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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Anonymous said...

As a future teacher, the Flat Classroom Project is exciting. I'm looking forward to being able to implement such projects in my future classroom. My politics class is in the middle of studying Friedman's book, and it is amazing. By completing this project, your students will definitely be able to establish themselves as better players in the new global field that is emerging. They will understand more than any other students in our country the vast changes in business, economics, and education that are happening each day. This is such a great opportunity for them, and I hope that I can present the same opportunity to my students someday!

Julie Lindsay said...

Hi Ariane, thanks for dropping by my blog and thanks for your supportive comments! You know, one of the essential components of a flat classroom project is teacher engagement. You have to rise above and beyond the average classroom call of duty, however the rewards are reciprocal in status.

sinikka said...

Hi Julie, thank you for your encouraging comment on my blog! I am following the new flat classroom project, too. You guys are simply amazing!
I was wondering if you have had any non-native English-speaking colleagues in your project? With such an intense and extensive project as yours, intercultural miscommunication would be quite a challenge. As all my projects involve a lot of intercultural negotiations I'd be interested to share these ideas one day.

Julie Lindsay said...

Sinikka, NO! we do not have non-native English speakers amongst the teachers. I am aghast that we have not discussed this yet! We have a number of intercultural issues and would love your input. Please come and join the and the