Rock the World! (#flatclass Book Club Reflections – Part 9)

Several months after it began, my #flatclass reflections series has finally come to an end. I really enjoyed attending the official Book Club, and I hope my blogged reflections will help inspire and guide other teachers interested in exploring this amazing field.

Perhaps too, they will help provide some feedback to the book’s amazing authors, who inspired my first steps into the wonderful world of global collaboration.


Chapter 11: Challenge Based Professional Learning

If there is one thing the Flat Classroom community particularly excels, it is their model of challenge-based PD for teachers.

For now at least, my attendance at a Flat Classroom Conference remains a distant dream; however, this chapter provides an impressive overview of #flatclass PD. Frankly, most of the theory and PD framework in this chapter went over my head, but if this area interests you, I’m sure you’ll find it a fascinating read.

Chapter 12: Rock the World

This chapter was short and sweet, and can be simply summarized in a few lines

  • Make connections which count
  • Learn YOUR way
  • Be prepared to help and share
  • Set some goals – take that first step!
  • Share your story, and "Rock the World"

This chapter is a fitting conclusion to Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds; and it reflects my own learning journey over the past few years.

Every journey starts with a single step … and its time to "Rock the World". Care to join me?

Celebrating Global Collaboration (#flatclass Book Club Reflections: Part 7)

Over the past year, an extraordinary bunch of international educators transformed a vision of global collaboration community, dreamt up right here in Western Australia, into a real world reality. The Global Classroom Project has been an extraordinary experience, and we thought this was something worth celebrating.

Chapter 9: Celebration, in Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds, filled in the missing piece of the #globalclassroom puzzle; bringing home the need for an official closure and celebration of our 2011-12 project.

We needed to provide a space and opportunity for our teachers and students to celebrate and share their experiences with the world. So on July 1, 2012, we held our Looking Forwards, Looking Back webinars, inviting our teachers to contribute to an international showcase of our projects, learning experiences, and achievements through Global Classroom 2011-12.

Due to terrible technical problems, the morning (Americas) webinar turned into an impromptu Google+ Hangout; however, the evening Australia / Europe webinar was an incredible success, with speakers from India, Taiwan, New Zealand, Australia, Taiwan, Romania, and the USA.

The closing webinars also provided an opportunity to share the first pictures of the #globalclassroom memento scrapbooks, which are traveling to classrooms around the world. These scrapbooks provide our students with the opportunity to share their voices, cultures, and learning with the wider world, and will continue on their journeys for at least another year to come.

Book Club Reflections …

I found Chapter 9 of the #flatclass book a very relevant, informative chapter; one which had a significant impact on the #globalclassroom community. While the way we acknowledge and celebrate learning is somewhat different to the #flatclass model, that’s the way I like it.

We’re building on the work of those that come before us, and are exploring new ways to learn, connect, and collaborate globally. As they say, life is always more interesting when you’re a pioneer …

Pedagogy & Creative Collaboration (#flatclass Book Club – Part 6)



cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by jakerome

Thankfully, the #flatclass book club took a break last week due to Mothers’ Day, which gave me a welcome reprieve as I tried to catch up with my blog reflections. This week, I’m going to share my reflections on Chapters 7 & 8 of Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds.

It’s about “Choice” (Chapter 7)

While I struggled to make a contribution to the discussions surrounding Chapter 7, I was able to glean a few useful lessons: 

Teachers make instructional choices about technology, curriculum, pedagogy, and classroom learning environments on a daily basis. 

 

Teachers who are willing to learn, experiment, and explore new teaching strategies are more likely to become life-long learners, and successfully engage their students in their learning. 

I also liked the ideas for supporting student engagement – enabling students to question, build, invent, connect, find meaning, understand, and excel through the effective application of technology & engagement in global collaborative projects. We are beginning to work towards these goals in the #globalclassroom project, and I look forward to applying these ideas in my own classroom one day. 

Creation & Collaboration (Chapter 8 )

I enjoyed chatting about Chapter 8, which explores the topic of “co-creation”. While I prefer to think of this as “creative collaboration”; I was able to draw many parallels to my own professional practice.

As those who have come to know me online over the past year and a half will attest, the development of my online presence (digital footprint) has been a wild ride.

I started out blogging about classroom management, joined Twitter, met my dear friend @clivesir, and presented at my first online conference… A few months later, as I was going through a massive professional transition, I met Deb Frazier, co-founded the Global Classroom, and the rest, as they say, is history … 

I now find myself, as a third year relief (substitute) teacher, becoming a voice of change in the global education sphere. By collaborating with experienced teachers online, I’ve led the creation of a new global education community, and learnt a great deal about myself in the process.

So yes, I can only smile as a I read this chapter, and recommend its key lessons to my fellow readers –

  1. Establish your online presence – Its time to share your story
  2. Connect & contribute to your network – your voice IS important
  3. Don’t be afraid to create & collaborate – with your school colleagues, local community, and members of your global Personal Learning Network
  4. When you are ready, start exploring ways to bring this creative collaboration into your classroom – for our students need to learn these skills too …

As the old saying goes, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”.

It is time to take it.

 

The 3 R’s of Global Collaboration (#flatclass Book Club – Part 5)

I’m a couple of weeks behind on my #flatclass reflections, but here are my thoughts on Chapter 6: Contribution and Collaboration …

Key ideas in this chapter included: “Receive, Read, and Respond“, the essential habits which underpin effective global projects; and an exploration of strategies for supporting communication, collaboration, and leadership within global learning communities.

While the focus of the bookclub was on supporting student communication and collaboration, I want to apply these ideas to the teachers in the #globalclassroom community, sharing some of the challenges we’ve faced, and the lessons I’ve learnt over the past year.

Building Community

The Global Classroom Project was designed as a meeting space & global collaboration platform, not as a single collaborative project (e.g. Digiteen). At last count we’ve hosted over 15 major projects, and welcomed hundreds of teachers into our online spaces. Yet, while we do our best to welcome new teachers into our community, we continue to confront the major challenge of connecting with our ‘lurkers’.

Our single greatest challenge is the first step: Saying ‘hello”.

While we provide the online spaces for teachers to connect, we have no control over their participation & engagement in our community & project spaces. I’ve learnt that different online spaces suit different people … and realised that less than 1/3 of our new teacher sign-ups become actively involved in our work.

This is not to say that these teachers aren’t there, but work pressures, over-zealous email spam filters, language barriers, and variations in school years are significant barriers to their active participation in global collaboration …

For me, our greatest success stories have emerged from a simple IM “hello” on Skype or Twitter. We need to establish the personal connection, translating the teacher’s name on the spreadsheet into a real human being. BUT, we need our teachers to make that first step – to receive, read, and respond to our communications; as some are finally doing – nearly 6 months after joining!

Learning for the future

As this past year has flown past, we have witnessed Global Classroom become an established feature of the global collaboration community. We fulfill a need; providing the space and connections for innovative teachers to explore new ways to flatten their classroom walls, and mentor new teachers in the art of global collaboration.

Global Classroom 2012-13 will be different, because our teachers are different, and because I’m different. We’re learning from our mistakes, and through the book club, I’m becoming more comfortable learning and working with the #flatclass community. We have separate identities and roles, but we are learning so much by learning together.

I may be a dreamer, but I believe we can make Global Classroom a world-leading educational community in the years to come.

Our work is pushing the boundaries of what is possible; and I believe that our implementation of some of the #flatclass “handshake” strategies & communication advice (Chapters 4 and 6) will enable us to improve the connections we forge with our people, who are the true leaders of educational change.

Digital Citizenship (#flatclass Book Club, Part 4)

 

Chapter 5: Citizenship, focussed on the complex educational issue of digital citizenship.

I was particularly interested in the idea that we could examine digital citizenship through 5 lenses, the areas of technical, individual, social, cultural, and global awareness.

As I am not a classroom teacher, I really struggled to relate this chapter to my own teaching practice. Personally, the guiding discussion questions for each area enabled me to critically examine my relatively limited understanding of this topic,  and I am sure that this chapter will be a useful resource in the years to come.

I’m going to close with a thought-provoking video on this topic, the keynote for the next Flat Classroom Project (2012). It is well worth watching, as it explores the various facets of our digital lives.

I learned a valuable lesson today (#flatclass Book Club, Part 3)

 

Chapter 4, Communication, focuses on the need to develop the “techno-personal skills”, the online habits, which sustain online collaboration and networking. For me, some key ideas from this chapter relate to the nature of online communication tools, and some handy ideas for efficient, inclusive communication between teachers and students involved in global collaboration.

While I was originally going to focus this post on ways we could improve the #globalclassroom handshakes, I’m going to jump ahead a little, and write about something I learned today (relating to Chapters 4 and 5).

The situation

Today, I invited a teacher from the Middle East to join an upcoming #globalclassroom project. A little later, I became concerned that involvement in this project might inadvertently place this teacher in a difficult situation …  relating to the volatile political situation in the region.

Sadly, I was correct.

We talked about the issue, and our teacher decided to decline the invitation.

I was disappointed, but relieved that I hadn’t put my friend at potential risk.

I had learned a valuable lesson

When we collaborate globally, our ignorance of cultural and religious differences can have dramatic, unintended consequences in the lives of real people, in the real world.

We need to learn about, and be sensitive to difference. Yes, this seems obvious, but is so much harder in practice – as we “don’t know what we don’t know”.

This is why I believe it so critical to have open, public and private communication channels for global collaborative projects, and why it is so essential to build trusting, respectful relationships with the teachers you work with.

We need to create the space for people to talk and get to know each-other. I have personally learned so much about other people through mindless conversations about our lives and families – via Skype IM and Twitter conversations. These conversations usually occur in private mediums, and help to build mutual trust and respect. This means that when potential issues arise, when we are not sure about something, we feel more confident in asking for clarification behind the scenes.

As teachers, we can’t teach our students to be ‘culturally aware’ if we don’t understand, and model this awareness ourselves.

You don’t realise what this means until you’ve experienced it first-hand. It truly seems the more I learn, the less I know.

So, looking ahead … 

I hope, over time to get to know my friend a little better. If permissible, I’d love to just chat about our work & life from time to time …  I know so little about her culture, work, and way of life. If not, I hope she can at least point me in the right direction.

Inshallah.

Teacherpreneurs – Connect, Create, and Collaborate (#flatclass Book Club – Part 2)

Chapter 3, Connection, is the first installment of “The Seven Steps to Flatten Your Classroom“. It was focussed on ways teachers and students can create their own Personal learning Networks, using push and pull technologies to make the enriching global connections which underpin their learning, sharing, and collaboration.

Despite suffering from severe information overload, there were a few quotes and ideas in this chapter which really stood out, helping me to understand a little more about my own (technology enabled) learning habit, and educational mindset.

 Flickr CC Licensed: ‘Working Together Teamwork Puzzle Concept’

 

“When you know how to connect effectively, you have the power to learn”

Personally, this idea reflects my own experiences over the past year. On March 22, I celebrated the first anniversary of my first-ever global project, the very first time I was able to connect my students with the world.

I have been on Twitter for maybe 14 months, yet my global connections have transformed the way I teach, and the way I learn. My connections have led to wonderful global friendships, amazing educational partnerships, and quite literally impacted on students’ learning around the world.

I couldn’t do the work I do without my wonderful PLN, who support, inspire, and educate me on a daily basis. This is humbling, but it is a fundamental truth.

The Teacherpreneur – My “Ah-ha” Moment

A teacherpreneur is a person who seeks to enrich their classroom learning environment by “forging partnerships with other classrooms with common curricular goals and expectations. They accept the risks and responsibilities for the endeavour, and are accountable for the outcome.” (p. 44).

“Good teacherpreneurs aren’t renegades, they are connectors” (p. 45)

As I frantically scribbled “YES!!” in my notes, I realised that this concept defines what I have become over the past few months. While I haven’t yet had the opportunity to make meaningful, long-term connections within my own school and classroom learning environment, I’m helping to connect teachers around the world

‘Teacherpreneurship” is the idea which underpins the #globalclassroom community – we have created a place where teachers can work together to forge global partnerships, explore ways to extend their curriculum through global connections, and share responsibility for the ultimate success of their projects.

And this is an idea worth sharing.

 

“It is time to be the voice of change” – (#flatclass Book Club – Part 1)

 

Global collaboration is a journey which tends to take you in unexpected directions!

 

A year ago, I would never have dreamt that I’d be reading and reviewing Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds, nor would I have believed I would have the chance to connect and learn with the authors, Julie Lindsay and Vicki Davis.

Rather than writing an ‘official book review’, I’ve decided to record my musings on the #flatclass book as I try to engage in the online book club over the coming weeks.

So, here are my musings on Chapters 1 and 2.

 

“21st century skills harness not only the power of technology, but the power of people” (p. 3)

Reading the introductory chapters, I was taken aback by the parallels between my recent (unpublished) writings about #globalclassroom, and the #flatclass authors’ thoughts on effective global collaboration.

Having written almost exactly the same words a few days previously, this statement reinforced one of the key lessons I’ve learned leading Global Classroom – that while our work was made possible by technology, it is our people who have made it a reality.

Our work has been successful because our teachers, all over the world, are actively supporting each-other’s professional learning, and sharing responsibility for the management (and success) of our #globalclassroom projects.

 

“The aim of global collaboration is to improve learning, flatten classroom walls, and develop authentic audiences” (p. 4)

As I wrote some time ago, we are creating “the online spaces for teachers and students to connect, share, learn, and collaborate on a global stage”. And we’ve succeeded in building community; providing the space and support network for teachers to connect and collaborate, where they can experience the powerful impact of global collaboration and learning first-hand.

Built by teachers, for teachers, The Global Classroom Project is enabling our students to share their learning with the world; and helping our teachers explore innovative, transformational teaching and learning practices. We’ve opened up a window to the world, and we can’t go back.

 

“Connect one person at a time, build trust, and move forward together.” (p. 20)

I was struck by Suzie Nestico’s comment in the first #flatclass book club session relating the success of global collaboration to “building trust in the online environment”, going beyond the intitial connections to engaging in meaningful collaborations.

We are starting to make this happen, particularly in our Skype group, where teachers, who came to us with little confidence and collaborative experience, are building online connections and friendships through IM conversations and skype calls.

With a little support and encouragement, these teachers are starting out on their learning journeys, beginning to engage in their very first, more meaningful global collaborations. Yes, these are small steps, but these teachers’ stories are inspiring their colleagues – locally, and around the world.

 

“It is time to be the voice of change.” (p.20)

“Learning globally includes making a difference to the world.” (p.7)

I never expected to lead the creation of a global learning community. I was ‘just’ a second year relief (substitute) teacher, who has never had a class of his own. Yet, my social networking presence enabled me to make that initial connection with Deb Frazier in Ohio, USA; and later, it provided the connections which underpinned the collaborative development of the Global Classroom community.

As Deb and I look forward to celebrating the first anniversary of our ‘Twitter connection’ in April 2012, we can’t believe how our #globalclassroom spaces have become vibrant, community-minded forums where our teachers and students are connecting, making friends, and beginning to collaborate globally.

We are making a difference in the world, and helping teachers become the “voices of change”.

 

So, I conclude with a simple “thank you”

Julie and Vicki, it is hard to believe that an exploration of the #flatclassroom website and project wikis would kindle a teacher’s dream, and ultimately lead to the collaborative creation of a new global community.

But it did.

My work has changed the way I see and interact with the world. I now have friends across 6 continents, and find myself in the extraordinary position of leading a global education community in my third year of teaching.

I have a lot to learn, yet I suspect I am becoming “a voice of change”. I’m helping to make a difference in the world; and as our grassroots community continues to grow and evolve, I’m not alone.