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Thursday, July 24, 2008

My response to "Does Flat Fall Flat?"



Just read a quick post by Clay Burell entitled Does Flat Fall Flat for Teens where Clay reflects on some ponderings by Danah Boyd:

"As I say below, in horribly confused prose, danah’s presentation of her research on teen networking practices made me question whether teens are as impressed by the potential of global collaboration as we (rightly) are.  I’ve gone through two of them now, and am fairly certain that once the unit was over, so were any connections that those teens made with other teens flung wide around the globe during that unit."

Here was my response to Clay:

"Global collaboration works keeping one vital factor in mind.  Teacher engagement PRECEDES student engagement.

Some projects just want to throw kids together and don't have meaning for the students.  Connecting globally isn't easy.  It is very challenging and I think it best happens when you start with say two teachers and two classrooms with a meaningful project and then on from there.

There will NEVER I repeat, NEVER be a "magic pill" for education where teaching just becomes easy and kids just do it themselves.  It doesn't happen in our flat classroom projects nor does it happen in any course I've ever taught.

That being said, when global collaboration is done well and when teacher engagement is high -- the learning that results is permanent and transformational -- at least that is what I've seen.

I don't like the term "social networking" for education and prefer "educational networking" -- by mixing the two up in research we're getting some sort of bastardized results that don't really reflect what we're talking about.

Also, remember, that we must work to do age appropriate, class appropriate, learning style appropriate projects and teaching.  And that all of this is very very hard work.

No magic pill here -- however, I can 100% say that my students would not have the same result collaborating with just schools in Georgia as with schools around the world.

Finally, there are ways to flatten the classroom by working with people in the community -- just check out what Ernie Easter in Maine is doing with his project to create online virtual museums with several community organizations.

Flat comes in multiple flavors, but it must be meaningful and requires teacher engagement."
 I don't really know who among us has the perfect formula... yet.  However, I also have to wonder if the imperfect nature of collaboration and the whirlwind of teachable moments that it entails is not also an essential part of learning about the Flat World.

I still think we are just at the beginning of this entire process of flattening the classroom and we need to be careful to think that any one pattern is the absolute right one.

To me it is about removing the walls of the classroom and about providing meaningful, authentic projects where students are allowed multiple methods of production and response.  Creating researchers with a strong thought process who understand the technology trends shaping our society and an awareness of cultural differences and how to work with multi-national collaborative teams towads a common purpose... these are the things I strive for in my classroom.
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