Thursday, August 28, 2014

Who says global collaboration is hard??

We do!! Here at Flat Connections we acknowledge the fact that embedding meaningful connections and authentic collaborations into the curriculum is not fact it is hard! 

We also acknowledge that because global collaboration is hard MOST teachers and schools are not doing it in any form - even the schools who have spent thousands of dollars or RMB or Riyals or pounds etc. on technology resources!

True global collaboration in the classroom needs a shift in teaching that allows teachers and students to 'flatten' the learning experience to bring the outside world in and put themselves out there - to build bridges for global empathy and create workable structures where all participants can learn with and not just from each other. But what does this all mean?

What are some barriers?
We all know what schools can be like, so let's list some of the deterrents to global collaboration:
  • Technology infrastructure - hardware, software, network - Is your school ready to collaborate globally? Do you have a supportive IT person? Can you have the tools you need for connections and collaboration? (e.g. Skype, Edmodo, Wikispaces, Google apps)
  • Technology access - Do you and your students have access to tools regularly so that you can connect and collaborate? Global collaboration does not mean you need to be a 1:1 or BYOD or BYOT school/classroom - many of us have done global collaboration with one computer, 30 students and a weak Internet connection - but you do need access every week and understand the responsibility of connecting with partners
  • Technology fluency - Are you and/or your students able to work with the technology to make your collaboration a success? Can you Skype or edit a wiki without stress? What other Web 2.0 tools can you or have you used that will support the global collaboration (e.g. Voicethread, Padlet). If not, do you have help with this?
  • Global digital citizenship skills - Are you and your students aware of what it means to be learning online? Have you discussed reliable and responsible use of online spaces? Do you have digital citizenship guidelines in place to support this in your school community? Have you met with parents and students to explain the objectives of collaborating beyond the classroom?
  • Non-conformity - Many schools do not encourage 'teacherpreneurs' or 'outliers'. This means, if for example, one grade 3 teacher wanted to do a global collaborative project, the ruling is that unless ALL grade 3 teachers can do it as well, then it is not possible. The usual scenario is the other teachers are NOT interested so therefore the collaboration is dropped....sound familiar?
  • The 'we are already collaborating and don't need anything more' approach - A deeper barrier to why more classrooms and schools are not collaborating globally is the lack of a shared understanding of what global collaboration is. More needs to be written about this, however the typical scenario is a classroom or school who may have a focus on a particular country or project that becomes all-consuming for a few, but in reality is non-involvement for most. Another scenario is a classroom or school who does video conferencing (rich learning experiences of course - includes regular Skype calls) but then never moves to the asynchronous collaborations that are ESSENTIAL when embedding curriculum objectives for global competency
  • No idea where to start - Yes! we really know what this feels like and there are many real solutions to this now. It all starts with teachers connecting themselves to like-minded educators and existing projects already running via places like The Global Classroom, Global Education Conference, Flat Connections....and more....
What are some enablers?
  •  Your PLN - Teachers who build a personal learning network will find other educators ready and willing to support them into global collaborative learning - this is such an important enabling step. Connecting your self as an educator (e.g. via Twitter, Google+, Ning communities etc) and being a reliable contributor to these communities (that doe NOT mean you contribute every day - but when you can, and when you need to) will launch you into 'globalness'
  • Finding a reliable partner(s) - How many of you have started to reach out globally, found a partner and then the project failed? We all know what this feels like - bur DO NOT give up! Learn, reflect, work out what to do better next time, find a more reliable partner(s) and try again
  • Learning standards and framework - Have you looked at these recently? Have you really looked? Don't they say things like 'intercultural understanding' or collaboration with others at a distance'? I am sure they do - so what are you doing about this? The occasional Skype call is NOT enough - meet with your curriculum or learning and teaching coordinator and discuss the possibilities - discussion and combined problem solving within a school is a BIG enabler to move forward globally
  • Curriculum design - To embed meaningful learning experiences into the curriculum takes some redesign and pre-planning. Global collaboration, like any other objective, needs careful design and preparation. This includes connecting and communicating with partner teachers in other places and determining the structure and timeline of the collaboration, the outcomes, the shared knowledge and the co-created products. Of course this enabler - such a wonderful juicy challenge for all educators - is often seen as a barrier (too hard, not allowed to 'change' the curriculum etc)
  • Web 2.0 tools - Yes! It has to be listed here that access to Web 2.0 tools is the bridge to collaborative learning. You will NOT be able to collaborate globally using a school-based learning management system (or Google apps just for your school) without difficulty. The beauty of Web 2.0 tools is they are mostly free. Not sure what these are - see Cool Tools for Schools for MANY examples

At Flat Connections we encourage all readers of this blog post who are in schools as teachers, leaders and administrators to consider how you can take your learning and your students learning global:
  • It is imperative
  • It is one of the major reasons for using mobile and ubiquitous digital technologies
  • It does support global awareness and competency and intercultural understanding - and we believe this is a GOOD thing, so good in fact that....
  • It will change the world - it already has for the many teachers and students who have taken the opportunity to connect and collaborate.

So much more to say......but for now......
We invite you to browse Flat Connections global projects (fully managed and supported projects for all levels of K-12), and  Flat Connections professional development (to learn more about how to take your learning global).

Related blog posts:
Intercultural understanding: Flat Connections meets the Australian curriculum
From this post written in early 2014:
It is with much anticipation that I am exploring the Australian National Curriculum (ANC) documents and becoming absorbed in the 'Intercultural Understanding' sections. As an IB (International Baccalaureate) teacher for 10 years, and a global educator, having taught across six different countries, I may have had more access to conversations and documents to do with intercultural understanding, cultural awareness, third culture kids, international mindedness, and cultural awareness than perhaps the average Australian teacher to date. It is certainly heartening to see a focus and emphasis on exploring how to recognise different cultures and develop respect now embedded into the relatively new national curriculum guidelines.
Collaboration: Concept, Power and Magic (some links are now dead on this older post from 2009). From this post:
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!

Beyond the Wow! - Embed the Flat learning experience for sustainability (an even older post from 2008 - but with similar sentiments). From this post:
I firmly believe in moving away from the 'wow' factor and embedding good practice into everyday teaching and learning. Therefore, even though the 'hook' for many classroom activities is the 'wow' e.g. meeting and learning with others who are not face to face in the same room, the aim is to make this mode of working normal so that an 'unflat' classroom becomes unusual. Yes, it can be a lot of work for teachers, it can be intimidating for students, it can also not be the most comfortable way that students/teenagers want to learn (initially) given other demands in their lives. However we are talking about a win-win situation here. We are talking about providing choices for learning, local and global interactions that are meaningful and support authentic problem solving.

Julie Lindsay
Please connect with me if you have questions:


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Global Education Highlights (weekly)

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

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Starting your journey as a global educator

Are you interested in getting your classroom involved globally? Are you interested in trying something innovative, fun, exciting, and challenging with your classroom? Are you looking to further your connections and professional development beyond your classrooms walls, your city and even your country?  This blog post is for you.

Everyone always says, “do this with your classroom” or “use this technology” or “it is not that hard just do this, then that, then talk to this person, then spin around and touch your toes”. Darn some of these innovative teachers! They just make things look so easy. Well, I will tell you this: It can be easy. Don’t worry I am not going to ask you to touch your toes, or ask you to attempt a back flip. I am going to ask you to go to this website: There you are going to find projects you can get you and your classroom involved with, and easily. These Global projects can fit into many different curriculums, outcomes, and classrooms.

Flat Connections began when Julie Lindsay decided to take her experiences as a Global Educator and share them. Flat Connections has many projects already set up and organized for the busy teacher. It allows you to just jump right in without having to feel lost or confused. The projects for your classroom are listed according to which grade you teach and it is as easy as clicking this link to apply. There is also a free webinar to attend on September 2nd 2014 that will be hosted by Julie. All your questions will be answered!

If you are looking for more resources by Julie, she has written a fantastic book titled, “Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds: Move to Global Collaboration One Step at a Time”. You can also listen to Julie’s story and even more about Flat Connections in this video

Enjoy your journey as a Global Educator!

Written by Meghan Reid, Project Manager Flat Connections.
Cross-posted to Flat Connections Blog

Monday, August 04, 2014

It's Time to Take Your Learning Global - Flat Connections Projects and Teacher PD

It is that time again when organisers at Flat Connections start to promote and encourage global participation in projects and teacher PD. As teachers in the northern hemisphere return to their classrooms, and as southern hemisphere teachers plan for the rest of the year, NOW is a great time to be planning for global learning and embedding collaborative experiences into the curriculum. 

We encourage all teachers and leaders to think ahead - global collaboration is not always easy, but forward planning in conjunction with curriculum organisation will build successful experiences for you and your students. As always, we are here to help!

Flat Connections provides resources, skills, strategies and access to learning about the world, with the world. Led by Julie Lindsay, Flat Connections joins learners with the purpose of 'learning while doing' in a global context.

Right now Flat Connections is planning for global connections and collaborations starting September 2014. This blog post shares opportunities for joining global projects K-12 as well as teacher online courses.

We invite you to join our mailing list and receive more regular updates about Flat Connections. The July 2014 newsletter shares exciting links including Flat Connections Conference live events!

Global Projects K-12
Flat Connections provides managed global collaborative projects for students in K-12 across the world.
The principles of these projects are always the same but the content is varied:

  • Core, content objectives united between classrooms,
  • Unique, individual, personalized learning experiences for each student,
  • The 'merging' and 'flattening' of classrooms from around the world for a period of interaction and work,
  • Innovative implementation and uses of multimedia and a wide variety of 21st Learning Skills,
  • Customizable components based upon the unique situation of each classroom's curricular objectives,
  • Project Managers who support and lead teachers, 
  • Fully connected and collaborative objectives supported by Web 2.0 tools
  • Empowered, engaged teachers with a commitment to build bridges that the society of tomorrow will walk across!
Applications for all global projects are open now for a September start. 

Here is a quick summary of what is being offered:
  • K-2 Building Bridges to Tomorrow - This project uses Web 2.0 tools to support communication and interaction as well as collaboration and creation between students and teachers from classrooms around the world.
What are teachers saying about this project?
“I loved being introduced to new technology to use in the classroom and to connect with other classrooms. I especially enjoyed our meetings as I learned a lot from you all. My boys enjoyed skyping and we will continue to do so in the future. And I'm glad I've been introduced to Voicethread. I will definitely continue to use this tool.” Betsy Tyson
“My students loved seeing other schools around the country and around the world. They loved the idea of creating something with other kids not in their own school.” Kelly Jenkins
“They really enjoyed the handshake and the importance and variety of ways to say hello.” Sharon Davison
  • A Week in the Life... Gr3-6 - is an exciting, challenging and unique experience that allows young people (and their teachers) to connect, communicate, explore global topics and issues and create digital artifacts together that share solutions. (Yes! This year AWL is being redesigned to include global issues and sharing of ideas for global solutions - come and join us!).
What are teachers saying about this project? 
"Students were exposed to a variety of tech tools that may have been new to them. They liked feeling like they were a part of something larger with others from all over. This project also helped some of the teachers from our school learn about collaboration and learn some new tools." Bonnie Birdsall
“Regardless of where we live and how different our environments are, there are many things we have in common.” Elena Markowicz-Troy
“My students really had fun taking the photos to share. We had some great discussions about what others would want to know about us.” Tina Schmidt
  • Digiteen/Digitween - global hands-on projects for upper elementary, middle and high school students, (typically Grade 4-12, 8-18 year old). These projects study digital citizenship and promote effective and responsible online choices as well as immersing students into an online educational community for learning and collaborating.
What are teachers saying about this project? 
“Best outcomes were Learning more about the responsibilities of being a digital citizen; learning how to better communicate with others through non face-to-face communication” Susan Shaw, Singapore
“Best outcomes were conversations about digital citizenship, connecting with other kids and working through how to connect, how to communicate, class video project at end, excitement about being part of global project” Barbara McFall, USA
  • Flat Connections Global Project - fully supported and managed global collaborative experience for middle and high school students (typically grade/year 9-12, 14-18 years old). It challenges all learners to connect and communicate beyond their immediate classroom and school. It also encourages collaboration and co-creation of final artifacts as well as student leadership, while exploring emerging technologies and envisioning the future of learning.
What are teachers saying about this project? 
This project has become an integral part of my courses. It is a great experience for me and the students. Brian McLaughlin, USA
“Best outcomes are self-direction, collaboration in support of tangible outcomes” Bruce Forsyth
What are students saying about this project?
“The project was well organised and I found it especially helpful that the conference calls were recorded, so that I could refer back to them when I could not attend. The video work was fun and creative. It gave us an opportunity to express our understanding of the topic and present it in an informative and unique manner.” Maddie, Australia
“The organization of the student leaders was very well put. I was able to communicate with a few leaders and a few teachers. I also was able to communicate with all the members in my group.” Kunal, USA
“This project was a great experience for me to be able to collaborate with people from all over the world and learn how to communicate with people who have different ideas and perspectives. Being a student leader was also very important to me because I have trouble being a leader and being assertive, so this helped me with these skills.” Danielle, USA

What are ‘Expert Advisors’ and ‘Judges’ saying about this project?

“As a pre-service teacher, this was truly an invaluable experience for me. I will definitely take these collaborative skills with me in my future classroom!” Laura Callis, USA
“It was a pleasure enabling my pre-service teachers to become the mentor of students. The opportunity for them to encourage, provide information and guidance was priceless!” Janice Newlin, Athens University, Alabama
“The educational benefits are huge. Establishing valuable networks, sharing with each other and experiencing different situations provides great benefit personally and also to students. It is always essential to have experienced 'flat connections" educators involved and to use their advice, their expertise and to provide a mentoring role really reassures others that challenges happen to us all, help with the use of different tools and overcome cultural and other issues that do arise from time to time.” Anne Mirtschin, Australia
“This was my first time judging. I thought Julie did a great job at guiding us and answering any questions we had.” Cindy Nickodam, USA
  • Global Youth Debates - a global collaborative project created around research and formal debating. It uses Web 2.0 tools to connect, communicate and debate across the world. 2012-14 theme: Sustainability. New theme for 2014-15 announced later in August.
What are teachers saying about this project? 
“The asynchronous debate was very exciting for my students - to know they were debating against real teams living somewhere else in the world was very powerful. Of, course, winning both debates was an absolute highlight but the students had learned a great deal leading up to the finals so the winning was icing on the cake! The learning curve that happened after receiving judges feedback was really meaningful and my students knew they were expected to apply the feedback to their next debate. The students were also very invested in the topic and were very keen to learn as much as possible - it was a great topic choice, thank you!” Susan Shaw, Singapore
“We loved hearing our opponents' rebuttals to our arguments, also the judges' feedback was very meaningful and helped us to grow. The synchronous debate was nerve-wracking, but exciting too!” Nicola Takizawa, Japan

Teacher Professional Development
Flat Connections is offering TWO courses starting in September:
1. Flat Connections Global Educator
 - the focus is on global learning, global education and becoming globally competent. These themes are intermingled with all parts of the course and conversations centre around challenges and ideas to do with technology use for global connections.
Part 1 aims to set teachers up with tools and connections and knowledge of how a global collaborative educator and classroom functions.
Part 2 aims to support global project design, implementation and management.

read more......

What course graduates are saying about this course....... 
When asked if she would recommend Flat Connections Global Educator: "Absolutely! It was especially helpful to have worked on it with other members of my school district so there was local support and guidance. But even without the local cohort, it would be beneficial. This course takes the daunting goal of global collaboration and breaks it down into bite-sized chunks which are manageable." Krista Brakhage, Colorado, USA 2014.
“Yes. It was chaotic and hectic, but that's what our students experience. It got my hands dirty and introduced me to some wonderful educators around the globe. The chance to be guided by Julie Lindsay in this way is a golden opportunity for educators.” Cameron Patterson, Australia 2013
“It gave an understanding of the organizational framework behind the programs and the kind of technology and skill level needed by a teacher and students to achieve good outcomes.” Avylon Magaray, Australia 2013
“I joined the cohort that started this fall to see if I could complete it. This time it was run solely by Julie Lindsay and she did not simply reiterate the material from the book, She is an excellent role model and brought in a lot of new material and conducted good discussions online.” Maureen Tumenas, USA 2013
2. Flat Connections Global Primer
- 4-week course aims to provide educators and education leaders and administrators at all levels, across all school systems, resources and strategies for taking themselves, their classroom, their school, and even their country global!
read more.....

Consider joining us for one of the Flat Connections teacher professional development courses in 2014. Joining a supportive online community does make it possible to take your classroom and your learning global and create wonderful opportunities for your students and colleagues.

If you have any questions about global projects or teacher PD from Flat Connections, please contact:
Julie Lindsay
Director, Learning Confluence P/L
Founder, Flat Connections
Learning about the world, with the world

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Global Education Highlights (weekly)

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