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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Immersing in all things India: The India Immersion Project



In eleven days I, Mrs. Betty (my dear friend the curriculum director) and seven students will head to Mumbai India for ASB Unplugged and the Flat Classroom mini-conference. And we're taking a whole heap of 2nd through 8th graders with us.

Meet the India Immersion project.  Inspired by Silvia Tolisano's Travel Through Space and Time Presentation in the K12 Online 2007, the students are "traveling" with us to and through India in what we hope will be a powerful vicarious learning experience.  In vicarious learning, you learn by watching another.

Each of us has a classroom that we will email and skype with while we are there. We have a private wiki (sorry, with the young children there, it MUST be private) where we are sharing the voicethreads (grades 2-5) and links to classblogmeister (grades 6-8) where students will be sharing.

My tenth grade computer science class are the self-named "Indie-techs" (a double meaning there - they are independent and also focusing on Indi-a.)  These students are administering the blogs and voicethreads, helping and training teachers, and facilitating the technology part of this project.  While they do this, they are developing leadership skills, troubleshooting, and problem solving.  While I'm nervous, I do know that these students always exceed my expectations and I truly believe that it will be a powerful learning experience.

More than that, the technology is really an ancillary - a means of expression. The amazing teachers here have planned incredible intense experiences.  Our middle school teacher-leader has reorganized the schedule so that students get vital academic subjects in the mornings and beginning at noon each day, students move to multi-age groupings for deep learning experiences for the entire afternoon.  Each teacher on the project has an expertise (literature teacher - the literature of India; history - the history of India; math - currency conversion and distance calculations; science - animal life and topography -- and even more) -- the student groups will rotate between the groups and also email with their assigned traveler daily.  We've set up several skype times and the fifth grade has a "scavenger hunt" of things for us to find.

This has been a tremendous undertaking led by our incredible curriculum director of which I am just a small part, however, it is gaining momentum and I'm excited to see what happens.  Vicarious learning has long been held as one of the most powerful modes of helping people change long held beliefs (as a way to help people recover completely from phobias as per Bandura's research on people with snake phobias.)

So, several of you have asked me on Twitter about this "India Immersion" project.  I hope that we will have a few things to share after we're over and my student travelers will have several blog posts on our public World Wide Wildcats blog where we chronicle travels we take as part of our Flat Classroom project experiences.

This is only the beginning and will transcend the origins in technology.

So, I've spent the evening purchasing the last of the items I need for traveling to India and am about to pack up this laptop to spend some time with my wonderful dear husband who supports me so much in all these endeavors.  So much has changed and as of this morning almost 30,000 of you are subscribing to these travels into the Flat Classroom here on the Cool Cat Teacher blog.

I'll keep you posted and just want to take a moment to tell you thank you for the encouragement and many things you all have taught me along the way.  When you open up your classroom and share, powerful things can happen and are happening to many of us out here.

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