This blog post is in response to an invitation from Jeff Plaman at International School Beijing's 7 Steps Towards 21st Century Education Ning, to write about global collaboration in order to raise awareness of possibilities and to share my enthusiasm for making connections and working across boundaries and borders. I often write about connective living as an educator, eg A Day in the Life, and try to emphasise the need to develop a personal learning network in order to make these connections happen. It is through connections and communications using Web 2.0 and other tools that collaboration opportunities can emerge.
I am often asked how I got started in global collaborative projects, and I am then asked how others can come on board as well. My history in classroom Internet-based, global goes back about 12 years with Global SchoolNet and Cyberfair, iEARN, and now more recently co-developing Flat Classroom Projects. However let's not drag up the past, let's focus on NOW and how the reader of this blog (You!) can get involved by joining and/or creating a 21st century global project, and all that entails!
Please note this is written specifically from my point of view and includes the work and projects I have been involved in so is therefore fairly narrow, but at the same time I think progressive.
The ability to connect, communicate and collaborate with educators and students in all parts of the world using common online tools has changed the way I teach in the classroom, as well as changed the way I work as an administrator. A 21st century educator is connected, communicates in a reliable and responsible way, and 'flattens' the walls of their classroom in appropriate ways to enhance the educational learning experience of all. Therefore, every topic, every unit of work, every opportunity needs to be reviewed in terms of how it can be made relevant through external contact and collaboration. Gone are the days where it was too difficult to bring the world into the room. You, the teacher, are only limited by your imagination! With tools such as Skype, wikis, blogs, Elluminate etc there is no excuse for not staging a real-time or asynchronous link-up to support your curriculum objectives. There is also no excuse any more for not participating in a global project, a more deliberated, designed, planned and executed approach to collaboration via the Internet.
I have written many times in the past about the concept of global collaboration.
- How to Flatten Your Classroom talks about taking that first step by connecting with others, then taking the next step and implementing a project
- Beyond the 'wow': Embed the flat learning experience for sustainability talks about going beyond the 'wow' factor and engagement and pedagogical shift
- Our flat classroom workshop outline via this blog post, and via our workshop wiki
Power and Practice
I equate practice with power. If you are practicing collaboration you have the power to change the world, one classroom at a time. The power of learning in a social and extended context, yet in a safe and supportive environment is achievable. I think sometimes schools and teachers give up too easily, put this in the 'too hard' basket too readily. Some blog posts about this include:
- My 2020 Vision for Global Collaboration, where I give more of the history of my involvement in global, collaborative projects, and talk about the ideals of embedding this into the curriculum, develop digital citizenship skills, unblock tools etc
- The Year of Global Collaboration 3.0, where I talk about the evolution of global collaboration to the 3.0 status. Let me copy the main points again here:
- Fully engaged teachers who communicate with all participants (other teachers and other students)
- Use of Web 2.0 tools for communication and interaction (networking) and for creation
- Different global classrooms work together on a theme/project and become one classroom
- Common assessment objectives
- High expectations for connectivity and collaboration on teachers and students (it is not enough to email once a week!)
- Extended community partners included in the project (other educators, experts)
- Output may be individual or class/school based but includes input from others
- Output uses multimedia and attempts to make a difference to the immediate or extended environment
- Teacher and/or student initiated, student-centered learning
Further to the idea of practice here are a list of resources for the Flat Classroom Projects over the past 2+ years
- Portal for all Flat Classroom Projects, including Horizon Project, Digiteen and the new Net Generation Education project with Don Tapscott
- Flat Classrooms Ning: an educational network for educators
- Flat Classroom Conference Ning
Also, here is a current presentation showing the 7 Steps to a Flat Classroom
The magic of collaboration comes from seeing students and teachers find their own voice and take charge of their own learning. It comes from being given choices and ownership and empowerment of their learning path. In the blog post "The conference that changed lives" I share the amazing power of bringing together people from around the world, students and teachers who came to Qatar for a face-to-face gathering and the magic that occurred before, during and after this event. This post also shares the 4 student videos that came from the winning teams, and is witness to the power of collaboration of strangers. The video that opens the Flat Classroom Conference, found on the Ning, details the development of a collaboration between myself and Vicki Davis that has changed our lives, created a pedagogically significant body of work, and encouraged others globally to reach out and make this happen.
Finally, I think the recent blog post "Take One Hour to Go Beyond Reflections", comes towards sharing the impact and true magic of global collaboration, when it shares artifacts and responses to the Flat Classroom Conference event.
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