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Friday, January 30, 2009

Does everyone have to go to learn something from a Face to Face Conference?

Reading the blog posts of students who did and did not attend the conference has been amazing -- we are seeing that although 4 students and 2 teachers went to Qatar - that the majority of our students have now changed their views on the Middle East!  It was stunning when I came back and asked the students to tell me what they learned from the conference.

I sat down to talk to my 10th grade and asked:

"What did you learn from the conference?"

The first answer from a student who DID NOT ATTEND:

"I learned to NOT stereotype people from the Middle East, they are people just like us and sometimes the media isn't telling us the truth."


So, here are some of my favorite quotes from student blogs today.  Let THEM tell you the story of the 2009 Flat Classroom Conference.

Kayla (virtual attendee) says:

"While I was participating in the Flat Classroom Conference virtually, I began to realize that this project has more meaning than just a classroom assignment, or busy work for the students. Several people have taught me that there is hope in this world....

Before, i was slightly frightened thinking about being around the people with the turbans on their heads, thinking they were a threat to North America and our society. But i now realize they are people just like us, and they want to make the world a better place as well."

Annabelle (virtual attendee) says:

"Even though I didn't go to the conference, I still learned a lot. Now that I've seen the videos and the pictures from the trip I wish I had gone. It would have been a great experience that I probably would never have forgotten. I realized that many of the cultures aren't all that different from ours.

My views on the Middle East have changed a little because the people that did go said that everybody was extremely nice and Qatar was amazing! Everybody seemed to have a lot of fun. I thought it was really interesting how the students had to get together in groups and film videos that raised awareness to poverty and racism."

 Kara (virtual attendee) says:

"One of the things that I like was the Eracism video. Our culture has changed a lot, but there are still some people who are racist in the U.S. It's also still a problem everywhere else to. Hopefully someday racism won't be a problem anymore."

 And then, Kaycie's (a virtual attendee) post brings tears to my eyes.  I'm including the whole post as it is a powerful testament to what CAN happen if those of us working with projects and link ups take it to the next step AND add a face to face component to our collaborations:

"The Flat Classroom Conference was overall a great experience, even for those who participated virtually. Videos were taken of the conferences so all of us got to watch and see what was going on. The video where Jeff does his  presentation on "YOU" I thought was very good and educational. It had a really good point behind it. We don't realize how much WE do and the way it affects our society. From the websites we get on to the amount of text messages we send, it all makes a difference. The people that got to go to the conference also had some really great videos and presentations. Each had to think of a topic and something they could do that would help make change. They also videoed some of their experiences they had while they were there. I think this was good because it gave the people back home a visual so we could see what the Middle East is like and their culture.

I think this project definitely changed my view of the Middle East. Not all people are like us, but that doesn't mean that they are bad either. There's nothing wrong with learning people's culture and seeing the way they do things. It can be very helpful in the society that we live in. When people see the news broadcasts they believe whatever the people tell them. They judge before they actually see who people are and what is going on. I think that this view needs to change and people if people are going to see the cons, they also need to take time to look at the pros as well."

This is SO NOT about technology and so much about PEOPLE.

It is not about the technology itself but what the technology lets us do.

If we are to solve today's global problems, it will take people in disparate places working together with people around the world.  Meeting face to face cements the ties that have emerged through our computers to give us the trust and relationship that it takes to attain the cooperation we need to improve our world.

Don't think that we're somehow the only one's doing this sort of thing.  It is happening everywhere there are excellent educators committed to an excellent 21st century education.  These educators are connecting their students, and yes, eventually taking some of them to meet face to face.

Although I haven't posted my own take aways from the conference -- I have more hope now that I've returned than ever before because I am seeing the WHOLE SCHOOL change their views on all of this technology and working with other places.  There is an excitement and an energy and an understanding for what we're doing in this classroom and around the world that has never happened.

It is about people. 

Connecting people.

Understanding people.

Uniting people.

Giving back our hope that we can build the bridges today that the students of tomorrow will walk across.

Keep the faith - teachers you have the most noble calling on earth.  And if you're using your classroom to collaborate with others around the corner, around the country, around the world - you've escalated yourself to the top echelon of nobility and excellence as a teacher whose legacy will extend far beyond today.  This is a grassroots effort of which we are part. 

Feel free to read the thoughts of the other students on our conference Ning.

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