Sunday, December 27, 2009

Across My Desk (weekly)

  • "Stones into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books, Not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan was released on December 1, 2009. Over the past sixteen years, Greg Mortenson, through his nonprofit Central Asia Institute (CAI), has worked to promote peace through education by establishing more than 130 schools, most of them for girls, in remote regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan. "
    Excellent sequel to 'Three Cups of Tea'! Loved every word! A MUST read.

    tags: flatclassroom, education, acrossmydesk

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

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Across My Desk (weekly)

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

Monday, December 14, 2009

Telling the World: Flat Classroom Student Summit in Practice

This presentation is part of the 'Kicking it Up a Notch' section of the K12 Online Conference 2009.

Here is the presentation:
"Telling the World: Flat Classroom Student Summit in Practice"

The world is their audience, literally, when high school students embark on a Flat Classroom Project. As a culmination to the 12 week global collaborative project students have the opportunity to present their research and findings in real time through a virtual classroom. Guests internationally are invited to attend and ask questions and interact with the students. This experience goes beyond the usual classroom sharing model and promotes awareness of the scope of a global audience, confidence in public speaking and enhanced cultural exchange. This session shares highlights from recent Flat Classroom Student Summits and provides a pedagogical approach that allows safe collaboration and sharing and pushes the limits of classroom experience into a blended 21st century and Web 2.0 model.

This session showcases student work from the Flat Classroom project and shows how students present their research and learning to an international audience. Using a virtual classroom, Elluminate, students from around the world present to their peers and to educators and guests and field questions. The aim of this session is to show how powerful an online learning community is and how Web 2.0 tools can support and enhance the learning experience globally.

This presentation fits into the 'Kicking it Up a Notch' strand as it shows how real-time global collaboration is possible for students. It also shows how having a global stage as a platform for learning output supports alternative assessment models and provides real-world experiences for students at high school level. This presentation supports "Bridging the Divide" by sharing how student's work from around the world, (research and output) can be brought to a global audience. It also shows how by implementing opportunities like an online student summit, intentional as well as unintentional learning occurs in ways that can be unpredictable but provide a bridge to better understanding of different cultures and systems.

Questions for discussion:
  1. How are you 'flattening' your school and/or classroom by providing synchronous meetings between students globally? Is this considered important? desired? necessary? by you? your colleagues? your administration?
  2. If experiences such as Flat Classroom Summits promote global citizenship and enhanced cultural understanding, how can we embed this practice into what we do everyday as educators? What has to change in education to make this possible?
  3. Is it really possible to have an asynchronous online learning community when we see how powerful this virtual real-time handshake can be to all participants? What are the essential challenges of blending both asynchronous and synchronous modes across the world?
I welcome your comments!

Also, a special invitation to join us THIS WEEK as we embark on more student summits. See the Flat Classroom 09-3 wiki for more details!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Across My Desk (weekly)

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

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Learning Confluence: Where Philosophy Meets Practice in the 21st Century

Here goes for my first K12 Online Conference 2009 presentation in Week 1, Leading the Change section.
Current accepted forms of professional development provide opportunities for small bites and quick-fix solutions but do not encourage immersion, ongoing conversations and collaborative sharing of experiences. Adoption of a learning confluence amongst educators can and will make a difference within a school and extend the learning beyond the immediate environment. Based on recent practice at an international school, a model of teacher engagement and improved pedagogical approach has been developed that leads the way into transformed learning in the classroom. Using a face-to-face meeting format, including expert advisers and a virtual component, educators extended their learning boundaries and embraced constructivism with the purpose of challenging themselves to 'lean into the sharp edges' of 21st century education.
What is it all about?
Highlights include an overview of the learning confluence approach, it's impact and best-practice examples for changed teacher practice. In addition, I share the culmination of a local TEDx event and a video series of educators within the school who shared their tenacity and determination for shifted practice. The inclusion of a 'flattened' learning environment where a school community does not learn in isolation is also a significant message for change and necessary innovation.
Why is this significant?
This presentation is aimed at those who are ready to take on more, in fact take the next step towards shifting their practice to include new ideas, tools and embedded 21st century Web 2.0 pedagogy. It includes case-study examples from a K-12 international school where educators and administrators came together from within and included those beyond to discuss the impact of research, changes in pedagogy and new tech tools with a view to improved learning through connecting and collaborating locally and globally. It shows how other schools world-wide can follow this successful model of immersion into a social learning environment that fosters collaboration and sharing as pre-requisites for knowledge construction.
Some of the dialogue......
By Learning Confluence I am referring to a 'place where things merge or flow together' and a 'coming together of people' with the purpose of improving personal and institutional learning outcomes. Learning cannot be in isolation, it also needs to be innovative, sustainable and pluralistic.
My ideas have recently been influenced by the WISE event in Qatar where education experts at all levels converged, where the learning confluence was dynamic, multicultural and intense. Many conversations took place about the new paradigm of education in a global world, the new interdependence and the need for new models of learning. Current accepted forms of professional development provide opportunities for small bites and quick-fix solutions but do not always encourage immersion, ongoing conversations and collaborative sharing of experiences.

Her highness Shekha Moza opened the WISE event talking about innovation as a social culture, how innovation stems from society and should be a natural part of education and is a condition for building peace. Prof Sugata Mitra, from Newcastle University, known for the Hole in the Wall research, shared his 'self-organising learning environments' work where children are given the freedom to group, inquire and share knowledge as they solve problems.
A self-organised learning environment for educators equates with this idea of learning confluence, where everyone is a learner, where contributions are equally expected and accepted. Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter discussed how the open exchange of information can lead to positive world impact. If we are more informed we are more engaged, more empathetic and the world is a smaller place and there is enhanced awareness of us as global citizens.
Prof. Bob Moon from the Open University discussed how bricks and mortar cannot meet 21st century demands, how emerging technologies must be recognised and that innovative and active pedagogues need to be developed. In a recent article in IB World magazine to do with teacher professional development Bob Moon stresses how teachers need to show the same intellectual curiosity as their students and to use the Internet to foster community and social learning.
Dr Larry Johnson, CEO of New Media Consortium, shared 7 major channels of change from the Horizon Report. The top 2 = 2) The network is everywhere 1) The people are the network. When we talk about globalisation of education, and the imperative to develop global citizenship the use of networking and community connections is essential. When we talk about providing opportunities for learners at all ages to connect, communicate, and create a difference to the world as we know it today through knowledge sharing, we are talking about a learning confluence on a global scale.
With emerging technologies this confluence is now possible. There is nothing holding us back....we can bridge the divide and change pedagogy to be inclusive of learners and opportunities at all levels and in all situations. We can bridge the divide between talking about what successful 21st century learning looks like and actually showing how to practice this in a professional development model.
Learning Confluence is about:
1. Choices: Providing opportunities for inclusion into learning as the norm rather than the exception. Not to exclude learners because of misconceptions about the value of technology to support the confluence. Participation levels and self-appointed modes of immersion.
2. Conversation: Local and global interactions and discussions that have meaning and relevance to learners individually and groups.
3. Community: The socialisation of learning demands a community approach. It is through community establishments and with the community that individual learners can share knowledge for the benefit of all. A global synthesis of ideas is possible. This does not discount the power of the individual, however construction of new ideas and objectives is enhanced based on community learning.
4. Creativity: Being creative and creating new paradigms for learning, thinking outside of the box, ignoring the box altogether.
Dan Pink talks about the transition form the Information Age to the Conceptual age where the main characters are the creator and the empathizer.
A learning confluence supports creativity and building bridges from knowledge acquisition to creating new experiences for learning.
Questions for Discussion:

  1. How are you encouraging a 'learning confluence' in your current professional educational environment? How does this align with professional development goals across the school?
  2. What does it meant to be a 21st century learner? How has the impact of emerging technologies changed the definition of learning?
  3. How important is change in education? How do we best support innovation and change while maintaining sustainability and quality?

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Across My Desk (weekly)

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

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Across My Desk (weekly)

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

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Across My Desk (weekly)

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

Friday, November 20, 2009

TEDxEDUcn – Accolades and Observations

The inaugural TEDxEDUcn was held last Saturday at International School Beijing (ISB). It was jointly organized by Western Academy Beijing and ISB. As an official TEDx event it followed the usual requirements of including the opening TEDx video, and playing some online TED talks interspersed with live TED talks, of which there were many! It had about 100 people in attendance.

I was enthralled with speakers such as Yang Jia, Chinese college professor, Harvard graduate, and disabled by a degenerative eye condition that left her blind in her 20’s. Her message was inspiring and including, ‘compete with yourself’ as well as ‘compete with others’. Then there was Andrew Lih who talked about ‘deliberative adhocracy’, and encouraged China to look at the benefits of using social media, not as a threat to deliver democracy.

James Landay, professor from University of Washington, on sabbatical in Beijing, shared as a quick and dirty animation program to use with Tablet technology. This reminded me of the old Palm handheld software the Elliott Soloway at GoKnow developed called Sketchy. I asked James if this ‘k-sketch’ was going to be made available for smaller mobile devices, and he seemed to think this was possible. It seems like in the pursuit of ‘more and new’ the wheel is re-invented often. However I like what James was doing and saying about students constructing their own answers and solutions using simple to use animation rather than having to learn the ‘over-weight’ programs such as Flash (Adobe).

I was inspired by David Kay who has the Yuenfen New Media Art Space here in Beijing. Like many other speakers, he shared his varied life story and encouraged us to follow our dreams.

The theme of the TEDx event was ‘Courage, curiosity and creativity’ and we certainly were presented with speaker after speaker who talked about creativity, piqued our curiosity and shared their personal courage in getting to where they are now. However, despite the amazing stories and inspiring life examples, I came away from the event with mixed feelings. For the entire day we were ‘talked to’ with little opportunity to engage in meaningful conversations based on the topics presented or in fact with the speakers themselves. Yes, we were given regular breaks, in fact the ‘afternoon tea’ break was in fact longer with verbal encouragement to seek out further conversations. However we are not always willing, unless directed, to move out of our comfort zone and embark on a group discussion with people we do not know.

But, there was something missing! From the start we were asked NOT to use laptops but to sit and listen (!). I was amused, a little bewildered, but complied….thinking if I get my shiny orange covered MacBook out I will be singled out for ridicule. Where was the backchannel? Where was the opportunity to engage in meaningful conversations as a sub-set to the main stage? I really missed this! I also missed the opportunity to explore presenter backgrounds and web resources as they were speaking.

So, in the interests of providing constructive comments that organisers can take and deliberate on before hosting the next event here are my suggestions:
  1. It does not make a lot of sense not using laptops, therefore I suggest allowing people the choice during and between talks. At the very least the laptop helps with note taking, and if connected online (the ideal) it provides a bridge to online spaces that further connect the listener to the presenter and to the audience as a whole.
  2. Plan for and implement strategies that mandate conversations between participants who do not know each other. As a suggestion, between each talk give the audience 3-5 minutes to turn to the person(s) sitting near them to debrief and share ideas and feelings. Another strategy is to provide breakout session times where 1-2 presenters lead a group
  3. Create an online learning community around this event e.g a Ning, that allows for ongoing discussion and interaction and knowledge sharing.
In conclusion, accolades to organisers from ISB and WAB, it was a great day! However, let's start using the power of the tools we have in hand and foster more meaningful connections and learning through setting up network opportunities that will sustain until the next event.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

WISE 09 - It's a wrap here in Qatar

Photos from the WISE event

The inaugural WISE event in Qatar is over. We have networked, talked, debated, deliberated and tried to find creative solutions to global problems......but now we are all going home to process and work out how we can make the most of what we learned, who we met and where we could go from here.

So, what were the highlights for me over the three days??

What has really stayed with me is the fact that EVERYONE you talked to at this event had an interesting story to tell, and an 'important' position in terms of education (at all different levels, countries etc). So, during breaks or while in sessions, or even traveling on the shuttle bus, talking to people about what they did, why they were in Qatar and so on was a highlight. Especially as I now have a small collection of business cards with some excellent potential contacts to email and make stronger ties with.

On day 2 the person that was most impressive was during the 'Increasing Access Through Technology' session, Dr Paul Kim from Stanford University. He has developed what he calls the POMI 2020 (Programmable Mobile Open Internet), or PocketSchool. When he started to describe how he is distributing small computer devices, like gaming tools, to poor, rurual villages and how he is developing software for the linux-based OS that is culturally and geographically relevant to help improve literacy, Tom Barrett and I agreed THIS was worth listening to AND provided a viable solution. In comparison, many of the presenters continued to relate the problems without providing solutions).

Today, Day 3, Prof Sugata Mitra, from the Education faculty at Newcastle University in the UK spoke about his ongoing 'Hole in the Wall' project. It was thrilling to hear and see images and short videos from this long-admired experiment. He is currently working on Self Organising Systems and working in schools in the UK on research. We had the opportunity to speak with him during a break and found he had a rationale, liberated approach to classroom teaching, always putting the student first. He spoke about how a 4 to 1 (student to computer) ratio was his preferred mode of working as students then collaborated on problem solving and were not totally involved in manipulating the technology.

In addition, Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter, spoke about the history of Twitter and how it has become a social networking tool that has a popular in online communication distinct from email and blogging and other forms of connecting. He talked about the open and free exchange of information made possible by Twitter, and how this can lead to positive world impact. He shared that to be more informed = more engaged = more empathetic = world is a smaller place and therefore enhanced awareness of us as global citizens.

At the closing plenary session Dr Abdullah shared with us the 10 WISE Priorities that will be the focus of interaction and action between now and the next WISE in 2010. These were developed over the past 3 days based on session presentations and discussions. More details will be found on the WISE website eventually.
  1. Access to quality education
  2. A fully integrated approach
  3. Global citizenship
  4. Education embedded in local community
  5. Protecting education and educators
  6. Reconciliation
  7. WISE pioneers to monitor our progress
  8. Innovating new ways to learn
  9. Pursuing sustainable development
  10. A future built on multi-stakeholder partnerships

In addition, Qatar Foundation will be starting a discussion forum on the website, which along with a list of contacts from this event, should help us all to stay in touch and find each other.....well, it's a start at least.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

WISE Day 1 Reflection

Waiting to start WISE opening session

Images above of Sheikha Mozah opening WISE

Mrs Irina Bokova, Director-General UNESCO

Dr Abdulla bin Al-Thani, Chairman of WISE

Day 1 at the World Innovation Summit for Education saw people literally from all over the world converge in Doha. A real meeting of the minds, a real melting pot of ideas, experience and a common motivation to discuss what is happening in education now with a view to improving it. The overriding theme is "Global education: Working together for sustainable development'. Complete accolades to the multimedia people, extremely powerful and successful audio/visual, streamlined, professional....excellent!

Her Highness Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al Missnad welcomed everyone in the opening. You can view her speech highlights on YouTube. She spoke in Arabic, which was no problem as a sophisticated headphone set wirelessly connected to translators is provided in all rooms. She spoke about opportunities and sustainable development, about innovation being a sustainable culture and how innovation should be its very nature stem from education and be a part of education and is in fact a condition for international peace.

The newly appointed Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova spoke next (her first day on the job! and also on UNESCO's 64th birthday). She spoke about education needing profound innovations, with ongoing dialogue. She urged an interdisciplinary approach and stated teachers were a top priority for UNESCO and adequate training was needed to meet the 21st century demands.

Dr Abdulla bin Al-Thani, Chairman of WISE and Vice-President of Education, Qatar Foundation also spoke about his expectation that the event will foster debate that will give rise to action. He also quoted (and I forget the source!), "Knowledge is of the past, Wisdom is of the future', with the message to make the most of our sessions together to share knowledge in order to become 'WISE'.

There is talk about Qatar Foundation wanting outcomes that are tangible and realistic, although specifics have not been detailed. Of the four sessions we all attended 2 were plenary and 2 were breakouts. The discussion at the breakouts was mature, sometimes intense, sometimes self-motivated or self-serving, but always with the objective of reaching out and connecting in order to make better more secure networks and liaisons for future development.

My final thoughts on Day 1
There is a missed opportunity here to create a vibrant learning community using current and proven technology. Internet access has not been provided for regular attendees (media have a password to access the WLAN). I have asked for access as an 'international blogger' but was told I had to pay for it, so Day 2 this is what I will probably do. However, it strikes me as odd that here we are talking about innovation in education and yet we are not modeling it in terms of gathering participants into an online educational network, encouraging online interaction and discussion and building forums and groups that can act as launching pads for the next 12 months of discussion and action leading to another WISE event. At the end of the breakout sessions people were asking, well what happens now? How do we connect with others in the room to sustain the conversation and start to act on what we proposed or suggested? Will the session chair person contact us? How will he know how to find us?
I really missed having a backchannel, being able to use Twitter and just being online during the sessions. Sitting with Tom Barrett, who has a media PW and was online, I felt like a poor cousin, and (shock, horror) so easily slipped into taking notes with pen and paper! I have not done this for years.....but felt a little odd with a laptop when 99.9% of participants did not have one!

My radical suggestion based on Day 1 WISE
Don't get me wrong here, I am enthralled and honoured to be in Qatar at this event, to be representing my school in Beijing, Beijing (BISS) International School, and to be representing Flat Classroom, however wouldn't it have been interesting if as we all arrived at WISE we were given a NetBook (I do not think this is outrageous...bulk buy at a cheaper price, they have already spent millions on this event anyway), full access to the Internet via WLAN and full instructions on how to join and be active in an online educational network! Imagine the possibilities. QF could design their own, or use a Ning, or ELGG, or whatever.....but to provide this from the outset....or better still get us signed up as a condition of registration to the event!

OK, out of time, have to get in the bus and embrace Day 2 WISE. So much more to say from Day 1...will have to wait. Follow the action on Twitter, and through the hash tag #wise09, and the WISE official YouTube channel.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Becoming WISE in Qatar - Day 1

Here I am back in Doha, Qatar after a personal invitation to attend the WISE event. (World Innovation Summit For Education). Also here, so I found out through Twitter late last night, is Alan Levine, Tom Barrett....and 100's of others!
I have a wonderful room at the fairly new Grand Hyatt Hotel, with a balcony overlooking the pool area and towards the Pearl. Photos above taken just now from my balcony.

What an amazing event! At last I will see and hear Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al Missned, the Leader of innovation and education here in Doha. I can't believe I lived here for 2 years and worked at Qatar Academy, and for a time taught her son, but did not see her in person once, however this morning she will be opening the WISE event in person!
The program is full of plenary and breakout sessions. This is one of the the think-tank events of the year globally. I am honoured to be a part of it.

In addition, my friend and colleague Vicki Davis (who was also invited to attend but could not get away from the USA), were shortlisted out of 100's of entries for a WISE award in the Pluralism section for our Flat Classroom projects and Conference. Really looking forward to meeting the finalists this week.

Follow the action on Twitter, and through the hash tag #wise09, and the WISE official YouTube channel.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Across My Desk (weekly)

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

Monday, November 02, 2009

Join the Flat Classroom Workshop in India, 2010

The next Flat Classroom Workshop will be held in Mumbai next February at the ASB Unplugged Conference. If you are interested in joining us, classrooms globally are invited to apply to bring students. Read the details on the Flat Classroom Conference wiki and then fill in the online Registration form. Deadline is November 15th for applications.

Why should you bother to bring students and educators to a 'Flat Classroom Workshop?'
The recent success at the Flat Classroom Workshop in Hong Kong, blogged about me here and here and by Kim Cofino here, shows how a project-based action workshop is pedagogically significant and provides a learning adventure into 21st Century working modes using emerging technologies.

Vicki Davis and I are joining forces along with our friend and colleague, Bernajean Porter, to run an amazing event in Mumbai and know this is going to be a great success, just as the original Flat Classroom Conference in Qatar was last January. However we do need cultural diversity and we do need forward looking schools to seize this opportunity to sign up and bring students to Mumbai.

Need more information?
We invite you read student and teacher comments and view more multimedia reflections at 'Flat Classroom Participants Speak Up'.


Find more videos like this on Flat Classroom Conference
Anne Mirtschin, flat classroom teacher and advisor, put together this video based on the 'three words' request from participants in Qatar's event.

Flat Classroom live events are significant because:
- they immerse participants in addressing a global issue in a project-based format
- they use emerging technologies and Web 2.0 tools to connect, communicate and collaborate
- they not only talk about flattened learning modes but practice them e.g. including virtual participants, live video streaming sessions to the world, use of a globally available backchannel
- they encourage students and teachers to work alongside each other with a common goal
- they foster digital citizenship and digital literacy
- they promote best practice methods for coming up with ideas, pitching those ideas and turning them into viable solutions to identified problems

Are you convinced now this is THE workshop to be involved with? The place to bring students for cultural interaction and a chance to hone in on a global issue and use emerging technologies to solve it as a learning community?
OK, now read the details on the Flat Classroom Conference wiki and then fill in the online Registration form.
Deadline is November 15th for applications.

All inquiries to