Julie Lindsay has put up a notice on the Oz Teachers mailing list alerting its members to the Flat Classroom Projects that have been organized for the next 12 months. Questions were raised as to “What is a Flat Classroom?” Julie and Vicki Davis (coolcatteacher) started the concept several years ago.
So, I shall answer that question, from my point of view having participated a number of these projects over the last 12 months with my classes. The projects themselves are now being patented and involve project based learning activities. The course has been developed by two of the most innovative, hard working teachers that I have come across – Vicki Davis (coolcatteacher) from USA and Julie Lindsay from Qatar. In simplistic terms, “flatclassroom” in practical terms, for me, means that my students work in small groups, on projects prepared by Julie and Vicki, beyond my classroom walls with students from other countries including USA, Canada, Spain, Japan, Pakistan, NZ, Oman, Qatar etc Therefore my classroom walls have been ‘flattened” and, as a staff member I work collaboratively in virtual teams to ensure that the project for all students to get the best possible outcomes. However, this differs very much to the formal definition found on the wiki. So the formal definition is the one to use.
How I got involved ….. As my year 12 students were studying virtual teams as part of their course, I noticed on twitter, that people were being sought to become the ‘sounding board’ for the Horizon Project. Soon after, calls were made for students to be part of the next Flat Classroom Project, so I enrolled my year 9/10 students in this project. Students are grouped with 5 other student members, each from a different school and usually a different country. They socialize and learn about each other on the flatclassroom ning, where they can post images, videos, blog posts and enter into discussion topics. Each group is given a topic which is related to the current and future use of the internet, usually in education. Student groups build wiki pages together, using the discussion tab to work together in asynchronous time. At the end of the 10-12 week program, students complete a video that is uploaded onto the ning and embedded in the wiki for judging by global judges. Part of this video will include an outsourced video clip by another student in another country.
Regular staff meetings are held in elluminte to ensure that all teachers involved are fully informed. At the completion of each project, both student and staff summits are held in elluminate, inviting global participants to listen to the reflections. These sessions are also recorded and linked on the wiki. In the current flatclassroom project, we were able to use videoconferencing to be part of the keynote address on ‘citizenship journalism’ presented by a University lecturer in journalism from Doha Qatar.
Our involvement meant that three students and I could attend the Flat Classroom conference in Doha, Qatar in January 2009 where students met their virtual class mates, face to face and worked again on projects that were of concern to all of them.
The netgened project was a fantastic experience and the biggest ventures of all so far. Students worked with Don Tapscott, best selling author of “Grown Up Digital”. The awards ceremony was held in Reaction Grid of Open Sim, a virtual world where a big stage had been set up on an island with the powerpoint slides uploaded to announce the winners of each category. Students, staff and other interested parties chose avatars and were dressed in fine form for the presentation. The Digiteen project is less demanding and a good entrance point to the project. It works on building effective digital citizenship concepts.
For me, personally and also for my students, this has led us on another amazing journey using the emerging technologies and has boosted our practical knowledge of digital citizenship, cyber safety, collaborative work in virtual teams, netiquette and using wikis and nings effectively. It pushes the students beyond their comfort zones and gives them real life skills. Several schools from Australia have been involved. Please join us in the next project(s) for an amazing journey in your teaching career – one that takes you beyond your classroom in the digital age that is ours today.
Here are the proposed projects for 2008-09
For further information, read Julie Lindsay’s post