Flat Classroom Project: Fresh start in a new world

The brilliant work by Julie Lindsay (Beijing, China) and Vicki Davis (Westwood Schools, Georgia, USA) continues in The Flat Classroom Project 2010-1 which is now is well under way for 2010.

The Flat Classroom™ Project is a global collaborative project that joins together middle and senior high school students. This project is part of the emerging tend in internationally-aware schools to embrace a holistic and constructivist educational approach to work collaboratively with others around the world.

One of the main goals of the project is to ‘flatten’ or lower the classroom walls so that instead of each class working isolated and alone, 2 or more classes are joined virtually to become one large classroom. This is done through the Internet using Web 2.0 tools such as Wikispaces and Ning.

The Project uses Web 2.0 tools to make communication and interaction between students and teachers from all participating classrooms easier. The topics studied and discussed are real-world scenarios based on ‘The World is Flat‘ by Thomas Friedman.

I was honoured to be invited to present the Keynote, ‘Pandora’s Box: Fresh Start in a New World’ for FCP10-1. This time there are  over 200 students from 10 classrooms across 6 different countries.

Here are some guiding questions to get them thinking about how to respond and start a discussion or foster an existing discussion:

  1. Is global collaboration using emerging technologies a pandora’s box? Why?
  2. How can we best prepare the ’17 year old Internet/connected world’ to mature and grow into ‘adulthood’?
  3. How has the flat world impacted on you as a teenager? as a teacher?
  4. What place do immersive worlds and virtual realities have in education?

Give credit where credit it due

Another year of school and the vital need to think through ‘plagiarism’ rears it’s ugly head again – particularly as the Open Content movement gains strength. The recently released Horizon Report 2010 explains:

A new educational perspective, focused on collective knowledge and the sharing and reuse of learning and scholarly content, has been gaining ground across the globe for nearly a decade. Open content has now come to the point that it is rapidly driving change in both the materials we use and the process of education. At its core, the notion of open content is to take advantage of the Internet as a global dissemination platform for collective knowledge and wisdom, and to design learning experiences that maximize the use of it.

Collective knowledge and wisdom depends on one thing though – giving credit where credit is due, whether it is courses, information, ideas, inspiration, motivation, etc. In fact, development of knowledge and scientific research has always depended on this.

But with the global reach of information and info-trash the ‘times, they are a changing‘.  Misinformation can become information. Knowledge can too readily become bias. So learning to give credit where credit is due is a critical and essential information fluency skill for our students to acquire.

Creative Commons

Let’s demonstrate to our students how easy it is to acknowledge inspiration in an online learning world. It takes a quote or a backlink – that’s all. What does it achieve?  Well, first and foremost, it builds learning conversation and creative endeavour,  and secondly it demonstrates that a learner is able to analyse and synthesize thinking from a global repository of possibilities. Sharing is so important, but so is sharing openly and inclusively.

It’s so easy to plagiarise, and call something your own!

Well why not, you might ask? Mashup? what’s wrong with that? There’s plenty of that around and it doesn’t really hurt does it?

Let’s face it, if I take myself as an example – I’m one in millions writing online. What does it matter if someone takes what I say and publishes it in China, or Russia or Timbuktu. Not much really, other than it misses the chance to develop better resources or better information about a topic.

However, educators and managers of technology supporting educational institutions online  understand the need to build that online info-puzzle together. We’re a big crowd with the potential to influence things!

That’s where book publishing and refereed journals  still have it ahead of the internet at this point in time – up to a point anyway. In addition, the notion of acknowledging ideas is a tradition in Western scholarship which for me has value in building credibility, personality, creativity, knowledge, and quality facts.

[Of course, what I’m talking about here is a very simplistic peek at the much more complex topic of knowledge  sharing which is at the heart of what we need to introduce our students to. Do drop over and read  If We Can’t Even Describe Knowledge Sharing, How Can We Support It? A nice ‘peppery’ look at the complexity of knowledge behaviours.]

How can we change the tendency in an online world to ‘copy and paste’ what suites for personal profit or gain?

Together, let’s entice our students into being captivated by the amazing opportunities that online learning presents. Introduce them to Creative Commons Licensing. Make sure that when they grow up they understand the power of the “By licence” (via Beth Kanter).

Teach your students the wisdom and value of giving credit where credit is due.


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Espresso on demand – and that’s not coffee!

Xerox has entered the 21st Century publishing game, reaching a joint selling and marketing agreement with On Demand Books— the company that makes the amazing Espresso Book Machine that can churn out a book in a few minutes. There are only 21 stores and libraries that currently have the machines, but through this agreement, you can bet you’ll see more of them. On Demand hopes to get 80 machines in the world by the end of 2011.

(via GalleyCat and @creativepenn)

The Espresso Book Machine

Google Earth across the Curriculum

Many teachers hear “Google Earth” and think it’s only something that social studies or geography teachers can use.

But, in fact Google Earth can be used across the curriculum. Thanks to Richard Byrne, Free Technology 4Teachers, for creating and sharing this document!

Watch out for the next instalment – Richard is working further on this. Follow Richard on Twitter to hear his alerts or add his blog to your RSS reader.

UPDATE: An alert on Facebook from Stephen Heppell pointed me to Google Earth Lessons. Thanks Stephen!

Real and imagined ~ are the same!

Each school, each leadership team, each school library team and each teacher needs to learn how to restructure the core business of schooling in order to embrace learning in our changing online world.

We say this often and slowly the ship of state is turning ~ but fast enough for our students?

I came across two things today which brought a smile to my face. What we imagine is possible ~ is real these days!

Take a look at TechXav –  seems to be as professional a website as any you might come across….. by 11-15 year old students?

TechXav is a technology blog written by a group of young and zealous teens, ranging from the age of 11-15.

Wait – they’re even located around the world!!

Right – and imagine what they think of being shown a powerpoint! or opening a text book!

I also read a post by Will Richardson about phones and about the disruption they are already creating for most schools (high schools at least) and about the huge brain shift we’re going to have to through collectively to capture the potential for learning in our kids’ pockets. I love the video he shared as well!

Yes, we’re facing a huge challenge ~ much bigger than just the roll-out of laptops in our schools in NSW. It’s a fundamental, seismic shift that likely will swallow some education institutions.

So this little promo video shared by Will also bought a smile to my face.

How to Score Full Marks

Everyone likes to score maximum points in each subject. It’s what the final public examinations in our country are set up for – to see who can get ‘full marks’!

Do you detect a cynical tone in my voice?  I love learning it’s true – but I also love learning and teaching to include an understanding of the online world that our students will be living and working in when they leave school.  So as the next round of marks are about to come out in NSW I wonder what these marks will tell us about the flexible and agile minds of our students and their potential to succeed in a world wrapped in new media.  New media? Social Media?  Is it really relevant? Do teachers need to know any more than the basics?  Perhaps it’s Business Studies that should take the most note of the shifts taking place, while other subjects should incorporate social media more into the whole learning process. Why?  Because from what I’m reading below – it’s driving a lot of change in the workplace and in marketing.

2009 was surely a banner year for new and social media. Fueled in large part by the impressive growth of Twitter and Facebook and the adoption of both by major brands and recognizable individuals, it’s safe to say that social new media truly went ‘mainstream’ this year.

The Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth recently conducted a new in-depth and statistically significant study on the usage of social media in fast-growing corporations. This new study revisits the Center’s study of Inc. 500 social media usage for the third consecutive year, making it a valuable and rare longitudinal study of corporate use of these new technologies. Questions probed respondents about their familiarity with six prominent social media (blogging, podcasting, online video, social networking, message boards and wikis) tools. This included the popular microblogging service Twitter and other popular social networking sites like Linkedin, Facebook, and MySpace.

Adoption and awareness continue to trend upward, with 91% of firms using at least one social media tool in 2009 and three-quarters describing themselves as “very familiar” with social networking. Social networking and blogging have seen the most growth in adoption, while other technologies have flattened or even declined in use, including wikis and online video. Twitter usage, of course, has caught on quickly—more than one-half of businesses reported tweeting in 2009. This was the first year respondents were polled about Twitter.


One impressive change over time was in the percentage of Inc. 500 companies that did not use any form of social media. It dropped precipitously from 43% in 2007 to just 9% in 2009.

The Internet has provided us with the platform of information sharing. In the Web2.0 era of social media marketing and information – so much is FREE!!

Item Price Supplier
Courses & Tutorials FREE Youtube, Blogs …
Global Client Database FREE Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter …
Market Insight & Trends FREE Twitter, Google Wave …
Customer Feedback FREE Facebook, Twitter, SurveyMonkey …
Global Talent Pool FREE LinkedIn …
Viral Marketing FREE All of the Above …
Infinite knowledge FREE All of the Above and more …

It’s like fishing where the fish are. Social media is where our consumers are at the moment. There’s no better way to amplify your message…..

…according to Michael Donnelly whose role in Coca-Cola’s global interactive marketing group is to help increase the understanding, testing, adoption and use of digital marketing and emerging media among the company’s marketers.

Coke used crowdsourcing to enable all of their consumers to vote on which team will travel the world for a year in search of what makes people happy. It’s a program that will be completely socially enabled. The team will blog, shoot video, conduct interviews and participate in events. Voting concluded and the three-person team of “Happiness Ambassadors” was announced online on November 16. The trip begins in January 2010.

Oh my!!  I feel as if we have a bit to learn don’t you think?

So I thought this study presented at Harvard University by the “Society For New Communications Research” (SNCR) in November 2009, was  a rather interesting read.

Amongst the findings that caught my eye (which should have relevance to educators) were:

Professional decision-making is becoming more social,  traditional influence cycles are being disrupted by Social Media as decision makers utilize social networks to inform and validate decisions.

The big three have emerged as leading professional networks: LinkedIn, Facebook & Twitter.

The average professional belongs to 3-5 online networks for business use, and LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter are among the top used.

The convergence of Internet, mobile, and social media has taken significant shape as professionals rely on anywhere access to information, relationships and networks.

Reliance on web-based professional networks and online communities has increased significantly over the past 3 years.

Social Media use patterns are not pre-determined by age or organizational affiliation with younger (20-35) and older professionals (55+) are more active users of social tools than middle aged professionals.

There are more people collaborating outside their company wall than within their organizational intranet.

Connecting And Collaborating Are Key Drivers For Professional Use of Social Media.

So how are you as a teacher or teacher librarian using social media to help your students ‘score full marks’??

Mobilise your education planning

Right now I am in the run-up to the first exams of the year for my students. They’re getting nervous and I am too, while I gather my information, think about reports, and wonder how much information I can muster for the chats to parents that are coming up on Sunday.

Sitting at my desk with dreamy eyes I wondered when I would be able to more effectively streamline my information gathering, my classroom tracking, and various elements of the administrivia of teaching that must be done to support great learning.  I was on the verge of setting up something vaguely flexible for myself, using something online (google docs?), so that I could develop this information in class (on a netbook?) and access it at my desk or at home.

I had not worked out what to do!  Bingo – I don’t need to.

A read of my RSS news told me that a new product that will launch on the iPhone just might be a great place to start with all this.

Educate: The Ultimate iPhone and iTouch App for Teachers.   Plan lessons; monitor student attendance; with teaching and e-learning goodies too!