Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Accolades for Flat Classroom Projects

Congratulations to all contributors of the Flat Classroom Project 2008 wiki and a big thank you to all voters in the Edublog Awards 2008! We are delighted to announce that once again (we were winners in 2006 and nominated in 2007) the Flat Classroom Project has been acknowledged as the winner for Best Educational Wiki!

The other nominees for best educational wiki also deserve special recognition:
The 2008 Comment Challenge
Educational Origami
S.D.Public School, Pitampura
Learning in Maine
Digitally Speaking
Clif’s Wiki
Miss Baker’s Biology Class
Salks Periodic Table
School AUP 2.0
Useful Wiki
Digital Media Across Asia

Why is Flat Classroom Project 2008 wiki an example of a 'best educational wiki'?
In the absence of actual criteria for the award, let me summarise what I think are the key features of this wiki that allow it to stand out amongst its peers.
  • It uses the wiki format as a pedagogical platform and shares educational resources used during the project
  • It provides a launching place for teachers and students internationally to connect and collaborate
  • It is an excellent 'receptacle' for multimedia, with contributors able to upload and share a variety of artifacts
  • It shares ALL aspects of the Flat Classroom Project and documents each individual contribution
  • It provides, displays, and documents all interactions - in particular the 'history' editing tabs and the 'discussion' tabs for each wiki page show a rich involvement by teachers and students
  • It shows that meaningful global collaboration using Web 2.0 is possible, relevant and exciting
Accolades also go to Flat Classroom Projects co-founder Vicki Davis for winning Best Teacher Blog for Cool Cat Teacher. A truly well-deserved award! We are so proud of you Vicki! Keep doing what you are doing, and don't let the sidelines get you down!

I also need to mention in this post about our Horizon Project and its inclusion in Don Tapscott's latest book, "Grown Up Digital". You can read this book online, and if you go to page 138 you will find Don mentions our Horizon Project. Don, also the author of "Wikinomics', was our keynote speaker for the Horizon Project 2008. It is a great honour to be included in the new book, however some of the facts about our Horizon Project are a little jumbled. It would have been good to review this before the book was published in order to get it right, as we did with our feature in Tom Friedman's book, The World is Flat, where we actually collaborated with Tom on the 2 and a bit pages and made sure the facts were straight. Anyway, to set the record straight, we never collaborated with a classroom in Darfur, and the Horizon Projects, both 2007 and 2008, are based on the Horizon Report which annually highlights emerging technologies in education (released by the New Media Consortium and Educause). However, I do look forward to reading all of "Grown Up Digital" when my copy arrives here in Doha.

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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Across My Desk (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Across My Desk (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Flat Classroom Project 2008 Awards - Student Achievement

The Flat Classroom Project Awards Ceremony, held yesterday online in Elluminate, showed once again what a special community of learners we have here as part of the Flat Classroom Project.

All award information can be found on the Awards wiki, including multimedia awards for all 11 topics and meta-awards, showing the top 3 videos for the project. Over 200 students from 15 schools attempted the Flat Classroom Project over the past 3 months. Nearly 100 videos were submitted from 12 schools for final awards. All multimedia can be found on the Flat Classroom Project Ning as well as hyperlinked from the main wiki pages and embedded in sub-wikis.

This is a mammoth effort! We have spent the past 2 weeks running through teacher and student reflections on the project, once again in Elluminate, where participants had an opportunity to share their work, thoughts and ideas for the past and future development of the project.

Congratulations however now goes to all of the people who have made this amazing global collaboration possible. Here is the list and location links were you will find specific names and details amongst the list of educators who willingly and freely devote their time.

- Flat Clasroom Project 2008 Keynote - Terry Freedman, who also spent time interacting with the students on the wiki
- Topic Expert Advisors - who acted as mentors and helped with subject material and wiki development
- Researchers - Led by Craig Union, who will continue to work with forthcoming projects
- Sounding Boad classrooms led by Kim Cofino, who reviewed the wiki work and provided valuable feedback to students in the project
- Judges of the multimedia artifacts, who spent hours reviewing and deciding who deserved recognition above others, with a special mention to our meta-judge, Barbara Stefanics.

Special thanks to the teachers of the classes in the project. Some had been through the project before, others were new to the demands. Everyone did an excellent job! We held weekly meetings in Elluminate for teachers that were recorded for those who couldn't make it. Our time-zone stretch allowed us to just squeeze in Australia and the Middle East (Oman at midnight and Melbourne at 7am!).

Special thanks also to our project 'Janitor' (his words!) for always being around to clean up and help out, Steve Madsen from Australia. In fact this is a double celebration as Steve just informed us today he received an Outstanding Professional Service Award Citation from the Computing Studies Teachers' Association in NSW. Well done Steve!!

A special, special thanks also to my unique and visionary colleague, Vicki Davis, who as always has put her heart and soul into this project, and expects nothing less from her students.

This was a different project for me as for the first time I was not in the classroom with my own class, but merely facilitating the project overall and helping my colleague, Ray Jones with his class. I enjoyed having a lofty overview of every class, wiki and multimedia piece, however I really missed having that more intimate classroom knowledge of each student, their trials and tribulations and ultimate success. One of the memorable events during the project was being in a student summit recently where, for the first time ever, we had students from Oman (Middle East) in Elluminate presenting during the same session as students from the USA (LACHSA, California). Participants commented that this real-time experience made the whole project seem more 'real' and tangible. I enjoyed listening to the different accents and observing the excitement of the students as they realised this was a true cultural exchange .

For those interested in joining a Flat Class Classroom Project we have Project 2009/1 starting in January. I invite you to fill in the online form registering interest before the first week in January.

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Across My Desk (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Connectivism Explained

When I watched this video I was reminded of a blog post of mine from August - Embracing Constructivism: Some Resources

Wes Fryer's blog post last week at Explaining Connectivist Learning Opportunities via Video shares the work of Wendy Drexler very succinctly. Quoting from Wes, "This Lee LeFever / Commoncraft Show style 5 minute video by Wendy Drexler paints a descriptive picture of how students can learn in a connectivist style, and the role of the teacher in this new learning landscape."

Here is the "Networked Student"
"The tools themselves as not as important as the connections made possible by them"

Wendy's blog: Teach Web 2.0
Wendy's wiki: Teach Web 2.0
Wendy's K12 Online 08 'Leading the Change presentation: Teaching Web 2.0 - Everything you need in one place

I want to say something profound....but the video says it all! Thanks Wendy!

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Sunday, December 07, 2008

Across My Desk (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Across My Desk (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Friday, November 28, 2008

My Edublog Nominations for 2008

The 2008 Edublog Awards nominations close in 2 days! This is an interesting opportunity to recognise best-practice out there in the blogosphere with the use of blogs, wiki's, educational networking and other Web 2.0 and multimedia tools. I also believe this is a chance to focus on the people and personalities behind the tools and to explore what it is that really makes the proliferation of communication via the Internet so effective, powerful and a catalyst for change in educational pedagogy. So, here are my modest nominations.

Educational Wiki:
  • Educational Origami created by Andrew Churches in New Zealand - a wealth of excellent resources, ideas and objectives with regular updates.
Best Individual Blog:
  • Always Learning by Kim Cofino - I really admire Kim's thoughtful, timely and provocative posts about her learning and development as an international educator, teacher and literacy specialist.
Best Educational use of a Social Networking Service:
  • The Flat Classroom Project Ning - OK, I do not want to be accused of nominating myself here just because my name is there as the creator of this Ning! This educational network supports the connection and collaboration of 100s of educators and students associated with the various Flat Classroom projects internationally. It provides a space for each individual to post their own resources, including blog posts, shared and completed multimedia, forum discussions, and shared bookmarks etc. It is the hub for communication between student to student, student to teacher and teacher to teacher. It facilitates cultural understanding as well as flat classroom pedagogy.
Lifetime Achievement:
  • 2 Cents Worth - David Warlick's blog truly deserves this recognition in the hall of fame for lifetime achievement. Always a joy to read, always current, aware and informative.
Watch the Edublog Awards 2008 website for final lists of nominees. Voting starts in December. Good luck everyone, and thank you for contributing to my PLN!

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Determined Teachers - Flat World - Can You Help?

According to the Flat Classroom Conference Ning we have 64 days to go until the Flat Classroom Conference really begins here in Doha. Excitement is building amongst teachers and students who are trying to get here and take part in this inaugural event. Based on the Flat Classroom Project, and on the concepts found in Tom Friedman's book, The World is Flat, our aim is to flatten the learning experience and provide an opportunity for participants to not only connect virtually but to cement this relationship via a face-to-face gathering where creativity and action are encouraged.

The conference itself is in two strands: Leadership Workshop and Student Summit. These strands will merge and intertwine throughout the 3 days and provide a unique opportunity for teachers, administrators and students to work together and determine what education should or will look like in the future (and the future is now!). We have participants coming from literally all over the globe, including the international presenters. Thanks to the generous sponsorship of HSBC Bank Middle East we have been able to give out scholarships to qualifying classrooms to help pay for expenses while in Doha to attend the event. However, our funds do not provide the money for actually getting to Doha (the airfare!). Therefore across the world participating teachers and students are madly trying to raise funds, promote the event within their communities and foster support so they can afford to travel to Doha. Not only have these dedicated and entrepreneurial educators had to submit requests to higher authorities, convincing them that Doha, Qatar is a safe place and that this is an amazing opportunity for cultural interaction leading to enhanced understanding, but they have also been responsible for helping to raise extra money.

To date we have classes confirmed from Ethiopia, Oman, Pakistan, Australia, USA (Houston, New York, Georgia) and Spain. Each class has their own story to tell about why and how they will make it to Qatar...and they will tell their story before, during and after the conference as part of the ongoing conversations. This is a compelling story, and it will be told.

For now however, I wish to encourage support for the class in Houston from
Spring Woods High School. Led by a dynamic teacher, Estie Cuellar, this group of 9 students come from a typical government school that essentially has no money to support international travel and experiences. Estie is working hard to bring the world to her classroom and a part of her classroom to the world via this trip. I encourage you to read the new Qatar Conference blog, created by Estie and the students to record the journey, and also to read more details on the 'sponsorship brochure' created to promote Springwood's participation and desire to foster more funds to make this possible. Maybe you are in a position to help out? Imagine the possibilities of promoting peace and understanding from opposite sides of the globe and interaction that can only help participants from all countries to appreciate diversity in an increasingly complex world.

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Across My Desk (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Friday, November 21, 2008

"Work with the Living" - A week with Gary Stager

Qatar Academy are preparing for their 1:1 learning with laptops. The school Board approved recently that all Grade 7 and 8 students in 2009-10 will have a new laptop (bought by Qatar Foundation). What this will finally and ultimately look like is under discussion. To promote the use of laptops and online learning in a constructivist mode we invited Gary Stager to visit for a week.

Numerous words and phrases come to mind when I review the past week here at Qatar Academy with Gary as our consultant in residence to help move us closer to a 1:1 and constructivist learning environment.
These include some often-used sayings from Gary himself, adjectives about the week as well as practical and philosophical objectives that have emerged or re-surfaced and discussed, sometimes ad-infinitum.
Gary has a great passion for learning and a straightforward approach to using technology, specifically laptops, in the classroom. His phrase "Don't be a jerk", offered as advice to those who asked certain "What if...." questions inspired many of us to think again the systems for learning with mobile technology and how responsibility for the device needs to be with the user at all times, with a focus on common sense. In terms of moving the school and the teachers forward Gary uses the term "Work with the living, and do no harm", stating that in the early stages of a laptop program (or any new methods relying on technology use) it is best to work with those who are willing and able to take on board new modes.

Resources from the week with Gary can be found on our E-Learning wiki, and also on Gary's website for Qatar.

Gary Stager at Qatar Academy
Can you believe it...the only photo I have with Gary and me......

Here are further essential ideas from the week:
  • Gary said "Bad ideas are timeless, good ideas tend to be fragile" in relation to building a sustainable learning environment using technology
  • Gary said "Less us, more them" when talking about student-centred learning and building from the learner up
  • Challenge the assumptions about children and their capability to survive in a digital world....yes, they can be responsible for their own backups
  • Get back to the roots of 'personal computer' meaning an individual device that each learner has/owns privately
  • Focus on non-Internet based use of computing and use offline mode as much as possible...bandwidth is finite, no matter how good it may seem to be
  • Consider a parent-education program to fully introduce laptops at all levels of learning
  • Promote an active classroom and active creativity as opposed to passive 'screen-watching' when using computers
  • Promote a community of practice (a learning community)
  • Promote writing...if kids are writing more it has to be better!
  • Consider re-writing curriculum to accommodate the opportunities laptops bring
  • Make wise and creative decisions about software use - Web 2.0 will not do everything you need
  • Move away from using language such as 'producing content', inspire creative solutions and problem solving using laptops
  • Have a laptop expectation for all staff, however for those teaching Grades 7 and 8 next year, make sure they are on board with the 1:1 initiative
There is no doubt after viewing the schedule I put into place that Gary worked hard! His versatility, energy and willingness to take on a range of situations meant that all members of the Qatar Academy community had the opportunity to see him, talk to him, and to workshop with him. Gary spoke to parents, the wider community, teachers at all levels in all sorts of configurations (HODs, early years, subject groupings, 21st century learners, administration); he was in the classroom running model lessons for Grade 5, as well as senior school Mathematics, Science and English; he workshopped teachers in constructivist learning; keynoted "Ten things to do with a laptop - Learning and powerful ideas", followed by a panel session including local teachers and leaders (thanks Jabiz, Mike, Sam and David!) and he met with the Student tech team (quite a highlight, especially when he produced the XO laptop!).

Gary Stager at Qatar Academy
Gary with Grade 5 students

Gary Stager at Qatar Academy
Gary with some Student Tech Team members

Nothing was too daunting or irrelevant to Gary. He spoke to the PE department, the Modern Foreign Languages group, and the school counselors and more...... At each teacher session he spoke with passion and knowledge; at each model lesson he pulled out activities that provided a new way of looking at computers in the classroom; at meetings with the administration he challenged current thinking and reinforced the notion of best-practice meaning student-centered. He even spoke to Qatar Foundation IT Dept. personnel in a teacher/infrastructure joint meeting and we all had the chance to discuss what works best and what we need in a classroom to promote learning using technology.

Gary Stager at Qatar Academy
Dinner at Souq Waqif

What did I learn from Gary Stager?
  • I was reminded that there is a a complete history of using computers in education that is easily overlooked in the 21st century
  • That Web 2.0 is not the only, or in fact the dominant, focus across a school and in relation to implementing 1:1 learning
  • That reading research and going to the root of an idea, the original author and proponent, is the best way to understand where we are now and how we got here
  • I need to find more time to re-visit Seymour Papert and the many other authors and visionaries that Gary has collected in his online Constructivist Consortium Bookstore
  • That good teaching, no matter what century, requires imagination, patience, structure that focuses on the learning and creativity and that students at all levels need to be continually challenged and allowed to construct their own meaning
As a sideline, Gary and I have a similar interest in playing and listening to jazz therefore had some interesting conversations about this....I think he has convinced my daughter (a new convert to the tenor saxophone) to attend the Stanford Jazz Workshop one summer soon when we are in the USA.
Oh, and another thing......I feel like an ice-cream connoisseur after having been out with Gary for dinner 3 nights in a row.....what fun we had! (For future reference, Cold Stone at Villagio is the best!)

More pictures from the week:

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Across My Desk: November 14, 2008

A mashup of ideas and influences from this week and before this week that I want to share with you all via this blog.

1. Don Tapscott, author of 'Growing Up Digital' and 'Wikinomics', has released his new book 'Grown Up Digital'. The book is Available from Amazon and you will be supporting Taking IT Global with proceeds from sales. Here is a free chapter download

2. Copyright and FairUse in teaching resource - worth reading

3. One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) initiative is releasing another batch of laptops for sale starting Monday November 17. Amazon.com are handling the sales. A recent video with Nicholas Negraponte being interviewed on 60 minutes shows clearly how the digital divide is being narrowed with the rollout of these devices around the world. I am going to purchase one nest week. For $399 I get to donate one to the cause and have one sent to me! My main objective in owning one is to see if we could run a Flat Classroom Project, with all that it entails, using these laptops.....how incredible if the hardware can join with the pedagogy and we start connecting students...I mean REALLY connecting students from diverse areas.

4. Flip video camera new release that has larger memory and other features. Just keeps getting better...and user friendly!

5. CoverItLive now has Twitter Integration
CoverItLive is a live blogging tool that can be embedded into a blog/wiki and used as a shared backchannel. Now you can integrate up to 12 Twitter feeds into your CoveritLive event. Just type in the Twitter accounts you want to autopublish and every minute, CoveritLive will go get any new Tweets and publish them directly into your Viewer Window with a little 't' logo so your readers know it was a Tweet.

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