Sunday, May 30, 2010

Across My Desk (weekly)

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

Outside My Window May 30, 2010. Spring in Beijing

'Spring', with leaves on trees, and an unusually blue, clear sky, greets me this morning. The camera view from my third-floor study window is aimed towards the sky today. On the ground people are out and about on bikes, walking, running, enjoying this excellent weather and climate. Later today we will be at the Great Wall joining others for a sunset walk with a view to taking photos. More about that later.....enjoy your Sunday, wherever you are in the world.

 Capital Paradise rooftops, Shunyi, Beijing, China

The Flat Classroom™: Mobile and Ubiquitous

The Flat Classroom™: Mobile and Ubiquitous
Article for AALF newsletter, April 2010
Written by Julie Lindsay and Vicki Davis
(cross-posted with the AALF article online)

"Imagine the possibilities if we brought students together from different areas of the world for a summit that challenged them to break through cultural misunderstandings, that challenged them to envision solutions for a better world", said co-founder Julie Lindsay, then Head of E-Learning at Qatar Academy.
"If virtual connections via global projects can promote enhanced understanding and a world view, think what a face-to-face opportunity might bring".
With this aim, the first Flat Classroom live event in Qatar saw students coming to the Middle East from geographically diverse locations. Students of different nationalities, from varying socio-economic groups and diverse school systems came to find out how to flatten their learning through cultural exchange and the use of emerging technologies. 

In the words of Edgar from Ethiopia, "It's about connecting, about bridging, about different communities. Learning is not always about 1+1, learning about different cultures and the world as a whole is really important, and it helps to make the world more of a global village". Within one hour of the first student workshop, laptops had been distributed, essential Web 2.0 tools explored and, with the help of a building-wide, robust wireless network at Qatar Academy, a backchannel opened to connect those face-to-face with each other as well as with those participating virtually. Conversation was prolific as students chatted for real and online about the challenges they were being asked to take on while virtual participants contributed ideas, resources and support. At that point in time we realised the power of social learning, of allowing learners access to tools to support exploration, connections and collaboration that lead to creations that make a difference to the world as we know it.

"We don't all ride camels, you know."
"We don't all act like that comedian Jeff Foxworthy says - we're not all red-necks in South Georgia."
I smiled as I saw the two students instant messaging as they worked on the Flat Classroom™ project.  "For some reason, students have a hunger and a desire to blast through stereotypes and it is often their first order of business before getting down to some very intense learning," says co-founder Vicki Davis of this incident.

This is exactly what Flat Classroom projects are about.  As we've hosted almost twenty projects and three face to face events, students are telling us that they've used social media to improve their social lives and now they are ready to improve their academic lives.  Learning is becoming mobile and ubiquitous (everywhere) for these students. A new pedagogy is evolving that incorporates true global collaboration where students are partners with those in other classrooms.  Rigorous technological abilities are coupled with digital citizenship, and a challenge-based interdisciplinary learning environment.

The Flat Classroom™ Project is a global collaborative project that joins together middle and senior high school students. This project is part of the emerging trend in internationally-aware schools to embrace a holistic and constructivist educational approach to work collaboratively with others around the world in order to create students who are competitive and globally-minded. The project was co-founded by Vicki Davis (Westwood Schools, USA) and Julie Lindsay (Beijing (BISS) International School, China) in 2006 when Julie (then in Bangladesh) and Vicki joined their classrooms together for the first time to study and emulate the emerging flattened learning environment. The Flat Classroom Project 2006 is featured in Chapter 13
(pages 501-503), 'If it's not happening it's because you're not doing it', of the 2007 edition of Thomas Friedman's book, The World is Flat' upon which it was based.

One of the main goals of the project is to 'flatten' or lower the classroom walls so that instead of each class working isolated and alone, 2 or more classes are joined virtually to become one large classroom. This is done through the Internet using Web 2.0 tools such as Wikispaces and Ning. The Project uses Web 2.0 tools to make communication and interaction between students, teachers, expert advisers, class sounding boards and other participants easier. The topics studied and discussed are real-world scenarios based on 'The World is Flat' by Thomas Friedman.

Embedding social learning into the mainstream curriculum: the pedagogy of the Flat Classroom

The use of social networking technologies is pedagogically relevant. Combined with an holistic and multicultural approach the walls of a classroom can be broken down. Our experience with the Flat Classroom Project has reinforced the approach that learning takes place in many different ways, times and places.  It also shows us that the research that emphasizes the effectiveness of cooperative learning, genuine assessment, and project-based learning can occur when students are literally on opposite sides of the globe.  The benefits of such a project are far-reaching. Social learning theory and research has shown us that sociability of online learning combined with interaction can help promote understanding.
Our highly connected world gives educators the global imperative to connect our people. Flat Classroom™ Projects have the power to produce world-class students with a world view, based on understanding, and not misinformed bias from the media. It will require many hard-working, well informed, ethical, diligent teachers and visionary administrators to give them the framework to operate.

Elements of the project include: 
  • deeper understanding of the effects of technology on our world that leads students to not only study but actually experience the ‘flatteners' 
  • students are grouped with global partners to explain trends, give personal viewpoints and create a video containing an outsourced video segment from their global partners. 
  • use of an educational networking platform (eg Ning), blogging, posting photos, videos etc and and a collaborative environment (eg wiki), to connect, collaborate and create 
  • assessment based on a common criterion based rubric 
  • real-life flavours of deadlines, accountability and interdependence 
  • completed personal videos which are then judged by global educators 
  • a concluding student summit, using a virtual classroom (eg Elluminate), to share and reflect
Further projects have developed since the original Flat Classroom Project in 2006. These include Digiteen (digital citizenship focus for Middle School), NetGen Education Project (in conjunction with Don Tapscott, and uses the Eight NetGen Norms from his book 'Grown Up Digital', in conjunction with the most recent Horizon Report on emerging technologies); and Eracism, (our newest project, developed as a result of the winning student pitch and video at the Flat Classroom Conference in Qatar, 2009), piloted as a global debate between lower Middle School classrooms.

Flat Classroom Conference and Events 
In addition to a series of regularly offered global projects (some are now offered 3 times per year), Flat Classroom co-founders now also run workshops and a biennial conference.  The aim of getting together in the one place is to fully extend and foster connections and collaborations that will ultimately improve classroom practice and pedagogical approach using technology as part of a global flat classroom.

The first Flat Classroom Conference held in Doha, Qatar January 2009, changed lives and cast a vision for the future of education.  Students, educators and leaders came from over 20 countries to learn how to flatten the classroom walls using emerging technologies.  Students were immersed in a challenge-based project that asked them to go beyond their comfort zones by working with team members from different cultures. Through an envisioning process teams created ideas on how to join classrooms together and improve understanding globally. These ideas were pitched to educators for feedback, then refined into a final presentation put up to an international vote. The top 3 teams then spent time developing their idea further and using multimedia to do a final pitch. It was through this process that the idea for Eracism was born, and became a reality as a global project 6 months later.

Since then Flat Classroom Workshops have been held in Hong Kong and Mumbai. These have included student and educator teams, working on ideas such as the 'digital divide' and 'opening up education' and challenging themselves to devise exciting ways to improve opportunities for learning globally.

In February 2011 the Flat Classroom Conference will be held in Beijing, China. The conference will provide opportunities for leaders in education, classroom teachers (pre-service and in-service) and administrators as well as students to learn with and from each other in a 'flat classroom' model. It is envisaged the workshop / conference experience will culminate in actions that are then shared around the world and sustained by continued projects based on community and curriculum needs.  Laptops and other mobile devices, in conjunction with access to wireless connectivity, as standard requirements for these live events, provide access to virtual and global participants as well. This virtual participation piece in addition to the live 'face-to-face' events includes interaction with, and in fact immersion into teams and development of ideas, and is a unique 'flattening' model in itself. Not only are sessions video streamed out to the world, but a ubiquitous backchannel, along with Skype, and Elluminate virtual classrooms provide immediate and purposeful connections between workshop participants. Cemented by the use of wiki technology for collaborative authoring, and essential multimedia tools for video sharing, participants brain-storm, research, collaborate, create and evaluate alongside their 'real' members just as well as alongside their 'virtual' team members.

Flat Classroom Projects and events are transforming learning through global collaboration and building the bridges that tomorrow's society will walk across. Is there a global collaboration in your future?

Flat Classroom co-founders, Julie Lindsay and Vicki Davis have been featured in various media for their flat classroom set of projects, including Thomas Friedman's, The World is Flat, Don Tapscott's Book, Grown Up Digital, Curtis Bonk's Book The World is Open, Suzie Boss and Jayne Krauss' Reinventing Project Based Learning, Lawrence Peters' Global Education, and media outlets such as the Wall Street Journal, and the Boston Globe. They also write often for a global audience via their blogs and educational networks.
Julie Lindsay, E-Learning Coordinator, Beijing (BISS) International School
Vicki Davis, Director of Technology, Westwood Schools, Camilla, Georgia, USA


More information about Flat Classroom Projects can be found at
We invite educators to join our Flat Classrooms educational network and find global classrooms to interact with
Our Flat Classroom Conference and events website is at Come and join us in Beijing, February 2011!
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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Across My Desk (weekly)

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

Personal information, privacy, digital citizenship and education

(This post is paraphrased from a response given as part of a Web 2 in the IB classroom course. The original material is private therefore I cannot share it here)

I have been part of some interesting online discussions recently about students and what we should be encouraging/allowing them to post online. This is an important discussion to be having in our schools, and classrooms and with teh wider community. We need to find a balance between providing 21C learning opportunities for educators and their students and maintaining privacy through effective digital citizenship. I do not have a real problem with students putting related personal information online, within guidelines, as I fully believe we should be encouraging this and promoting best practice digital footprints/portfolios globally. There is no real point in hiding, the students deserve to have a global audience and to be learning how to manage this online identity. I believe this concept of what is 'personal information' has now evolved. In our flat classroom projects we do not encourage last names or telephone numbers, however in a recent project one classroom posted full student names. When queried the teacher informed us the parents had all given permission for this information to go online (an enlightened school? Does it really matter?). 

Emerging technologies allow others to find out about 'us' in many and varied ways. The important aspect to this is for students to understand how this works and, guided by their parents and teachers, be able to make their own decisions about what is public and what is private.
YouTube are VERY good now at taking material down if it breaches copyright. There was also a great segment on Click Online (Did you know they have over 1.7 million followers on Twitter??)this week about a blogger who has his account deleted because Google claimed he had breached copyright too many times. Copyright vs Fair Use is also another conversation that MUST be happening in schools and classrooms.

There are some further resources that you may wish to read about this:
What is your school's position on putting personal information online?  What about putting their learning online through a digital portfolio?  At BISS we are exploring digital portfolios and have completed a pilot implementation, with a full implementation starting next year for Grades 6-10.  More about this in a future blog post, I am working on this now!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A Vision for a School Library

What does a library of the future look like?  Where can I find one??
At a recent staff meeting at Beijing (BISS) International School we were asked to encourage students to borrow more books. We seem to have a good stock of books, but statistically student borrowing has dropped off. In particular the Middle and High school levels, the students who this year are fully 1:1 laptop, are not bothering to borrow books. Often they browse, read and research from books while at school, but the actual borrowing has dropped off. Our librarian is concerned, our Director is baffled. The 'borrow a book today' mantra has started. However, the reality is we are looking at what our library should look like and be used for.....well I think that is what we are doing.  In response to an invitation to staff to share ideas for the BISS library, here is the email I sent to the admin team this week.

My Vision for a Library (in the future? or NOW?)
I believe we need to have a vision for what the library should look 5 years and also 10 years from now. A library in the 21st century is not all about books. A library should be the heart of a school community. It should provide spaces and places for meeting, communicating, collaborating and creating.
  • A library is not all about ‘reading’ it is about vibrancy, discussion, research, multimedia.
  • A library is about IDEAS.
  • A library is about community
Our concerns with ‘books’ not being used, in my humble opinion, is miss-guided. What we really need to be investigating is the habit and evolution of ‘reading’. If books are not being borrowed does this mean students are NOT reading OR does it mean they are reading different things and different formats?
We need to analyse and come to a better understanding of the impact of technology, and in particular our 1:1 implementation in the Secondary School, on students and their media habits. Asking students to be using books more may not be the answer, and in fact may be a reactionary approach.
  • Maybe we need to reduce the number of books on shelves to provide room for better designed spaces e.g. ‘sound-proofed’ smaller areas where 4-5 people can plug a laptop into a large flat screen and collaborate over research or other online/multimedia task
  • Maybe we need to set up podcasting stations and higher-end computers for enhanced video work in areas that all can access, not just in specialist rooms
  • Maybe we need to initiate more discussions based on the reading material available, eg latest magazines and encourage higher order thinking through interaction with other communities and libraries via video conferencing and virtual classrooms
I believe the evolution of the library in a K-12 learning environment should be dictated by the vision for learning held by school owners and administrators. In the 21st century this vision must include development based on the impact of emerging technologies and on the need for a vibrant hub with a community focus and with a ‘flattened’ perspective and practice on using, re-using, and synthesizing information in order to create something new and innovative.

My 2 cents worth....thanks for reading 

In response to the above email, the Director of BISS has asked that I find a visionary library (preferably in Beijing) so that we can visit and model.  I am looking for best practice libraries; libraries and librarians with vision and the means to deign and plan around that vision, with support from their school community.

What does a library of the future look like?  Where can I find one??
Please share your ideas an resources via comments to this post.  Pictures?  Share those as well.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Across My Desk (weekly)

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

Sunday, May 09, 2010

"The Student Perspective: Will it be done by you or to you?"

Consider the aspects of Thomas L. Friedman's 'Flat World.' Will you allow the future to be done to you or by you? What implications does the flat world have for your future?

This is what students at Mount Carmel Area High School, PA in the USA considered when they produced, in conjunction with their teacher Suzue Nestico, the Flat Classroom Project 10-2 Keynote video. 

This work will leave you with no doubt that students are more and more immersed in a flattened learning environment. Their discussion about connecting and communicating and creating products that make a difference is inspiring. They also bring in the impact the trip to attend a Flat Classroom Workshop in India recently had on them as a school.

Find more videos like this on Flat Classroom Project

This video is also available on YouTube

Each Flat Classroom Project has a keynote with the aim of providing further stimulus for discussion and interaction within and amongst the participating classrooms. This is the first time the FCP has invited students or a class to keynote, and we are delighted with the impact it is having!

Some student comments on the Ning so far:
From Jordan J:  "This project allows us to reach out and interact with people all over the world, which previously could not be done. Flatclassroom is preparing us for the real world by forcing us to meet new people and learn more about the Internet, which is the future. We are now accomplishing tasks that were never imaginable."

From Karen B:  "The world is getting so much smarter now, and so much more technologically advanced, and I think the Flat Classroom Project is such a great example. It's been said before, and it will be said again: the technology and things that we have available online are so helpful- libraries of information to be accessed with the click of a button, and it's a great means of communication that take milliseconds to get to the other side of this "flat" world. I also think that as these means of communication get more and more advanced, this project is going to keep changing as well, to make use of the things that make the world flat."

From Amanda C: "This video helped me to better understand the purpose of the flat classroom project. I am still a little confused as to how go about performing all of the necessary tasks to successfully complete it, however, this video made me realize that world is changing, and as result, it is becoming flat. A flat world is when everyone can communicate with each other, no matter where they are located. I think that this is very important because it will give everyone the opportunity to work with different people and hear their ideas on certain topics. In the future, this type of communication will most definitely continue to impact me, as well as everyone else in the world."

Readers of this blog are also invited to share their comments here or by joining the Flat Classroom Project Ning and responding to the video.
Some guiding questions to get you started:
  1. What does a 'flat world' mean to you?
  2. Friedman states, "Whatever can be done, will be done...." What technologies is he talking about here? How important is innovation and creativity to get things done?
  3. Why is it important for student to have the opportunity to connect and collaborate with others globally? How can this change the world for the better?
  4. What implications does the flat world have for your future?
Thanks you Mount Carmel High students, and thank you Suzie for providing this inspiration.

Across My Desk (weekly)

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

Monday, May 03, 2010

Innovator in Education Award for E-Learning Journey's!

E-Learning Journey's Awarded as a Top 50 Innovator in Education

April 12th, 2010, Philadelphia, PA – E-Learning Journey's has recently been honored to receive’s Education Innovator Award. The Education Innovator Award recognizes the top 50 Internet-based resources that contribute to the advancement of learning into new and innovative formats. By promoting the emerging trends in education, E-Learning Journey's facilitates such change by building on traditional techniques while embracing new tools for sharing information and encouraging the desire to learn.
E-Learning Journey's epitomizes the role of an educational pioneer, as it engages students, educators and parents alike, and highlights the myriad of educational opportunities available today. The Education Innovator Award recognizes E-Learning Journey's exploration of new educational methods, as this willingness to embrace new learning formats truly embodies the innovator spirit. To view more about the award, visit the eCollegeFinder Education Innovator Award page.
Getting ahead in today's competitive job market requires you to advance your education and knowledge. helps students find the right online degrees, offering a wide
range of Bachelor’s, Master’s and PhD degrees as well as specialized certificates and diplomas from the top accredited online colleges and universities.

Top 50 Education Innovator Award - Online Colleges

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Across My Desk (weekly)

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

Outside My Window: May 2, 2010

Spring is here in Beijing!  At last we are having some warm weather. Although you cannot see it in this picture, the tall trees towards the back are today shedding their seeds and we have 'snow' via fluff blowing everywhere!
Blossom trees and petunias and pansy's, and sunshine!