Saturday, September 27, 2008

Learning 2.008: Further Reflections

Edubloggercon at Learning 2.008

As I settle back into life in Qatar after being in Shanghai the full realisation of the power and potential that is Learning 2.008 dominates my thinking on this final sharing and reflection blog post. Under the direction of Jeff Utecht and the team of organisers, including the hard-working Flat Classroom colleague Simon May, the event, hosted by the Shanghai Community International School attracted over 500 participants from as far afield as Australia, Canada, the Middle East, and many regional Asian countries.

Our first get together was at the restaurant Elements Fresh where a small but vibrant 'EdubloggerCon' took place. Here we discussed how to make the shift happen in schools and heard from classroom teachers, coordinators, librarians and others telling their stories of Web 2.0 adoption. I took some excellent video footage of participants talking about their tipping point into education, international education and into making a difference that I have yet to edit and publish...stay tuned for this as it will be good!

Jenny Luca (David Warlick in foreground)

New friend Jenny Luca, from Melbourne Australia (pictured above) was an active participant and writes a frank blog post as to how she sees the conference. There were a number of vibrant, passionate women at the conference advocating new learning and teaching modes that reaffirmed my belief that educational technology is not just a male domain, despite the dominance of men in the first rank presenters, and (not surprisingly) in the Tech Directors unconference session I attended (I was the only female tech director at this session ;-))

Links on the Learning 2.008 Ning: The 'keynote' presenters I strongly suggest you explore are David Warlick, Alan Levine, Jeff Utecht, Clarence Fisher, Brian Crosby, Ewan Mcintosh, David Jakes. Other presenters who have 3 sessions available on the Ning include Kim Cofino, Julie Lindsay, Tod Baker. Also, Primary school teachers check out this session by Chrissy Hellyer called 'I'm not kidding, It really is this easy'

The opening of Learning 2.008 - I love the laptop glow

I had a lot of fun with friends Kim Cofino, Chrissy Hellyer, (both at International School Bangkok) and Tod Baker (Tianjin International School). As conference presenters (green dot and blue dot) we banded together, agonized over our presentations, sought each others opinion and support about length, image source, presentation style, room facilities etc etc. We were a great team and I value the friendship and collegiality.

Kim, Chrissy and Tod in Shanghai

It was also a joy meeting Alan Levine, from the New Media Consortium, the group that publishes the Horizon Report each year. Alan's session detailed the development of the report and its evolution to now have an Australian version in the pipeline. I am also keen, and spoke to Alan about this, to have a K-12 Horizon Report that details emerging technology trends at this level of education in comparison/contrast to the College and University levels. In his blog post about being in Shanghai, Shanghaid, Alan writes:
"International School teachers are a fascinating, vibrant set of digital citizens; forsaking the norms of western life to teach in places like New Delhi, Saigon, Bangkok. It was fun to see them struggle to answer the question, “So where are you from?” as it has many layers. Living far from family, they are really wired in terms of communication technologies, but seem to struggle like teachers all over with how to integrate the flood of new technologies in their teaching."

Jabiz (Intrepid Teacher), colleague from here in Doha (although we seem to have to go to Shanghai to catch up in person!) writes an erudite post, and I really like this part of it:
"The participants of this conference, by their presence alone proved that we are a group of diverse educators determined to find better ways to learn. No one truly knows the secret answer, because there is no secret answer. We, and I say we with pride because I learned that I too have ideas to offer, are simply trying to find ways to educate children as best we can. Technology is not the answer. It really doesn’t have much to do with technology at all. It has to do with community and the sharing of knowledge and ideas!"

Other new friends who I now consider part of my online community are Anne Mirtschin and Jess McCulloch. These two inspiring women are from the same school just outside of Warrnambool in Victoria, Australia. Anne is taking a class into the Flat Classroom Project this semester and Jess, known for her Ning TechnoLanguages, is in China for 6 weeks with students on a Chinese language immersion program in Nanjing

Me with Anne, Kim, Jabiz, Tod and Jess

One of the best outcomes of Learning 2.008 was seeing the 3 teachers from my school here in Qatar attend and participate and marvel at how much there was to do and learn.
In the words of Andrea back on our school Ning:
"I had a very enjoyable conference. I learnt so much! It was very inspiring and a real privilege to attend. Are you able to inform me when there are any conferences being offered similar to this one. I would like to attend a PD like this yearly and I would pay for it myself cause I think it is so worthwhile. I can’t wait to get my children involved in all this wonderful IT material available to them and to me."

As a side-trip in a brief escape from the conference I was on a mission to buy a tenor saxophone for my daughter. Armed with a map and determination I found my way to Best Friend music, the Yamaha dealer recommended in a road not far from Nanjing Road. There I ordered the saxophone, was escorted to the nearest bank by the friendly shop assistant (photo below), and went back just before flying out to pick it up. I took this photo as a souvenir of my efforts.

So, for me Learning 2.008 was a mixture of hard work, good fun, exciting travel experiences, collegiality and continued community building with educators who I continue to learn from everyday. With its combination of presentation sessions and 'unconference' sessions it provided opportunities for people to share experiences and best practice at difference levels and fostered ongoing conversations and debate about where we have come from and where we are going. It is a model that other international gatherings could look at emulating in some form. As I continue to plan for our event here in Doha in January, the Flat Classroom Conference, I am taking on board ideas that include fostering social learning and providing time for casual gatherings that are focused on what the participants want to talk about, not only what the presenters want to present.

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Friday, September 26, 2008

Learning 2.008 - My Presentations

Finally I have posted my 3 presentations from attending Learning 2.008 last weekend. For each presentation there is a link back to the conference Ning for that session and the comments posted from participants, as well as the text from the backchannel using

Here is a link to the Global Collaborations PreK-12 session that Kim Cofino and I ran as an 'Unconference' session

Presentation 1

How flat is your classroom? Use these 7 steps for successful global collaboration

The flat classroom concept is based on the constructivist principle of a multi-modal learning environment that is student-centered and a level playing field for teacher to student and student to teacher interaction. Based on the experiences of the award winning Flat Classroom Project this session will detail seven essential steps for lowering your classroom walls to promote connection and understanding between geographically dispersed, ethnically and culturally diverse groups of students in meaningful, global cooperative authentic learning experiences.

I was fortunate to have Vicki Davis join me via Skype for this presentation and e her ideas about flattening the classroom.

Presentation area on Learning2cn Ning

Flatclassroom Projects
Flat Classrooms Ning
Flat Classroom Conference

Presentation 2

Mobile, Digital, Ubiquitous = Communicate, Collaborate and Create

You have mobile computing devices in your classrooms and school - now what? This session looks at embedding Web 2.0 pedagogy across the curriculum to support learning while mobile. The future is here, ubiquitous computing in conjunction with online learning modes encourages communication, collaboration and creativity. It also promotes independence and higher order thinking for problem solving in the classroom. Don't touch that off button!

Presentation area on Learning2cn Ning

Presentation 3

Digiteen and Digiteacher - is your school ready to embrace action for digital citizenship?

Using the recent Digiteen global collaborative project as a catalyst this session explores what it means to be a digital citizen and how your school community can become actively engaged in promoting best practice use of online learning. Forget the fear factor, embrace safe practices and informed pedagogical approaches to teaching and learning online with educational networking and collaborative websites.

Presentation area on Learning2cn Ning

Digiteen Project
Digiteen Ning
Advocates for Digital Citizenship, Safety and Success

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Out and About in Shanghai

I agree, Shanghai is quite an amazing city.

Today I walked part of the way down Nanjing Rd, and was privileged to have the company of Alan Levine, Brian Crosby and Clarence Fisher. About half way down, heading towards the Bund, Alan started to get his panoramic camera going so I took off down a side street as I was on a mission to buy a tenor saxophone for my daughter. (I look forward to seeing you pics/panorama Alan!).

Hanging out on Nanjing Road with Alan, Brian and Clarence

So, 15 minutes later I find Best Friend music store amongst all the other music shops on the same road. It's a bit like the Middle East where we have the gold souk and the hardware souk etc with many of the same types of shop clustered in the one area. Best Friend music also happens to be the Yamaha dealer on the block and claim to be able to have a Japanese made Yamaha tenor sax in the shop by Sunday before I fly back to Qatar. Well, I have put a deposit down and they escorted me to the bank to change currency......

Leaving the street where the music never stops I wound my way back towards the Bund and spent some time extremely open-mouthed walking along. Open-mouthed because it was not like this 23 years ago, and open-mouthed because of its vibrancy and life. What I really like about this part of the Yangtse River is that it is still a working river. Boats and other floating devices were hauling all manner of things down stream with the tide, while tourists watched, tour boats cruised and the bustling city life went on around it.

Julie on the Bund

Hopping a taxi back to the hotel I was pleased to run into Tod Baker from Tianjin International School in the restaurant. Todd was off to finish his presentations after lunch while I hopped into anpther taxi to meet Simon May at the Puxi campus of Shanghai American School. Simon is one of the main conference organisers, and a Flat Classroom Project 2007 teacher. SAS has a lovely, and functional campus. Not only did I see through the Middle and High school areas I was able to sit in on one of the admin/tech planning meetings. Similar to Qatar Academy they are trying to define what their 1:1 program will look like and, in conjunction with this, therefore what their classrooms will need and look like to support this. I was heartened to hear the same conversations we are having at QA with the same concerns and expectations. Should the students own their laptops? What grade levels shall we make compulsory for 1:1? What peripherals are needed? SAS is already a blended campus with imac labs and DELL labs (just like QA now!) but sound like they may be moving to become an Apple campus over the next 3 years.

Simon May and some laptop trolleys at SAS Puxi

Back at the hotel I wait for Kim Cofino and Chrissy Hellier to get in from the airport. Very excited to see them both, Chrissy for the first time. Some of you may know Chrissy as nzchrissy or Teaching Sagitarian. She is now an international educator and working with Kim at International School Bangkok. Dinner with the girls was fun and informative. We were joined later in the hotel cafe by other presenters, including those I had not caught up with yet David Warlick, David Jakes, Chris Smith, and finally Jeff Utecht (Mr Learning 2.008). It is certainly humbling to be at the same table as so many influential educational technology educators and visionaries. I am looking forward to the next 3 days!

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Shanghai Morning

I'm in Shanghai! It has been 23 years since my last visit (yes!), and here I am again. Arrived yesterday afternoon courtesy of Qatar airlines, very nice direct flight from Doha. Picked up by Simon May from SAS (thank you Simon!), dropped at the Forte Hotel (I love my room with a view) and then picked up by Brendan, teacher at the conference school just down the road (SCIS?) and wonderful friend from ISD in Dhaka Bangladesh.

Out to dinner with Brendan and Izummi (not sure of spelling), had a great time reminiscing our old life in Dhaka and sharing stories about our new lives in China and Qatar. This is what internationalism is all about!

The quick pics so far of us last night and the view from my hotel window....meanwhile I am off to breakfast!

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Flat Classroom Project 2008 Classrooms Press Release

As I make my way to Shanghai, via Qatar airlines, for Learning 2.008, my wonderful colleague and friend, Vicki Davis pulled together the press release announcing our new project. So, as I slurp on the remains of the iced latte at the Doha airport I am bringing this to you hot off the press!

The Flat Classroom Project 2008

For Immediate Release - September 15, 2008
Doha, Qatar and Camilla, GA USA

The organizers of the Flat Classroom project are excited to announce the selection of the 17 participating classrooms for the 2008 project. These schools represent more than 275 students, from eight countries, and will run from October 1 - December 4, 2008.

The Flat Classroom Project is a global Hands-on project for senior high school students which was founded by Julie Lindsay (Qatar Academy, Qatar) and Vicki Davis (Westwood School s, USA) in 2006 . This project has won ISTE's Online Learning Award (2007) and included in Thomas Friedman's book, the World is Flat, upon which the project is based. Students will research trends in information technology and globalization, write a collaborative research report, and produce digital videos about their topics.

This year's classrooms include (in alphabetical order by country.)


Anne Mirtschin,
Hawkesdale P12 College
Hawkesdale, Australia

John Turner*
Presbyterian Ladies College
Melbourne, Australia


Anjuman Ara Begum
Chowara Girls' High School
Comilla, Bangladesh


David Clapp
British International School
Budapest Hungary


Salim Al-Busaidi
Osama Bin Zaid School
Adam, Oman


Minhaaj ur Rehman
Bloomfield Hall
Islamabad, Pakistan


Ray Jones
Qatar Academy *~
Doha, Qatar

Saudi Arabia

Bruce Doig
American International School
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

United States

Madeline Brownstone*
Baccalaureate School for Global Education
Astoria, New York City, NY

Tanya Gray and Aimee Stoffel*
USD 352 Goodland High School
Goodland, KS

Jason Neiffer
Capital High School
Helena, Montana

John Peters
Hereford Independent School District
Hereford, TX

Estie Cuellar
Spring Woods High School
Houston, TX

Yvonne Caples, Will Nichols
Virtual High School
Las Vegas, NV

Barrie Becker*
Los Angeles County High School for the Arts
Los Angeles, CA

Dwayne Voegeli
Winona Senior High School
Winona, Minnesota

Vicki Davis*
Westwood Schools
Camilla, GA

*Project "veterans" - these schools have participated in a previous project.
~Host school for 2009 Flat Classroom Conference, January 24-26 2009. All details at

Additionally, the project organizers are seeking one to two schools in the Asian region to participate in this year's project. Interested participants should email

The project also involves Peer Review Classrooms (Sounding Boards) and any interested teacher is invited to sign up for this Group on the Flatclassroom Ning. Expert Advisors are being sought to advise the students during the project. Judges will be involved at the end of the project to review student work and provide feedback for a Global Awards summit to be held in elluminate at the conclusion fo the project.

"We believe that we are building communication bridges today that the students of tomorrow will walk across," say Davis and Lindsay, the project's co-organizers. "This project is ambitious, however, its success is built upon the fact that the teachers and classrooms that participate are of global quality caliber and have high standards of excellence. We bridge cultural, religious, and public and private boundaries and are always excited to see the students thrive and succeed in this environment. Our world is global and our classrooms should be too!"

"Although selection is closed, we are still seeking one to two classrooms in the Pacific Rim area to add to the project," says Davis.

For more information about this project see Members of the press are invited to participate as observers and this year's project will also include a research component. Lindsay and Davis also co-plan and manage the Digiteen Project (digital citizenship for middle and early high school students) and the Horizon Project and are planning the first face to face Flat Classroom Conference in Doha, Qatar in January sponsored by HSBC bank and Qatar Academy.

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Sunday, September 14, 2008

Across My Desk: September 13, 2008

Connectivism and Connected Knowledge
Amongst the chaos and buzz of my week came the invitation (put out to the blogosphere) to join the Connectivism and Connective Knowledge class with George Siemens and Stephen Downes. I hesitated, I explored, I thought about my other commitments, and then sadly decided it did not fit into my life just now. If you have time and interest I suggest you also read the associated blog for more information.

Once Upon a School
Well, here is another opportunity and a '...challenge for adults to support their local public schools.' Once Upon a School is an international challenge for educators around the world to make a difference to their community by taking on or infact initiating a project in a local school. There is money, a significant amount, as a prize to help the winner continue to develop the idea/project. More information from the Ted Prize website.

K12 Online Conference

A quick reminder about the K12 Online Conference coming up in less than a month. Wes Fryer released the publicity flyer. So, I invite you to open, print and post this around your school.

RezEd is the hub for learning and virtual worlds is another Ning I discovered this week. It's description says it is '.....providing practitioners using virtual worlds with access to the highest quality resources and research in the field to establish a strong network of those using virtual worlds for learning.'

See Dhaka
OK, this is an interesting one. My ex-student, Atif, from International School Dhaka, graduated from High School last year and is now in the USA studying Business Studies and Computer Science. It is great to stay in touch with students and to hear from them every now and then. This week Atif contacted me, in the usual way via GChat while we were both online. He wanted to know what I thought his website was worth as 'they' were calling back in half an hour to discuss him selling it to 'them'. What website? SeeDhaka of course! This is a site Atif put together for his Grade 10 Personal Project and it has developed ever since. I said not to put a figure on it and wait and see what they were offering. I tell you I do not have a head for business but this seemed the logical thing to do. An hour later Atif is back online reporting in. They offered him $5000 dollars!! but he did not sell....!! He is going to hang onto it longer as it is probably worth more now he thinks....well a bird in the hand.....good luck with this Atif!

Too Young?

You may be interested to read this about 'Twittering from the Cradle' and the impact social networking sites are having on young children. Parents adding babies to their Facebook sites, young children having online profiles etc. I will reserve judgement.......

ISTE Leadership Symposium at NECC 2008

While at NECC 2008 this year I participated, along with 7 other wonderful educators, in the ISTE Leadership Symposium and presented on Flat Classroom ideals. ISTE has put some of our presentations online. Our presentations attempted to show what NETS.S looks like in the classroom.

iPods in the Classroom

This one came from the ISTE SIGHC bulletin. It is a research paper detailing the use of iPods as a model project for 'innovative and engaging languyage instruction'. The iPod Project: A Mobile and Mini Lab reveals some interesting statistics about the rise in motivation, amongst other things, when using iPods for learning. The conclusion states, "Our results show that overall students appreciate quick and unrestricted access to their learning materials. They seem to prefer a “mobile mini-lab” to making the detour to the language lab. But our survey also brought out that students are not necessarily willing to spend much time on learning how the technology works. “I couldn’t get the recorder to work,” or “The thing kept freezing up on me!” may serve as a convenient excuse not to do the assignment. Most importantly, what became very clear in the course of our project is that if a language program would like to implement the use of iPods on a larger scale it would be absolutely necessary to provide students with their own iPods."
I encourage you to read the entire report!

Learning 2.008
In 2 days time I will be heading to Shanghai for the Learning 2.008 conference. Don't tell anyone but I am still trying to finish my 3 presentations! The complete presentaiton schedule was released over the weekend, and what a great program! I invite you to browse through and, if you are not one of the 500+ attendees I hope you cna join us virtually. My 3 sessions will be open to virtual participation via Keep reading this blog for more details in few days.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Invitation to 'Kick it Up a Notch'

K12 Online is approaching in October and Vicki and I are talking about 'kicking it up a notch'. In the spirit of "Web 2.0 Smackdown" from NECC , we want to give YOU the chance to speak out about change. So, if you wish to participate, please do the following by September 23, 2008 to be included.

Here is the easy task:
  1. What is your favorite Web 2.0 tool for kicking your classroom up a notch?
  2. We need you to create 1 still photo with the word displayed somewhere in the screen. (one per person may be submitted.)
  3. Upload this to Flickr or Flat Classroom Ning - It must be tagged: kick_up_notch_2008
  4. Put name and location in the description of the photo as you want it credited.
  5. It must be licensed Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial or of lesser restriction.
OK, have fun and share your ideas! We look forward to receiving them. Don't forget also the K12 Online Conference is just around the corner in October!

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Wikispaces Keeps on Giving to Education

I have been waiting for Adam Frey from Wikispaces to make the announcement this week. Already, the 100,000 free wikis given away over the past 2 years has expired, and the last 20,000 went VERY quickly. So, what next? Start charging? No!

Wikispaces, led by Adam have shown their full commitment to supporting education and teachers by continuing to provide free, advertisement free, collaborative spaces for K-12 - and in fact there are 250,000 more wikis up for grabs as of today! Thanks Adam and Wikispaces!

From their blog:

250,000 More K-12 Wikis
Like the first 100,000, all of our K-12 wikis feature all the benefits of our Plus service:

  • full privacy, only the people you allow in can see your wiki
  • no advertising, your online classroom will remain ad-free
  • unlimited use, as many users, pages, edits, and files, as you like, no limits
  • a customizable look and feel, so you can make it feel like home

You’re welcome to start as many K-12 wikis as you like. Have 10 classes? Start 10 wikis! Want one for your PTA, your school library, or anything else at your school? Start another one!

The offer is worldwide and is available for any wiki that is used exclusively for K-12 (primary and secondary) education.

So, if you want a wiki go straight to Wikispaces for Educators. Also, share your wikispaces in education stories and also join the online celebration with Steve Hargadon and Classroom 2.0 this Thursday.

What I really like about using wikispaces:
  • Excellent online support - wikispaces has an amazing record for prompt and useful online support. I know if there is an issue with a wiki (myself, a colleague or a student) we can email Adam and the team and within 24 hours we have a response and a solution! It is really that simple.
  • The WYSIWYG editing and page layout - I love being able to easily make each wiki look distinctive by starting with a basic template and working with colour combinations, and if I feel adventurous going in to work with the CSS code
  • Easy for students to start editing - All of our students at Qatar Academy in Grades 6-10 this year are setting up a personal wiki as a digital portfolio. We piloted this last year with Grade 8, this year the entire MYP school will set this up. This will be a way for the Community and Service achievements to be documented, discussed and reflected on. It will also be a place for students to work with Web 2.0 tools and learn essential skills for collaborative learning and online interaction
  • A quick-fix publishing tool for teachers - to publish curriculum, create a global project, establish a place for an extra-curricular group or communicate with the school community. In fact at Qatar Academy we now have our own Private Label wikispaces account Yes, this does cost some money, but it is great value as we can create unlimited wikis under the one umbrella and control all users. So not only are students starting wikis but teachers in all areas of the school are getting into the act.
  • Able to run a wiki-centric classroom - For a couple of years now I have run a classroom that is wiki-centric. This year I do not have my own classes as such but my spaces are still all up there. See the ITGS wiki, the Qatar Academy IT wiki, the Digital Citizenship wiki (this is pre-Digiteen Project)

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Friday, September 05, 2008

Across My Desk: September 5, 2008

Part of the frustration of leading a busy life is not being able to fully explore and analyse everything that comes across my desk. I am sure many of you are the same? At the same time I want to be sharing and contributing as part of the blogosphere.

Today, being the first day of our weekend here in Qatar, I have decided to write a weekly blog post mentioning the best ideas and resources that have come 'across my desk' with the aim of sharing and circulating these further around the world. So here goes......

Simply Books
Judy O'Connell, 'Hey Jude', is the head librarian at St Joseph's College in Sydney, amongst other wonderful things she does in the online world. This week they launched 'Simply Books'.
The website tells us: "Our focus is to promote reading and good literature, as well as providing links and information about quality approaches to boys reading education! By sharing our passion for books and reading, it is our mission to transform boys into lifelong readers."
The site is linked to a Simply Books student blog and a Simply Books wiki. There is evidence of student authorship and interaction and a focus on community involvement. Congratulations Judy, a great resource for your school and for us as well.

Young Minds, Digital Times
Young Minds is an inaugural film competition open to all students from Grade 6-12. There are rules and prizes and opportunities for budding film makers. This is one I am going to take a closer look at for our students here at Qatar Academy.

Wikispaces: Stay tuned for announcement next week
Adam Frey from Wikispaces sent me the heads up on a forthcoming announcement for educators. The 100,000 free K-12 wiki offer is about to exceed 100,000 so Adam and team have come up with something new...I am sure it will be good! Watch the wikispaces blog on Monday for this release!

Learning 2.008 in Shanghai
I will be taking off to Shanghai in about 10 days (not if I don't get my presentations finished!). So looking forward to this! The conference Ning is starting to be active, and there is a Beta version of the conference schedule available. Like many of the presenters, including Kim Cofino and Clay Burrell, not to mention David Warlick, Clarence Fisher and many more, I will be drawing on the virtual community and inviting you to be part of the conversation during presentations and unconference events. So, watch this space, follow me on Twitter, and get ready to be involved, even if you are not there!
Here is the conference trailer.

New ISTE Community Ning

ISTE released their new community Ning this week. Great resource once again for all educational technology educators to come on board and share and stay in touch.

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