Sunday, 13 September 2009

The Flat Classroom Project

Sunday 13th September I attended an SL meeing where Chris Smith (SL: Shamblesguru Voom) interviewed Vicki Davis in RL based in Camilla, Georgia Eastern USA, Julie Lindsay in RL based in Beijing involved in international education with colleague Kim, and Kim Cofino in RL based in Bangkok, about the Flat Classroom Project.

This was a pre-conference session for the real life conference in Hong Kong that starts Wednesday 16th September 2009.

Notes taken at the meeting:

The Flat Classroom Project is based on the book - ‘The World is Flat‘ by Thomas Friedman. The topics studied and discussed are real-world scenarios based on that book and students collaborate on a wiki then produce an individual multimedia piece in response to their topic. A clip in this piece is ‘outsourced’ to a team member in another classroom, so not only do students study the flatteners as discussed by Friedman, they use them in the project.

The project has been going for 3 years and started when Julie joined her classroom in Bangladesh with Vicki’s classroom in Camilla Georgia for a project. It was very sucessful so they developed it further gradually inviting and involving other people and they have now developed a network around the world. It has evolved as a pedagogical approach; teachers and pupils share what they do using web 2.0 tools to flatten their classrooms.

There is a lot of information about the various projects :
They want schools everywhere to be able to take part in the projects , to see what they are doing visit;
The three of them said that the projects are amazing – they involve students from around the world, pupils peer review each other’s work giving international feedback – that is an amazing motivation for pupils. Pupils and schools are no longer working in isolation. In action this is very powerful. There are expert advisers who advise pupils on the wikis and there can be 50 or so judges to judge the outcomes of the projects. There are so many people involved in planning, reviewing, guiding the pupils in the projects it is a massive international audience that get access. It is all recorded in videos, the videos are observed and comments are fed back in the wiki. Teachers or expert advisers may use Skype to talk to children or teachers. Time, distance and cultural boundaries no longer exist. There were three projects last year and the feedback showed that pupils wanted to widen the age range involved. This year the projects will be open to 8 – 11 year olds. The work is 85 – 90% in English but other languages can be accommodated if necessary. Language problems have been overcome where they arise by the use of Google Translator. Boundaries have to be got around by the use of technology tools – the project aims to empower students to cope with issues that arise. This is now taken for granted, pupils who may be otherwise excluded are now included.

“Empowering learning and allowing students to be engaged and troubleshoot to MAKE things happen - beginning with the end in mind.” Vicki Davies

Teachers’ learning experiences
Every project evolves from the previous project. There have been growing pains.
  • Last October the groups were 7 or 8 student and that was too large. Groups of 3 to 4 are ideal, they struggle with that because holiday, sports schedules and time zones etc are all different. We are aiming at 5 students in a group now.
  • Engaging student is quite difficult; teachers need to be a part of it. The best teachers for this are those engaged with blogging with their children. The project needs a highly-engaged teacher.
  • Sometimes teachers have to get up at 3am to work synchronously but students have to understand that sometimes they will work asynchronously. The projects have lasted through three time zones so takes some planning!
The conference is Thursday to Saturday and comprises of 2 parts:
  • Addressing the digital divide
  • Making Ted type of talks about the Flat Classroom Project
Forty people are coming together including pupils and educators. They will be in teams, all working on the same objectives, getting to grips with web 2.0 based on the theme of the Digital Divide. They are being asked to brain-storm solutions, inspire, unite etc., and to put presentations together to show their ideas. The teams will also have virtual members, who, if they can, will be part of the back channel and ustream, the wiki and ning may be used. Presentations will be made on the second day.

“Seeing the engagement is wonderful, you create a really rich learning environment, educators who have been there and experienced it find it very powerful, exciting and want to be part of it.” Kim – I think :-)

Information from the noteccard given out at the meeting:

Flat Classroom Project
The plan is to run three flat classroom projects over the next 12 months to cater for different curriculum and calendar variations globally.
* Flat Classroom Project 09-3 (Oct-Dec),
* Flat Classroom Project 10-1 (Jan-March),
* Flat Classroom Project 10-2 (April-June)

We also plan to run three Digiteen projects to cater for global requests and calendars.
* Digiteen 09-3 (Oct-Dec),
* Digiteen 10-1 (Jan-March),
* Digiteen 10-2 (April-June)
(late Feb-April 2010)
Based upon the annual Horizon Report, this project incorporates the current research on students, learning, and the newest technology and is announced in January 2010 with the title and the author(s) that will be incorporated into the project. More details coming soon

This is a new project still in development based on the student-led outcome from the Flat Classroom Conference held in Qatar, January 2009. The winning student team invented the term and started ideas for 'Eracism' as a global project. We are currently putting it together and details are coming...however this will be cutting edge (of course) and include virtual reality, collaboration and interaction using Web 2.0 and have outcomes that can be transferred into local communities. Watch this space! We tentatively plan to run this new project twice:
* Oct -December 2009
* late March - May 2010

Educator Flat Classroom Project
Also, as a heads up, and still very much at the discussion stage, we are planning an educator/pre-service teacher immersion project option. We aim to provide an opportunity for educators to be part of their own project as professional development or as part of their pre-service 'training', thereby developing skills and knowledge in Web 2.0, multimedia and global collaborative project pedagogy. Once again, watch this space for more updates!

The Flat Classroom Project is Looking for expert advisers and judges now!

"Everyone is on an amazing learning curve – it is cutting edge and we are all out there doing it – come and join us and be part of it!"

I know I have said it before - and I know I probably could not stick the pace - but I wish I was back in the classroom now :-)


Vicki A. Davis said...

Thank you so much for coming by and for sharing these lovely notes. Actually - the FCP itself only ran 3 times last year but digiteen also ran 3 times and netgened ran once - so we had 7 projects run last year and this year will add another!

Thank you so much!

Carolrb said...

Hi Vicki - I really do wish I was in the classroom again this is just as exciting as the web was in '95 :-) Hard work I am sure - but great fun for the kids and such a good way of learning!

Kellett School said...

Can't believe we were in the same SL Meeting on Sunday!

Off to the conf tonight, got three teachers presenting on games based learning.

I'm sitting on forum panel disussing comp games in the classroom too. Think we've got around 500 delegates from ard Asia so shld be a gt weekend!
best wishes Clive

Carolrb said...

Clive :-) I can't believe that!!

Look me up in SL - Carolrb Roux.
Where are you now? Love to you all xx