“Telling the World – flatclassroom student summit in practice”

Aussie students join the class at Qatar Academy

The latest post by Julie Lindsay bears the above heading “Telling the World – flatclassroom student summit in practice.” This post was written as reflection on the recent involvement  of the flatclassroom project in the Kicking it Up a Notch section, at  the K12 Online conference.  Julie also  posed three questions asking readers to respond to the questions asked. Following are the questions and my response to those questions.

  1. How are you ‘flattening’ your school and/or classroom by providing synchronous meetings between students globally? Is this considered important? desired? necessary? by you? your colleagues? your administration?

I see ‘flattening my classroom’ as essential. I teach in a small rural, prep to year 12 school in country South Eastern Australia, where students are isolated geographically and culturally. The world is constantly flattening and skills for global interaction and communication are essential. The most obvious flattening occurs when my year 9-11 students join in one of the Flat Classroom projects. This enables students to interact, collaborate and work in virtual teams via wikis, nings and actually meet in the virtual classroom via elluminate. Synchronous meetings are a little difficult for us as we fall into the Asian time zones and language differences can provide a barrier to effective communications. However, we have successfully used skype to videoconference with schools in Singapore, Malaysia, Phillipines, Thailand China etc where English is taught as a first or second language. Another virtual classroom software – discoverE has been used. If classes in the USA are willing to return to school in the evenings then connections can be made synchronously with skype, discoverE, elluminate or coveritlive. My colleagues see it as important and are gradually making connections of their own. I have found it is important that they have ownership of the connections and communications. The administration also see it as important and the International Division of our Department of Education also feel it is necessary. Although most would see it as essential, fear of the unknown, perceived lack of skills and understanding, time factors etc prevent many of them pursuing it further.

  1. If experiences such as Flat Classroom Summits promote global citizenship and enhanced cultural understanding, how can we embed this practice into what we do everyday as educators? What has to change in education to make this possible?

Heavy filtering of the internet, perceived security and cybersafety issues when dealing with students online need to be reconsidered. Teachers need time to ‘play’ with many of the web2.0 tools that allow synchronous and asynchronous connections and communications so that they feel confident. Data driven testing will often block experimentation between countries. At senior levels, final exams and curriculum driven courses do not allow time for working with others across the globe. Countries need to look at internationalizing education and working on common syllabuses. Schools may need to consider 1:1 laptops. We need to bring parents on board, include them in the summits as they have a very ‘real’ voice with leadership in schools.

  1. Is it really possible to have an asynchronous online learning community when we see how powerful this virtual real-time handshake can be to all participants? What are the essential challenges of blending both asynchronous and synchronous modes across the world?

As far as I am concerned, it is possible to have both asynchronous and synchronous virtual interaction and collaboration. The asynchronous links mean that when education or the classrooms can become synchronous, the learning outcomes a even more powerful. I can still hear the excitement in my male student’s voice, when he said “she was in my group”, as the female student spoke about her involvement in the FCP in the student summit. The challenges of blending the two, are time zone differences, differing holiday times, festivals, times of essential data testing and final exams etc. However, even then, education no longer needs to be restricted to school hours, as it can be 24/7/365 and past FCP teacher meetings have been able to find a common suitable time across all time zones to meet online. In my country school, student internet access is a problem as not all have the internet on at home. However, any readers of this post, who are considering taking part in the FCPs should not delay, but enrol when they are next advertised.

A big thank you to Julie Lindsay and Vicki Davis for making all this possible.

Julie Lindsay leads a student summit with students from Germany, China, Australia

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