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Monday, November 27, 2006

The Classroom is Flat: Teacherpreneurs and the Flat Classroom Project Kickoff



I was chatting with Craig in Greece today and I asked him what flat classrooms mean to him -- he said this:

"No walls."

Hmmmm.

Today is the kickoff of the Flat Classroom Project


This is on my mind because today was Day 1 of the Flat Classroom collaborative project between Julie Lindsey's classroom in Dhaka, Bangladesh and my computer science classroom in Camilla, Georgia. Our classrooms connected after Julie responded to a blog posting that I created: My Student's Weigh in on Friedman's Flat world. She and I began to discuss what flat, collaborative classrooms truly mean. After seeing some synergies and a common passion for global collaboration, we drafted a plan. We took each it to our local administrators and curriculum directors and received approval for what we are calling our flat classroom project.

Synopsis of Project:

Our students will be paired with each other to create wikis and multimedia resources discussing the educational and industrial implications of the "flatteners" as outlined in Thomas Friedman's book, the World is Flat. The project will be wiki-centric and is designed to require research, information literacy skills, and high level critical thinking.

For me, this is the semester assessment for my students which will count 20% of their grade. (We use major, cumulative, genuine assessment projects in lieu of major exams. All of our tests are supposed to be cumulative and we have found greater retention and learning through the use of such projects, although at first I was skeptical!)

Here is the outline of What Julie and I created on the wiki to get our students started:

Flat Classroom Project Information

Wiki: http://flatclassroomproject.wikispaces.com/
Grading Rubrics: Ms. Lindsey - Bangladesh Ms. Davis - USA
Topics
Calendar
Templates for beginning pages
An Awards Program
My School Information Exchange
Code of Ethics
Resources - For information about "how to" do things

I am blogging daily on the computer science blog for my class to post our progress, entertain questions, and update the students on any intermediate due dates.

Caveats to this project

There is a fine line between information exchange and privacy that we walk daily and in our introductions that we recorded to one another, we've had to complete several edits for my students. We also have time issues so we have exchanged skype ID's. This is truly as asynchronous of a project as it comes! Julie and I communicate each morning and evening because during mid day one of us is usually sleeping (because it is the middle of the night.)

My students have already learned so much about Bangladesh on the first day! They have been discussing what they've learned. Other students are asking if they will get to do this next year! It is very energizing and exciting to see these students from different backgrounds connect.

How your classroom can contribute


Although no other classes are being added to the wiki (at this time) we want our students (and yours) to understand the dynamics of blogging and tagging, so here is what we are doing:

1) Go to the topics page of our wiki.

2) Students may select a topic (each group has a number).
3) When your student blogs about the topic for a particular team, they may tag it as follows:

flatclassroomproject06-01 For information relating to group 1
flatclassroomproject06-02 For information relating to group 2
flatclassroomproject06-03 For information relating to group 3

... and so forth.

If they do not know how to insert a tag, they may do it manually by typing the following information (See information on technorati about tagging your posts.)

The format from Technorati is as follows:

href="http://technorati.com/tag/[tagname]" rel="tag">[tagname]

So.. a the HTML of a tag to go to the group 1 page would look like this:


href="http://technorati.com/tag/flatclassroomproject06-01" rel="tag">flatclassroomproject06-01


You'll have to type it manually for it to turn out correctly, but I'll include the tags at the bottom of this post and you may copy and paste those.

They may do more than one! All of them should also tag their posts flatclassroomproject06. (You should too if you blog about it!)

4) After writing a blog post, tagging it, and publishing it, they need to "ping" technorati.
Note: The blog must be publicly available for this to work!


a) You can do this manually by copying the URL of their blog posting (On PC, copy the URL in the address box, right click and copy)

b) Then, go to http://www.technorati.com/ping

c) Right click in the box that says "Ping technorati" - and click Paste.

d) Press the button to Ping.


5) Our students are going to add an RSS feed from Technorati for the posts tagged with their specific tags to their individual project pages.


Your students will be able to go back to the wiki and within about an hour see their posts appear on the page. If your students wish to shoot any video or podcasts, they may link to them within their blog posts. Remember to specify the creative commons license holder so that we may cite you as a source in the final product if your interview or opinion is included. Please make them short -- less than 1 minute of video or audio if you wish to "weigh in" on either the educational or industry impact of any of the topics. Please also state your location - city and country. Remember, if you have questions, you may contact me.


Well, hello Mr. Friedman!


In fact, this is how Thomas Friedman must have found Julie's post today about the roll-out of our project. This was the e-mail that she received:



Dear Julie,

I read your blog about the flat world classroom. I was delighted to see it! Tell me how it goes. Yes, this is really Tom Friedman. Allbest, Tom



So, after we scraped ourselves off of our collective blog-ceilings, we went back to work. This is a great project. It is the right thing to do.


Embarking on a journey to the unknown


It has been tough. We've had to invent things from the ground up. This is uncharted territory. Many would not embark out of fear. What will the students do? They age in range from 15-18 year olds. Are we crazy?


Actually, Julie and I have a lot in common, I believe. We both believe the best in our students. And when they fall short, we encourage them to rise to be their best. This is an ambitious project but I believe the first of many for us. (And Julie is just as "sharp as a tack" as we say down here in South Georgia, she makes me look good!)


But perhaps the most exciting thing about this project is that it was initiated by teachers. Two teachers who made a connection via their blogs, found common curricular objectives, created a framework, proposed the methodologies to administrators, and then after visionary administrative approval, move ahead with a project.


This is an upside down topsy-turvy way of doing things that will send shivers down the spine of many an administrator. However, notice that Julie and I both had to secure administrative and curricular approval. We are under our authority and are not renegades. What we are is connectors.


I heard Will Richardson two weeks a go at a conference say something like this:


"Teachers are no longer just content deliverers but are connectors."

This is the emerging role of teachers. Teachers as connectors. Teachers as those who relay and share ideas and best practices via their blogs as part of their professional expectations. Teachers who read their aggregators and participate in projects with other teachers around the world.

The birth of the teacherpreneur


Since I am a businesswoman - I guess I'll call them teacherpreneurs for lack of a better term.

I define these people as the teachers who see opportunity to make profitable learning experiences for students through their partnership with other classrooms with common curricular goals and expectations.

These are teachers who dare to innovate. They understand the best practices of teaching well enough to be entrusted to continue with high standards of achievement and learning while utilizing new conduits of information conversion into knowledge. (David Warlick blogged about this today.)

It does not matter the size of your organization -- I believe that teacherpreneurs have been around for a long time. They are the people that movies are made about. They get "in trouble" with their renegade practices until people realize that they work. Then, they leave teaching and write books, and make movies. We need more of them!

It is time for the mass production not of industrial robotic line workers but of teacherpreneurs. For I believe that if this attitude is promoted in the classroom under proper authority and best practices, that teachers can truly become connectors and breed a new generation of global collaborators and big picture thinkers like we've never seen before.

What do you think?

Note: If your students need to copy some of the appropriate tags, they may copy these listed below and paste into their blog!

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