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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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Clarence and Classroom 2.0: Affirming the change we need

Clarence Fisher
"Classroom 2.0 or You Live Where?"

I really enjoyed Clarence's keynote for the Classroom 2.0 strand for the K12 Online Conference.
Clarence spent time talking about change, how the change is within us, how we have to change the way we teach. He was unassuming yet emphatic that change needs to come from many areas: society, teachers, administrators....even students in that it is not always just about the student. The picture Clarence portrays, of networking, of global acceptance and collaboration is bigger than the individual student in a classroom, but at the same time hinges on the survival and adaptation of this 'species' called a 21st century student.

He suggests there are 3 pieces of the puzzle:
  1. Pedagogy: Curriculum and our relationship to it needs to undergo constant change
  2. Tools for promoting collaboration: Rely largely now on Internet-based tools
  3. Information and our relationship to it: Engage in relationships locally and globally (how clever putting in clips from my friends Jo McLeay from Melbourne, Jeff Utecht from China (and of course Barbara Barreda from west coast USA who I met at NECC last year!)
He emphasizes that we need to redefine what happens in classrooms, how they are physically and societally structured and how the content of what is 'taught' is secondary to creating an environment of thinking, reflecting, problem-solving learners.

I particularly like the part where Clarence talks about collective teaching and learning and how education now should be global and networked.

As he states: "Technology is about connections, getting together, learn from each other, see new things....."

Education informatics is something he raises as being needed for us to be able to make more sense of what a Classroom 2.0 is and what it can do. We need to be able to know what/who a student is reading, writing, interacting with, creating with, collaborating etc.

I agree with Clarence that we need better tools to more easily keep track of online activity and to better be able to justify the development of an online learning community as an extension to the walls of the regular classroom. I know we are getting closer as new tools are exposed almost every day it seems. I gleefully tell my students I want to be able to get inside their heads and read their academic minds as I follow their online activities on their blogs, wikis, RSS feeds, social bookmarks etc. We can come towards this already and in doing so can cement better, more knowing relationships with not only our personal, confined-within-four-walls- classes, but also with other classes by reaching out and embracing global collegiality across borders, across education systems, across religions, across prejudice......Classroom 2.0 can and will make this possible.

Thank you Clarence for your inspiration and also for your affirmation that pre-meditated change is the way forward for education.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Dune Bashing in Qatar

Life is full of interesting adventures. When I was doing Geography in High School many (very many) years ago learning about 'ergs and regs' I had no idea then I would be living in the Middle East and having the opportunity to experience natural formations. Our trip this week around parts of Qatar was both exhilarating and calming.

In two, V8 4-wheel drive vehicles driven by experienced Qatari's we took off to 'dune bash', find the Saudi Arabia border and BBQ by the Qatari inland sea.

The desert contains a varied scenery with dunes, rubbly areas, low-lying flood planes, and occasional clumps of vegetation. The inland sea is immense with extremely salty water. Our guides spoke very little English but were excellent hosts. Driving up, over, around and down the dunes caused some anxiety on my part (I do not do roller-coasters any more!) however we all decided the tipping point for a vehicle was probably a long way off from the angles we managed to create. Paddling at the inland sea and eating BBQ'd chicken and beef with Homous and tabbouleh was heaven.

To see the full slide show from our trip....yes, it is worth it.

Here is an Animoto video:

Some favourite pics:
"Oh no, here we go again!"

"Hold on, my daughter is in that car!"

"The dunes and us"

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Sunday, October 14, 2007

Preparing for Madrid: ECIS 2007 Conference

I will be attending the ECIS Annual Conference for 2007 (European Council of International Schools) to be held in Madrid, Spain 21-25 November. This is a large event attended by 100's (if not 1,000s) of educators from around Europe and beyond. It is a key event on the calendar of international schools globally.

While at the conference I will be part of a team of 6 international educators based in Europe (and the Middle East) presenting and collaborating on Web 2.0. Currently we are discussing the logistics of this session with possible bandwidth problems and lack of access to adequate facilities. I have to keep reminding myself that the ECIS conference is not just for educational technology and that our role will be to raise awareness of new tools and curriculum integration examples. However, I think we are going to miss the wonderful tech facilities provided by NECC each year. I have almost got used to presenting without having to cache a backup in case of Internet failure. This session has been advertised as:

"This session will present the participant with the opportunity to sample a menu of Web 2.0 tools
and applications, including blogs, wiki, podcasts, RSS, and other resources. Format will provide
participants with time for guided, hands-on exploration of these tools, alongside practical
demonstrations of integration within the curriculum".

I will also be presenting and sharing concepts to do with the Flat Classroom project. My session title and description for this is:

Flatten Your Classroom and Embrace 21st Century Global Learning
"The award winning Flat Classroom Project (ISTE SIGTel Online Learning Award 2007) showed that global collaboration using Web 2.0 tools can easily 'flatten' the walls of the classroom and promote better understanding between all participants. This session will look at the concept and practice of a flat classroom in the 21st century and suggest strategies for inclusion in your classroom and school".

So today, as one of the tasks on my list to get through during my EID holiday I am trying to make a start on this presentation. I am also trying to get a 'handout' together to submit for the conference proceedings. To be honest I am finding this problematic. Shall I abandon PowerPoint? (My PPT skills are low to non-existent as it is!) Or shall I work on dynamic slides with vibrant images? There are some excellent examples on After a 5 minute browse I found these two:

Mobile Phones: Constructive not Destructive by Sharon Tonner

Shifted Learning by Dean Shareski

I really like the imagery of Dean's work. Even though I have not seen the human side of the presentation the images and essential text on the slides already speak to me. With Sharon's work I also like the techniques she uses to convey the message about mobile technology and she has also added audio (see embedded file above) to the slideshow! So it stands up on its own.

Should this be my aim, to create a multimedia artefact that is transferable and able to be comprehended even if I am not there to speak to it?

Then there is the classic 'Shift Happens', viewed around the world more than 280, 000 times. According to the slideshare blurb:
This is a stylization of a slideshow originally created by Karl Fisch, examining globalization and America’s future in the 21st century. It is designed to stand alone, without having to be presented in person. Enjoy!

So, my scattered thoughts so far re putting together my presentation include:
use interesting and dynamic imagery, use key terms and concepts in big letters, startle, surprise, challenge, evoke, use colour and contrast, enthrall, intimidate, encourage, convey, share, intersperse with moving media, invite back-channel participants via google presentations, include Web 2.0 dynamic content, do not 'present' but share and ask for audience responses.....
I will share my finished presentation in a few weeks....wish me luck!

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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, 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! 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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The Seven 'Cs' for Surviving a Flat Classroom Project

We are two weeks away from the official launch of the Flat Classroom Project for 2007. This year we have 7 classrooms and over 100 students! Already many students are on the Ning (currently private, soon to be made public) and finding their way around the pre-project material.

Today I shared some ideas via my class blog and via the Ning. This is what I call the Seven 'Cs' for Surviving the Flat Classroom Project, but essentially they are seven key modes of operating that will make online survival in many situations easier and more rewarding. I keep reminding my intrepid students they will only get out of a global project what they put into it, however there are some basic requirements for being in an online learning community and a digital citizen.

1. Connect

Your mission is to connect with your team members and the other educators involved in this project. Connections will take place asynchronously as well as synchronously. Some of your partners will be on the exact opposite side of the world so real-time connections will be a challenge. However you must make the effort to connect. That first contact and then follow-up messages are so important for reassuring your partners that you are there are willing to work.

2. Communicate

Once connected, now use your online skills for effective communication with your team members. Don't be afraid to say you do not understand something. Ask for their opinion and their advice. Discuss problems and reach solutions together. Being in different time zones brings its own challenges for communication and understanding. Communicate often and communicate clearly and responsibly. Use the Ning, use the wiki page and use other methods that you and your team can agree on, including email and MSN.

3. Cooperate

Consensus and conciliation can be reached through online cooperation. This takes the first two 'Cs' to be in place (connecting and communicating) and once you are doing these you can cooperate on building a knowledge base on the wiki share resources and ideas. Do not be offended or take it personally if by mistake your work is deleted temporarily off the wiki, this happens sometimes and we are all learning how to work in a wiki-centric environment. Work together on improving your space and cooperate by being active online and on the wiki.

4. Contribute

If you do not contribute to the online spaces provided for this project we cannot tell what you have done. This is not a project where you can hand in the finished essay on the due date. This project means you must be communicating, cooperating and contributing on a daily basis. Contribute to the Ning by sharing your audio and video files about you and your home/country and sending messages to other students. Contribute to the wiki by posting comments to the discussion forum and adding content to the wiki page for your topic. Contribute to your team by recording short video clips for your partners to use in their videos. Do not be a non-contributor and lurk somewhere in the darkness. Come out and be part of the construction.

5. Collaborate

You and your team members must collaborate on the wiki to show a combined effort in developing a knowledgeable page with lots of relevant hyperlinks and references for your topic. To collaborate means to work together to solve a problem and that is what you must do. This takes communication and cooperation. You cannot sit back and rely on others to do all of the thinking for you. You need to be in there as well collaborating with your team, sharing ideas and making suggestions.

6. Create

This project requires you to create a wiki page as a team. It also requires you to create an individual short video based on your topic and sub-topic. This is difficult, it is challenging and there is no easy answer for content. You decide, you use your creativity and design and plan your final video. Make sure you include clips from your team members as well to show a global perspective on your topic.

7. Celebrate

When the hard work is done you can celebrate your achievements. Part of this celebration is providing reflection and review to your partners and reflecting yourself on the many parts of this project. You will find that the success of this project will be in the underlying achievements, not always the academic ones. You will have found new friends around the world through your online interactions. You will also have made a difference to the world by synthesizing what you have learned into a multimedia event that can be shared globally. That really is worth celebrating!

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Monday, October 08, 2007

The borders are transparent or gone: David Warlick

David was his usual relaxed and non-intimidating self during the opening keynote for the K12 Online Conference 2007 today. It seems I may have been of the first, or one of the lucky ones internationally to be able to download the MP4 file. The keynote was uploaded just as my working day was finishing here in Qatar, at about 3pm. I downloaded the file (93 mb) in 6 minutes...gee that felt good compared to what I had in Bangladesh last year!

Inventing the new boundaries

David talked about the information environment that we find ourselves teaching and learning in having no real walls and that learning happens from people from all around the world.
As he stated: "In the 21st century we learn by teaching each other, we learn by sharing our knowledge and experience".
Other main points made:
  • Side trips are the part of education that really defines an educational experience. What students learn that is different. There are NO boundaries any more. We are able to make connections like never before. Teachers and students looking for new boundaries, new borders....where do we get traction to move forward then?
  • Educating a generation without boundaries will not work...we need to find them or invent them. We need to find new boundaries to be able to move forward.
  • David, the last generation to look at his father and see his future (so he thought).
  • We are preparing children for a future we cannot clearly describe. This has profound implications for education.
  • Mobile technology, carrying on conversations, social networks, tentacles
  • We make them the students we want to teach rather than who they are!
  • The nature of information has changed...networked digital, participatory. Important to find, sort and evaluate the information
  • What it means to be literate has also changed....holds up a Grolliers Encyclopaedia from 1961
  • 57% of teenagers have produced original content on the many of their teachers have?
  • 3 new converging conditions...these have become new boundaries where we can gain traction
    • Info savvy and tech savvy students: need to work in responsive information environments, to ask questions, to safely make mistakes, enormous energy there that we can tap into
    • New information landscape
    • Unpredictable future
how to teach themselves ..the best thing we can be teaching today, how to teach themselves ..the best thing we can be teaching today, how to teach themselves ..the best thing we can be teaching today, how to teach themselves ..the best thing we can be teaching today, how to teach themselves ..the best thing we can be teaching today

While watching David's keynote I back chatted via the conference chat room with Bethany Smith, Jeff Utecht, Jeff Bailey, Neil Winton, Audrey and others...thanks team for being there to bounce ideas off.

A great start to the conference! Yes, the borders are transparent and the global connectivity is immediate.

Can we solve educational problems around the world....I think the power of positive thinking and collaboration will help us come towards this. I can't wait for the other papers to start next week.

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