My first genuine global collaborative project was the inaugural NetGenEd Project, a version of the Flat Classroom Project. I have previously reflected on that a couple of times, but it proves to be a milestone teaching experience. There was something really thrilling about being part of something much bigger than a single classroom or even a single school for that matter.
It was a fast and furious experience that took a lot of time for the students to make any sense of it. To be honest, it took some time for me to make sense of it too. One thing I discovered, I am considerably more comfortable with a certain degree of chaos then my students are. Consequently, as I reflect on some of the essentials of designing a global project, I find myself returning to Vicki Davis’ Five Phases for Flattening Your Classroom. Being a participant in a project someone else has developed and cultivated through several iterations is one thing designing my own is another.
I do have a few ideas for student projects. Principally, I have been working with some colleagues that also teach grade 9 English in developing a project. It is has a bit of an odd history, as the a now retired Technology Integration Specialist was encouraging me to leverage my Flat Classroom Project experience in looking Thomas Friedman’s follow-up Hot Flat and Crowded. I think she figured that I would rope the others into something that would span the ninth grade, that was interdisciplinary but had literacy as a central hub. There were a lot of disconnected threads in the original discussions, but the others were game to try something. Yet, I am not sure that they are ready to invite the world in just yet.
Like I mentioned, throwing students into the global collaborative environment that already exists is a bit easier, like working with a safety net. However, it is completely conceivable that we could plan this project to operate clearly in Phase Two – Interconnection, within our school and the entirety of grade nine. Even if ever other teacher is not quite ready for that, I could certainly map out a team matrix and have my three sections commingled with teammates outside of their own section. This seems like a really valuable step to prove to the others that it can be done and is not necessarily the most difficult thing to plan. Of course they might be willing, I have only broached the topic at this point. We are still kind of in preliminary planning stages.
What is emerging, however, is a project that will be rooted in themes Friedman addresses in Hot, Flat, and Crowded, with that text functioning in a more supplementary role. Thanks to fellow classmate Honor Moorman, who tipped me off on the title, we will use What Matters more as a primary text, since there is great thematic crossover but in a much more appropriately accessible text for fifteen year-olds. It will leverage the core Flat Classroom Project pedagogical outcomes, a collaborative research and writing product and an individual multimedia artifact. We still have a fair amount of planning to do and I am definitely in a kind of sales mode about it, but it looks like it will happen. Once it takes root then with some iterative steps we can open it up to the possibility of some outside collaborators and continue developing the project.