Thursday, February 08, 2018

The ultimate high school global collaboration - a reflection and call to action

 Flat Connections Global Project - the ULTIMATE high school project

It is February....and once again I am in communication with schools and teachers encouraging participation in online global collaborative learning, specifically in conjunction with building Flat Connections global projects for this semester. 

Once again I am wondering WHAT is going on in schools and classrooms around the world where online collaborative and online global collaborative learning and innovation is not taking place. My PhD research (thesis to be completed this year!) is providing additional insight and deeper understanding of the 'condition' of learning around the world and to be honest I am inspired by the few who are out there pushing boundaries, but for the vast majority I continue to wonder (jokingly) what century they are living in....? 

Right now I am looking for more classrooms to join what I consider the 'ultimate' high school online global collaborative project. The Flat Connections Global Project is for Grades 9-12. It provides a platform for older students to connect with each other, communciate and collaborate and co-create understanding around technology-based and futuristic topics. Students also create a personal piece of multimedia that is shared with the group and viewed by international judges for awards and celebration of achievment (a bit of fun and acknowledgement of student efforts). This project is interdisciplinary - we have ICT, Technology, World History, Social Studies, Health Studies, and other classes join the project in a 'flattened' learning environment where connected learning, community learning and virtual collaboration are the norm.

The project workflow is structured and managed by two Flat Connections Project Managers (Amy Jambor and Sheri Williams), who themselves have classes in the project - and have done so for many years. Students work in cross-classroom teams and communicate via the FCGP Ning - mostly asynchronously but the chat facility via the Ning provides for interesting cross-classroom communication and banter. Students also have the chance to take on leadership roles and help direct and facilitate learning amongst teams.

This project is NOT a typical school assignment - it takes learning to a whole new level of student autonomy and teacher facilitation. It builds capacity with online learning (skills and approaches) and fosters a global perspective of the world not possible by reading a textbook. This global collaborative experience is BEYOND TEXTBOOK LEARNING.

Reflection on flat learning

It is now more than 10 years since the very first Flat Classroom Project started in late 2006 (predecessor of the Flat Connections Global Project). It is also more than 10 years since Tom Friedman wrote about this project in the 2007 edition of The World is Flat. Looking back now on that excerpt, pp. 501-503, it feels like yesterday (of course) and yet I continue to explain why global collaborative learning is 10 years I really thought there would have been more movement in school systems and better understanding of how to achieve global education, global competency, global citizenship goals through online global collaboration. Thre is a lot of talk in education about 'innovation' - I don't see how schools who still put up walls and block access to online learning can call themselves innovative - do you?

As Friedman stated, 
 "Two teachers from opposite sides of the globe decided that they could take advantage of the flat world to teach about collaboration in a totally different way - and they did so without waiting for any administrator to change their curricula or direct them from above" (p. 501).
"Not only did the project give the students "intentional knowledge" - knowledge that techers intend for them to learn - they also gain "unintentional" knowledge that comes from the experience of collaborating with people halfway across the world" (p. 503).

 My CALL to ACTION for educators:

  • Explore global collaborative learning through the range of projects available online today - including but not exclusively Flat Connections
  • Discuss with colleagues and administrators as to how this can be embedded into the curriculum - or if you are autonomous in your own classroom, redesign your curriculum to make it work
  • Find like-minded educators to collaborate with (Flat Connections already has that one covered of course!)
  • Choose tools that support online connection, communication and collaboration  
  • Design learning with clear objectives - when will the project start? what will students do? what are the outcomes? what is expected of teacher collaborators?
  • Share, share, share - make learning open to others via online spaces
  • Don't allow others stop you from doing this - do not take 'no' for an answer
    • Your grade level team says 'no' - then suggest you pilot a global collaboration in your class first
    • Your Curriculum Coordinator says 'no' - then meet and redesign the curriuclum approach - and make sure you stress that online global projects support multiple literacies - they are NOT instead of! Joining a project does not mean students are 'mising out' on vital time in the classroom to become literate - they are in fact getting a much better experience as part of literacy development - reading, communicating, writing, ICT etc.
    • Your IT Director says 'no' - then meet and discuss tools and online access
    • Your Principal says 'no' - then start the education process for your school leaders - suggest they read 'The Global Educator', and access the blog series sharing all 36 case studies; watch the keynote trilogy - Global Narratives, Collaboration on the Edge, or for a quick fix watch Julie's Learn2talk from the Learning2 conference 2017 - Global Collaboration: Learning on the Edge.

Meanwhile - if you are interested in jumping into the next Flat Connections Global Project starting the week of February 19 we welcome you to apply via the Flat Connections website (where you can read more details about the project) - or email Julie directly!

Remember - global educators do not take 'no' for an answer, they plan and implement relevant inspiring and collaborative experiences for their students; they know which century they are in and use digital and online tools with confidence. Is this you? Is this who you want to be? You might like to take a look at the Online Global Collaborative Learning Playbooks - a new approach to professional learning to build capacity for global education and collaboration and leadership. Playbook 1 launches on March 1 - join now!

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