Thursday, March 01, 2012

Building Bridges to Tomorrow - A New K-2 Global Project Takes Flight!

At 7pm in Beijing, 3am in west-coast Nth America, and after midnight in New Zealand, a group of over 30 excited educators gathered in the virtual meeting space, Blackboard Collaborate. They came with the fierce determination to connect and make better sense of the world through providing opportunities for their students that go beyond the four walls of the classroom. They cam to build understanding of life beyond the immediate environment and also build community through regular connection and collaboration and by sharing between classrooms. Nearly half of the teachers gathered had not participated in a global project before, but they had signed up for this first ever Flat Classroom K-2 level adventure, the pilot of 'Building Bridges to Tomorrow', our very new and very adventurous global project for lower elementary students.

This project has been a long time coming. Vicki Davis and I have talked about it often, knowing that there was a piece missing in our set of projects that started for Grade 3 and went up right through High School. What about the very young students? Can they experience connection and collaboration in a meaningful way? Can they communicate and learn more about the world and, more importantly co-create products? What will this look like? What does global collaboration look like at this level? Can we really hope to achieve a Global Collaborative 3.0 project? (3.0 is where teachers and students are connected throughout the project in an ongoing, regular and meaningful way thereby 'flattening' the classroom walls on an almost daily basis).

Lower elementary level is certainly not my expertise! I admire teachers who can manage and thrive in this environment. I did once teach Grade 2, when I was in Kuwait many years ago. That year I taught Grade 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11 Computers, and for good measure, because they said I was 'under allotted' I was given Grade 2 music! To my horror the students would come rushing into class (all girls) and grab my legs and put sticky fingers on the piano.......I dreaded every lesson! Anyway, let's not get sidetracked........

Building Bridges to Tomorrow has attracted over 40 classrooms to join the pilot. In fact, after one week after opening the applications we had to quickly close! So many amazing educators from all parts of the world have signed up, shown up and started to connect after our meeting this week. Wonderful teachers from Turkey, Russia, Thailand, Singapore, China, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and USA are excitedly joining our places and spaces and grouping together to work through this project. We are delighted to have working with us as expert advisors, and bringing their own classrooms in are Maria Knee, Kathy Cassidy and Amanda Marrinan, all ISTE Award winning teachers at the Pk-2 level. We are extremely honored to be working with such dedicated and inspiring practitioners who also want to push the boundaries of collaborative learning. Also working with us on the 'steering team' for this pilot are Flat Classroom Certified teachers Betsye Sargent, Elvina Tong, and Anne Mirtschin.

Right now teachers are connecting via the K-2 group on our Flat Classrooms Ning, and the project wiki has just been setup. Classrooms are being grouped into 3's or 4's as sub-groups of the project and given one of these themes to work with:
  • How We Play,
  • Celebrating Together,
  • Going to School,
  • Part of a Family,
  • Making a Meal,
  • Sharing Stories,
  • The View from the Window - All do this one
We are discussing outcomes such as:
  • Co-created product from mixed classrooms
  • E-Book creation - to be shared via a variety of devices
  • Multimedia product eg Voicethread, Glogster
  • Parent/school presentation - school assembly? Parent conference session? Open classroom?
 Meanwhile the challenge this week is to create a handshake activity that will introduce the teachers and students to each other in the smaller group. Our teacher meeting next week will bring these handshake ideas together for sharing. 

Opening the 'Bridges to Tomorrow' teacher kick-off meeting with many teachers from around the world

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