Tag Archives: Julie Lindsay

Wrapping Up Flat Classroom Certification

I remember the first experience I had with Vicki Davis and Julie Lyndsay. It was the first NetGenEd Project, a couple of years ago. I have even written about it a few times. It all started when a couple of administrators had asked me if I would be interested in participating in a Flat Classroom Project. To be honest, I am not sure that they thought my application would be accepted. I am glad to say that it was the beginning of a valuable professional relationship with two of the busiest women I know.

Still, in the school where I work, I was the teacher that would most likely have the desire to do something as progressive and outside-the-box in my classroom. Also, with a background in edtech, I also have the strength of will to persevere through the inevitable obstacles that would lay along the path of participating in a globally collaborative project that leveraged so many Web 2.0 tools. They were right, I am glad to say, and I was accepted. Better still, it began a valuable professional relationship with two of the busiest women I know.

Since then I have done another project, that time the original Flat Classroom variety, and now intend on it being an annual part of my practice. Yet, one one of Vicki’s statements has stuck with me from the very first teacher orientation meeting, “The thing about working on the bleeding edge is sometimes you bleed.” That sentiment was all that I needed to get hooked, because that is where I wanted to be, asking my students to take big risks, solve complex and messy problems, and sort out more of the meaning and value after some immersive wayfinding that provided no tidy, easily found answers. I want them to do some scholarly pioneering. Thus, being a member of the first Flat Classroom Certification course has mirrored that desire, as well as being a valuable peek behind the curtain of how the wild ride is built from the ground up.

Participating in a globally collaborative project that has been designed by someone else, with a set of criteria, expectations, and assessment strategies, is an entirely different experience than building one. This course peeled back the finish of all the Flat Classroom flavors and showed the how they were built and why. Then we participants were asked to begin building our own.

The process of designing a globally collaborative project is no small task. Defining a problem or topic that is accessible around the world requires a kind of depth and breadth of vision and awareness that not as altogether common. It crosses disciplinary, as well as geographic, boundaries. Teachers designing and operating in this new unbound educational space need to be both generalists and specialists. More than anything though, they need to be expert learners, modeling an openness, curiosity, and cultural sensitivity, not to mention a facility with the technology tools that have flattened our world.

As onerous as designing a project modeled on the Flat Classroom approach can seem, the course provides a scaffold for meeting the challenge. More importantly, the course was a constant reminder to me that building, and even managing projects of this nature, is a recursive, iterative process. It is truly rooted in a design ethos. Prototyping ideas, testing them, assessing, revising, collaborating, expanding the network of connections, revising more are all aspects of “flattening” and expanding a classroom through designing a project.

Picking up on the notion of collaboration, this course allowed the participants to instantly become part of a Personal Learning Environment and Network. In so doing, all of the teachers involved are actively modeling precisely the kind of learning and practices that global collaborative projects like the Flat Classroom Project demand. Just being a participant offered a platform for collaboration, and collaboration by its nature is a recursive and iterative process, sharing and building on the sum of the course’s parts.

Coinciding with the drafting of their forthcoming book, Vicki and Julie continued their vivid efforts to make their groundbreaking work even more transparent then they are already wont to do. They share because their vision is broad and deep, and their evangelism holds a sincere recognition that they cannot be agents of change alone. Connecting classrooms around the globe and promoting collaborative efforts of inter-cultural synthesis requires an ever-growing network of like-minded educators. This course provides the seedbed for that network to take root and grow. While this course is only one of many efforts, the community of educators that has begun developing has fostered relationships that will remain long after completing the course. I encourage anyone that has the opportunity to take it to do so.

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Digital Citizenship in the New Global Reality

This last couple of weeks has proven to be a good place to circle back and think about all of the material we have been investigating in the Flat Classroom Certification course. A lot of the initial material was not the newest for me. There were a few added wrinkles, but it was pretty familiar fare. Yet, once we got into the digital citizenship material, while not new in concept, it certainly was newly articulated for me in a framework that I both appreciated and needed some time to consider. The concept, as advanced by Vicki Davis and Julie Lyndsay, has been particularly interesting to me. For me at least, it adds a far clearer political dimension to our work, for better, worse, or perhaps both.

Shortly after reading the chapter, international events in Germany started catching my attention. perhaps it is the mid-term elections here in the States that has my radar more attenuated to the political arena. Still, a couple of weeks ago Chancellor Angela Merkel’s comments about her native Germany’s multicultural approach having “failed, utterly failed” got my attention almost as immediately as her words were published and translated. Subsequently, a slightly more nuanced version of Merkel’s words began to appear in English language media. To my surprise, the story didn’t have the legs I thought it would.

Fortunately, it did not disappear completely. I was bolstered by the sentiments of James Carroll’s op-ed piece in my local daily newspaper, The Boston Globe. Reading his column, I almost felt that he had read my original message to the Flat Classroom Certification cohort. Additionally, Carroll was a guest on National Public Radio‘s daily show Talk of the Nation, which had a segment called “Multiculturalism Debated In The U.S. And Abroad.” In both entries to the public discourse, Carroll echoed many of my thoughts on the subject.

In particular, Carroll’s comment, “To date, no responsible American government figure feels free to openly echo Merkel’s “Christian values’’ excommunication. But multiculturalism can fail in the United States, too, as mounting negativity toward immigrants (“aliens’’) suggests,” strikes to the heart of why efforts like the Flat Classroom Projects, in all flavors, are such worthy ones.

Alluding to lessons of history, I found the German Chancellor’s comments particularly alarming. Yet these sentiments are definitely part of a dark undercurrent in the States. Of course the US is not Germany. The US has a long history of multiculturalism, however contentious, even violent, it may be. It also has a history of isolationism, especially in times of difficulty. Yet, there is a code, as Carroll puts it, that is designed to incite a more insidious part of the American body politic. Merkel’s statements may have been uttered in German but they too read as the same code. Only education can combat the kind of ignorance, ethnocentrism, and xenophobia that threatens “to swamp the foundation of liberal democracy,” as Carroll evocatively suggests.

Ultimately, the digital citizenship we are promoting is really built upon a modern global citizenship with a long, wide digital footprint, as well as deeper understanding of etiquette and international protocols. Digital citizenship is definitely a more expansive concept and I have already voiced my problems with the term. Regardless of what its called, the concept has never been more needed as an underpinning of education in the twenty-first century and beyond.

Like it or not, this new reality have a political dimension that is full of its own codes, subtlety, nuance, and rhetoric. Students need to be prepared to navigate their way through this reality, hopefully with a more sensitivity, enlightened compassion, and recognition of just how interdependent humanity has become.

Catching My Breath & Reflecting as Teacher & Student

Like many in my Flat Classroom Certification cohort, I have to admit that having a week to breathe in the certification course and do catch up really was appreciated. Simultaneously following and participating in PLENK2010, has been arduous and taken a bit of a dip the last two weeks. Plus, I found myself in what an old friend referred to as an assessment bottleneck, which is code for English teachers, meaning I had a load of papers to read. Combined with a few Writing Project initiatives I have going with NWPMWP and BWP, I was feeling like everything was converging at once.

An added benefit, it gave me a little time to do a little reflection both for my work as a teacher and as a student. For one, the timing was great in terms of teaching, as I am approaching a midterm point in the classes I teach. As far as being a student in a couple of courses, it is the midpoint in one and close in another. I often feel like courses should have an equivalent of half-time, a chance for some assessment and adjustments. In this case, it has worked out to be kind of like one.

On the teaching front, I wrote a bit about my grading experiment last week and continue to monitor. However, at this point I have seen enough work from my students to have a much clearer idea about who is meeting expectations and who is not. In fact, I am planning on administering a short survey to gather some of their thoughts about the class more than the grading. I will survey them about the grading later. I am interested to see how their answers, which involve some reflections and self-assessment will match with my initial impressions and assessments. More on this to come.

Also on the teaching front, I am rapidly approaching a transition point, where most of my classes will be wrapping up some existing work and venturing into a new unit of study. I always find the transitions from one unit to another kind of exciting. It is an opportunity to make adjustments based on the growing understanding I have of the current students, while accounting for what has been successful in the past. I am always interested to see how the current students respond to the new material.

As a student, I have felt a bit like I was falling behind the pace. This is certainly the case with the PLENK2010 course. However, I do feel like that course will have a long aftertaste. Considering that it does not have any assessments, other than self-assessment, and my participation is completely based on my own interest, I feel a little less pressure. Plus, I have been a bit more in consumption mode with that line of inquiry, reading a lot of material. In some ways, it is hard to slow down the gathering and reading of material long enough to truly contemplate it in all of its complexity until after it is over. At least, that’s is sometimes how I feel.

However, even if I have not had a chance to collect my thoughts on that material and produce any artifacts of that thinking I still feel engaged and like a participant, just one that has had to slow down and move to the outside and behind the frontrunners. I only wish that I had more time to be even more immersed in it. I am finding the whole massively open online course (MOOC) experience extremely fascinating as a phenomenon. Plus, I am learning a whole lot. Even from my temporary place on the side, it remains exhilarating.

As for the Flat Classroom Certification course, it was the most welcome break. I had been making pretty strong headway in that course and very much feeling like a front runner, getting things done quickly and early. Then, I started running into some communication problems since a few changes to my email configuration. It has left me a little out of the loop for a short time, a problem that took awhile to discern, which I just recently have been able to address.

All in all, it has been a welcome break and I am ready to jump back into the fray more aggressively. I feel like I may have caught a second wind.