Tag Archives: netgened

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.

More Thoughts on Global Collaborative Projects

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.

Of course, I am very keen on developing a MOOC for NWP and continuing to work on that idea, it is rooted in teacher professional development. It is not a student project.

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 РInterconnection, 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.

Communicating is Human & Flat Classroom Pedagogy

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.