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.

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.