Saturday, February 07, 2009

Take One Hour to go Beyond Reflections

How will we remember it? How can we even start to put it into words that capture what really happened and how we all felt about the Flat Classroom Conference? I recommend you take 1 hour to absorb this blog post and everything it contains.

It all started with.........

Then it continued for 2 and a half days.......

Jeff Utecht, presenter and flat classroom colleague talks about empowering students, Paul McMahon, facilitator and flat classroom 'newbie' talks about the right people in the right place at the right time, while Anne Mirtschin, flat classroom teacher who brought her class to Qatar, talks about Doha through the senses.

Meanwhile on the Flat Classroom Conference Ning, student and teacher reflections from real-time and virtual participants are coming in, as blog posts, as comments and as multimedia.

I think the opening shot of this FlatConf_wrap, co-produced by media and film expert and conference consultant, Frank Guttler, and the Film Studies students as a taster for what will emerge in the next month after they have worked through the 38 hours of video footage taken over 3 days!, starts the reflection....with a juxtaposition of 'old' and 'new', a traditional mosque with the modern Aspire tower.

Find more videos like this on Flat Classroom Conference

Meanwhile, I continue to contemplate the students and how they seized the opportunity to overcome differences and unite for a common cause, and how their example in attitude and practice has now set the standard for future flat classroom events. I remember the tentative greetings on the first day, the shyness and awkwardness seen so often in young (and old) when they first meet. I remember the last dinner where we took them to TGI Fridays (very traditional !) and how we struggled to get them all back on the buses to leave, how they had bonded, became friends in 3 days through the unique set of experiences they had shared. I was told the next day that rousing choruses of national anthems took place during the bus trip back to the hotel...I wish I had been there.

I wish also I had not been quite so busy during the event and able to spend more time with the students, getting to know them as you get to know your own class. I will not forget the polite and fun-loving Omani's, the shy yet determined Pakistani's, the confident and diverse Ethiopians, the wide-eyed Australian's, the welcoming Qatari's, the intrepid Indians and the excited but wary Americans. (generalisations of the groups/classrooms from each fact we had over 20 nationalities represented by the students alone). I admire this video put together by Yaqsan as it starts to show the fun, the camaraderie, the variety of experiences, and the personalities!

Find more videos like this on Flat Classroom Conference

Then there is the teacher from Houston, Estie, who worked so hard to bring as many of her students to Qatar as she could. You MUST watch her video reflection in which she says, "These students stand on the brink of implementing real change through collaboration and creation" amongst other gems of wisdom and experience.

Find more videos like this on Flat Classroom Conference

And then there is this video made by Keith, a teacher from Ethiopia, with the student Edgar pre-and post flat classroom. This is one of my very favourites! Edgar exudes a certain maturity that we all aspire to when he talks about, "....connecting......bridging..different people in different communities...being able to discuss real the school from Georgia, after being exposed to other people and other cultures they really opened their eyes..learning is not necessarily learning about 1+1, learning about different cultures and about the world as a whole is really important and helps to make the world more of a global village"

Find more videos like this on Flat Classroom Conference

What else to include here?
We have teachers who were
awed, overcame their fears, reflected on returning to a mono-culture, shared encouraging comments and ideas for improvement, loved the Souq, celebrated being a community of learners, encouraged embedding best 'flat classroom' practice in the future, are inspired to take baby steps to get there, were inspired by Thomas Friedman.
We have parents
inspired and proud.
We have students who
wished the conference was longer, had a great time, presented virtually, gained confidence in public speaking, say you just had to be there, experienced being a minority, were amazed by their own generation, described, shared and documented.

In the words of teacher Heather Davis from China, "How four days can change a person's viewpoint and comfort zone. I leave with a understanding that no stereotypes actual exist but are created by the media and by fear. I leave with an understanding that people all over the world are the same though the clothes and cultures may be different. A love of family, country, and friends exists in all nations. A desire for a better world, a desire to solve our global problems together, a desire for information and education and a desire to share openly and willingly exists. I leave with an appreciation of the elegance of the traditional dress. I leave with memories of laughter as we all shared common experiences. I leave with the memories of the beautiful friendly eyes of the Qatari woman who were veiled, of their help and their willingness to help. I have memories of an incredible sense of fashion, beauty and a love of family. I learned to appreciate the flowing scroll of the Arabic language as I saw it written beside trademarks such as Carrefour, McDonalds, Burger King, KFC, Mercedes, Valentino and Gucci."

and later Heather says, "I also learned to begin to hope again. To see promise in the future. The students who came to Qatar were not just a part of the conference but led the way. It gives me new focus and a determination to move forward and create authentic global connections with and for myself and my students."

In the words of Salim Al-Busaidi, the teacher from Oman, "I think the students have proved that they are real leaders and the teachers have successfully contributed to preparing these leaders for the future."

So, reader of this blog post, if you have taken the hour that I recommended to read through reflections, watch videos and continue to explore the Ning, I am sure you have also gone 'beyond reflections' to find a depth and a set of experiences that are unique in the world as we know it today. Maybe you will join us for the next Flat Classroom Conference?

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice video and great conversations.