to find out about other people's cultures and to interact with people around the globe. It is an excellent way to experience globalization and to prove that it has actually made it possible for people in different continents to complete projects together and to work with each other by using the internet and various other tools. Flat classroom really shows us how the world has become "flat" and has "shrunk". It really is amazing...

September 19: Ray
Alright... we're here in the classroom, and we have to research about digital storytelling, which we will need to do for the Flat Classroom Project, Which, I admit, am a little apprehensive about. I'm not really keen on working with Mc'shmickens I don't even know at all, to do a project that could be done on home soil, with people I know. I guess we'll have to see how this turns out. It's possible that this perception could be completely wrong, and I'll enjoy this project...

September 19: Anne
We talked about the possibilities of doing this flat classroom project. It really starts to interest me. I think that this is a great opportunity to meet other people from around the world, even if it is just by web. Also it will be fun to put the video together and share something with people around the world.

September 20: Yara
When Mrs Lindsay first told me about del.icio.us, to tell you the truth..i wasn't that thrilled about using it. I just thought of it as another complicated website making something simple complex for no reason! However i must say i was wrong! Del.icio.us is gr8! A few days ago while i was doing an MUN assignment, i bookmarked some of my favourite sites related to human rights, particularly those related to the question of enforced or involuntary dissapearences. To write up my assignment, i had to use another computer and ALL the sites were there for me! I didnt have to find them all over again...and using tags sorted them out for me! I then saved a number of links of songs i thought would be gr8 for our MYP themed dance. When i went over to my friends house...voila....all the links were there! Believe me it's worth it. The toolbar makes all the difference! EVERYONE SHOULD DOWNLOAD IT (It makes the process so much easier). I am really looking forward to our next IT lesson to see what other programs Mrs Lindsay has in store for us!Laughing

My comments from October 1
Today we went through the concepts and topics for the project and what is expected from each student. We still have not made contact with other students yet and my class are getting anxious. They are keen and I have been fast-tracking them as we go on break for EID on October 9 so I want them to be in a group and able to carry on online during the break.

Also today there was another distinct reminder that this project continues to be out there and cutting edge. My students are finding it hard to get to grips with the very new concepts of a blog, a wiki and now a Ning! This is not like IT in previous years, they keep telling me. Before now we just learned how to use applications. Lessons were mostly spent being tutored in the use of software features in a step-by-step manner. I was aghast! I don't teach like that any more I told them and I also said (a little unprofessional) that I was sorry for them that they had not had the opportunity until now (Grade 10!) to embrace the collaborative aspects of Web 2.0 tools.

We talked about Pink's book A Whole New Mind and left and right brain thinking. If we only had more time together as I still do not know if I am reaching them all outside the classroom. There are more each week now communicating with me via the Ning and blogs etc....we will get there I know. Some of them had definite opinions as to whether they were right or left brain people. I found this interesting and wished this conversation could be with other teachers and participants in a more interdisciplinary mode. I am fascinated by the international composition amongst the students. I have representatives from Germany, Malaysia, Arruba, Holland, Qatar, Palestine and India amongst 14 students.

My comments from October 3
Is it the jargon that puts people off using Web 2.0 tools?? I love the jargon. Tonight I have been Ninging other members of the Flat Classroom Ning. This means sending them private and public messages via the Ning interface. It is such a useful tool to complement the usual email form of communication. The Ning will also let you know when a member is online as a little green dot comes on and says 'online'. How cool is that? The one thing it lacks on the Ning however is a way to communicate in real time if members are online together. Hey, a combination of Ning and Twitter would be ideal!
It is so good to see the students coming onto the Ning and posting their audio introductions. My students were very keen today to know who was in their group. Already some of them have sent messages to team members. This 'first contact' is so important and can set the scene or the mood for the entire project for some students. If contact is made and not responded to it becomes disappointing for the initiator. We discussed this in class and my students know they need to be proactive in communication. However they asked me some strange questions today. Things like, "What if we do not like our partners?" What if they say something bad about us, can we say something bad about them?" One boy said, "My father told me to respond to bad words with bad words (i am paraphrasing here)" !!! A couple said, "What if they think we are all terrorists?" !!! I was a little surprised by this statement, but maybe they are right, maybe some students in the other countries may think Muslims living in the Middle East are terrorists. Maybe this project will help to dispel these myths. I am always the optimist!

Listen here to some of the first introductions uploaded to the project Ning from students and teachers.

Find more music like this on Flat Classroom Project

My comments from October 6
I was sharing some Flat Classroom experiences with colleagues last night over dinner. We were talking about curriculum reform and School 2.0 requirements. It dawned on me that we need to be creating these opportunities for students to interact with others and communicate and collaborate in order to learn more about what life is like in all parts of the world. We need to be promoting innovation and creativity and move into higher order thinking rather than robotic-style teaching. My Grade 10 Flat Classroomers this semester were meant to be doing a unit of work focussing on Adobe Premiere and video making. I 'transformed' this unit into the Flat Classroom so that we could participate. This means we will not be learning Premiere in as great a depth. But hey, what would you rather be doing, learning Premiere or helping to dispel the myth that all Middle Easterners are terrorists via a pro-active network of youth who are part of the future of this world??

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