Sunday, November 01, 2009

Reflection on Flat Classroom Workshop HK: Part 2

(This is the second part of a 2-part blog series on the Flat Classroom Workshop held in Hong Kong, September 2009)

The Flat Classroom Workshop was held as a strand of the 21st Century Learning Conference in Hong Kong, September 2009.
This blog post attempts to discuss the SIGNIFICANCE of what we did in HK and attempts to reflect on where we got to from here.
Part 1 of the series described what we did at the workshop and shares multimedia.

Flat Classroom co-founders Julie Lindsay and Vicki Davis ran a very successful Flat Classroom Conference in Qatar in January 2009. A short video documentary shares the philosophy and practice of this event.

Recently Julie was joined by Kim Cofino to run the Flat Classroom Workshop in Hong Kong at the 21st Century Learning Conference. At this event students and teachers were put into teams (separately) and worked on a challenge-based project to solve identified issues to do with the digital divide. All information concerning the program, presentations and team interactions, including multimedia of outcomes and reflections can be found on the Flat Classroom Workshop Hong Kong wiki. A culmination to the 2.5 days was a student-led 30 min. presentation to the entire conference cohort of teachers and leaders.

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 streaming of 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

The workshop in Hong Kong was especially significant because:
- for the first time we allocated educators into their own teams and they followed the same program as the students. We had 7 student teams and 3 adult teams. The expectation was the same for all. Due to mixed commitments some educators were not able to stay for the entire time, and teams had people coming and going which tended to disrupt the flow of the work. Interestingly when it came to the first plenary session where the teams 'pitched' their solutions to volunteers from the main conference strand, it was one of the educator teams who started to panic saying they were not ready! Our response: well, if this was a student team in YOUR classroom, would you make them do it? Hmm......the continuation of the story is the team got themselves together, pitched their idea, found their second wind and in fact was the most successful (in terms of the final international vote) educator team!
- On the last day we witnessed an interesting interaction between the adults and students. This day we divided the participants into two groups: Those who had been voted internationally as the most likely to have their solution implemented, and the remainder who were charged with putting together the final 30-min. presentation to the entire conference. So, the latter consisted of adults and students and started their day brainstorming what the final event would look like and what material they needed to record and edit to pull this off. As a combined group the dynamics quickly changed to the educators dominating the conversation, the students not having the power to take charge, and potential decisions being made based on adult ideas. The enthusiasm of the adults was great! However, their ability to let go and allow and 'equal' chance for the students to find their own voice and leadership within a mixed group was not evident. Kim and I were quick to realise what was going on and managed to diffuse a potentially destructive working environment quickly by separating the educators out to focus on something different - finding a way to include the virtual team members in the presentation. Kim speaks about this also on here excellent post-workshop blog reflection.
- The virtual team members and advisors were well organised and made a tremendous difference to the workshop itself by 'being there' for the teams and in a lot of cases contributing to the development of ideas and solutions, including contributing multimedia for the final presentation. This virtual participation adds a whole other dimension to the workshop and 'flattens' the learning experience further

Further resources from the 21st Century Learning Conference have been posted, including a conference report, thanks to the 21CHK committee.

So, where do we go from here?
We know that the Flat Classroom Workshop has pedagogical significance and is an excellent model for action-based projects supported by the use of emerging technologies. We know this offers educators and students a chance to be immersed in a learning environment that promotes leadership, collaboration, and higher order thinking leading to significant outcomes. We know it is a chance for enhanced cultural understanding and to make new friends globally. We also know it works very well as a face-to-face event supported also by virtual team members and participants. We will continue to implement flat classroom workshops and refine and develop them for specific needs and places.

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 in November 15th for applications.

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