Chapter three of the forthcoming Flat Classroom book is entitle Communication. However, it quickly escalates to wider territory, in many ways offering the blueprint of planning a project using what might well be called the Flat Classroom pedagogy. It also draws a clear connection between the tools for communication and the humanity that enlivens them.
Sure there is the initial emphasis on the specific kinds of communication skills that are at play for any project participant, even to the point of detailing the differences between synchronous and asynchronous methods with explanations of specific tools for each. Yet the broader aim addresses the various challenges all of the tools can place on the humanity of interactions, as well as the offline implications. The reality presented in all of these projects is that they are being done by real people and happening in real time, presenting challenges that are uniquely global and human. AT&T had a great slogan almost fifteen years ago, “In a world of technology, people make the difference.” The chapter on communication reveals the truth of that slogan, deepening it and keeping it real.
This is an ambitious chapter, to say the least. While it consistently highlights the means for maintaining open and free-flowing lines of communication, using an array of tools, it also presents all of the fundamental considerations a teacher must take into account as they prepare to participate or design a global, collaborative project in the manner of the Flat Classroom. Based on considerable experience with small and large projects, it is loaded with tips that are not readily at the forefront of a teacher’s mind when they are filled with the thrill and exhilaration of their students working with classrooms from foreign time zones and cultures.
The overall infrastructure of the Flat Classroom Projects are laid bare and explained in detail. Each element that has make the projects successful and continue to evolve are outlined. Plus, much of the content from the Communication chapter is applied in practical terms and tasks that need to be practiced in varying degrees by both teachers and students. From start to finish, this chapter is the architectural plan for the project pedagogically.
Perhaps most compelling of all, however, is what will likely be a callout or sidebar narrative of Johnathan C. a student and Assistant Project Manager from that last Horizon Project, which would soon morph into the NetGeneEd Project, the most sophisticated flavor of the Flat Classroom Projects. In what can honestly be called a lament, a blogpost by Johnathan is included with subsequent supportive comments . What this correspondence offers is a concrete example of the challenges that are presented in a project of this kind of complexity and ambition.
In the post, Johnathan expresses some desperate exasperation about the volume and quality of work that has been accomplished but more about the lack of communication amongst his team members. He does this in a fairly balanced and even manner. It does not read as whining, but definitely highlights his frustrations. What is more amazing is the number of comments in an outpour of support and recognition. His problems looked all too familiar to me, as I have heard similar laments by my own students during their participation in projects. Yet, these kinds of problems always exist, and are genuine opportunities for learning, growth, and maturation. They are precisely the kinds of human frailties we all must address routinely whether we are face-to-face or on the other side of the world. The exchange demonstrates the uniquely human combination of both feelings and thoughts through reading and writing. People make the difference, always. Johnathan’s experience is a powerful example of the understanding offered by these kinds of projects.