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Monday, November 30, 2009

Bad Backchannel: My Take on Danah Boyd's Bad Day

Danah Boyd's recent travesty with a backchannel at Web 2.0 Expo better have all presenters examining the use of this tool - which can be valuable or can be devastating! Danah said about the experience:

"Well, I started out rough, but I was also totally off-kilter. And then, within the first two minutes, I started hearing rumblings. And then laughter. The sounds were completely irrelevant to what I was saying and I was devastated. I immediately knew that I had lost the audience. Rather than getting into flow and becoming an entertainer, I retreated into myself. I basically decided to read the entire speech instead of deliver it. I counted for the time when I could get off stage. I was reading aloud while thinking all sorts of terrible thoughts about myself and my failures. I wasn't even interested in my talk. All I wanted was to get it over with. I didn't know what was going on but I kept hearing sounds that made it very clear that something was happening behind me that was the focus of everyone's attention. The more people rumbled, the worse my headspace got and the worse my talk became. I fed on the response I got from the audience in the worst possible way. Rather than the audience pushing me to become a better speaker, it was pushing me to get worse. I hated the audience. I hated myself. I hated the situation. I wanted off. And so I talked through my talk, finishing greater than 2 minutes ahead of schedule because all I wanted was to be finished. And then I felt guilty so I made shit up for a whole minute and left the stage with 1 minute to spare."

 Why were they laughing -- someone wanted her to slow down?  What did she do? She sped up because no feedback mechanism was in place.  Additionally, sexual slurs began smattering the backchannel.

When I use backchannels in presentations there are a couple of guidelines that I think are a good idea to do:

1) I don't like the backchannel on the big screen.  Period.  

It leaves people out in the audience. I was moderating a backchannel like this at NECC and was LAMBASTED by an angry person who didn't even read the comment I made and wouldn't listen otherwise.  She couldn't respond and so hijacked the Q&A part of the conversation. I felt badly for her but felt a lot like Danah Boyd did in her current blog post.

Honestly, it was the worst presentation experience of my life and I played a bit part which was escalated to a HUGE part.  I felt like Danah, wondering if I should even be presenting at all.  It was unfair to those in the audience without a laptop and couldn't follow the stream and it was unfair to me as the moderator who had a comment totally misread!  UNFAIR!

It would take something HUGE to convince me otherwise.  Level the playing field or whatever, if you are presenting you are NOT in the backchannel and the backchannel can become a BACKSTABBER that you cannot answer unless you have someone moderating the channel and providing you with feedback.

If you have it on the "big screen" have a backup slide or two and be ready to pull the plug.  Just be ready.

2) All presentation backchannels should have moderators.

Chatzy rooms, etc. - this makes sure that what is happening is OK and also allows the speaker to turn to this person and say "Hey, what is happening in the backchannel" and get feedback!  If Danah had had someone to give this feedback during her speech, it would have allowed her to slow down. 

When I have backchannels, I share the link on my slides and turn to my moderator(s) - {if more than 100 people I usually have 2} and ask what is happening and what questions they have.  This is a GREAT way to include an audience with laptops while not making the others feel too left out who cannot respond because of the digital divide.

3) Backchannels Should be Part of the Presentation from the Speaker
The speaker should know about it, understand how it is going to work and be on board with what is happening.  Period.  Speakers are paid a lot of money to do what they do and if something goes wrong with the PRESENTATION it is on their shoulders and their reputation is at stake.  (Here are the slides I use when sharing about how backchannels are to be used.)

4) Twitter makes a poor presentation backchannel.

I think chat rooms are definitely my favorite way to backchannel - everyone can participate and also you don't end up with the 140-character truncated version of what people were really trying to say.

If you truly participate in a Twitter backchannel it also causes a Twitter flood and if you follow your unfollow stats like I do -- if you backchannel in Twitter too much - YOU WILL BE UNFOLLOWED, temporarily by some and permanently by others.  Actively backchannelling in Twitter will annoy your tweeps and could cause you to become marked as a Twitter spammer - it is not a good idea to do.

Really, a chat room is so much better for this anyway because it can be archived and allows more meaningful conversation and more extensive replies.  Twitter has a place but deeper connections can happen.

5) Backchannels Should be Intentional
My goodness - slapping together backchannels without a plan and without communication with the speaker is RUDE.  It doesn't make for a good conference and is just plain tacky.  Just because you can doesn't mean you should.

Everything in a presentation should target towards the goal of the presentation and conference.  Backchannels can be very  useful when in a workshop, in small open source lab settings, or when you're trying to facilitate conversation.

My Take on Danah's Bad Day

One of my dear friends, Anne Bubnic, emailed me to let me know what happened to Danah.  She was at NECC this year when my horrible Backchannel Bad Day happened and I'll tell you what - it didn't matter that I had 12 pretty good presentations at NECC -- the 13th one was very unlucky for me and made me feel like a total L-O-S-E-R!  Totally.  It was awful.

It didn't matter what anyone else said, it was one of the worst presentation experiences of my life.

Danah Boyd, I'm going to tell you something.

#1 You are brave.
Thank you for openly speaking about how you felt.  And you don't need ot make excuses for anything, being backstabbed by a backchannel that you didn't really know was there and having no conduit for feedback to you on the podium is totally the wrong way to do this!

There are enough people who have worked through the pedagogy of good backchanneling that we should be able to have some good backchannel guidelines that work for speakers so they don't have to write in their contracts that no backchannels are allowed!

#2 Keep on plugging!

Plug ahead - keep going.  My heartbreak over Kathy Sierra's experience with cyberbullying was that she STOPPED.  We as women must show we are especially resilient.  (Which is why when I received death threats on this blog that I didn't stop here!)  But we also have to have supportive families, who usually react by wanting us to quit!

You know that there are things worth dying for.  Freedom.  Purpose.  Cause.  And my goodness, although I wouldn't want to die for my blog, sacrificing pride and going right back out there after a horrible experience is the kind of "dying to self" that I think is appropriate.

Don't quit, Danah.  You'll come out stronger! 

#3 You are now an ambassador.  Use it Well.
Just as Kathy Sierra carries a lot of weight on cyberbullying - you can now speak and carry weight on backchanneling and how it can be best used.  There are many people (like me) who would be willing to sort of codify some backchannel suggestions or guidelines or some alternatives that have worked for us so we can share them with those considering doing it.

You know if this happens once, then chalk it up to learning but this is NOT the first time it has happened.  It angers me that we haven't learned from the humiliations of other speakers and improved how this is done.  The Web 2.0 Expo organizers should be embarrassed that they didn't have better communications with you on this!  It is a way NOT to do a conference.

Who wants to pay to go see speakers humiliated?  If they want to do that, there are plenty of TV shows that do that - my goodness!

OK, so my little tiny thoughts are added to the cacophony, but Danah, I appreciate your sharing and your thoughts.  Thank you for sharing your perspective, this is something I think I should do more next time when I have things happen, I guess, if appropriate.

Keep on going and moving ahead.  In many ways we're still moving through the "Wild West" phase of the Internet, but you know what... you're still standing.

Keep on going and perhaps one day our paths will cross.  And sometimes the very worst things that could ever happen to us, can end up being the best.  The spotlight is not out on this one, my friend!

Friday, November 27, 2009

From Amazing to Normal: Taking the Journey while Encouraging Others

 While doing Black Friday shopping online, I came across Chris Betcher's Post This is Not Amazing and was struck by his feelings towards those he is working with:

"It’s time to stop being so “amazed” at things that are just part of the technological and cultural landscape of life in the 21st century.  It’s not “amazing” that computers can edit video, manage numbers or manipulate digital images. It’s not “amazing” that mobile phones can stream live video or GPS your current position.  It’s not “amazing” that you can make phone calls to the other side of the planet at no cost. None of these things are really “amazing” any more… they just “are”. To be “amazed” at this sort of stuff is to fail to recognise the invisible role that technology plays in all our lives these days. To anyone working in education, working with young people, you need to realise that simple tasks performed with technology are not something to be “amazed” at, marveled at and gushed over.  For our students, the use of technology as the enabler for such tasks seems as natural as breathing air.

I was in another meeting with some students and a teacher the other day, and the teacher was trying to show the kids about a Ning they’d had set up for a class project.  The teacher was all effusive, gushed about the Ning’s “amazing” features and wanting to show the students all the “amazing” things it could do… “Look! You can use it to leave messages for each other!”, she said excitedly.  One of the students confided to me later “I can’t believe how worked up she was getting about that Ning… it’s just a blog. It’s like Facebook. Of course we know how to use it.”  It reminded me of that wonderful line from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, where the people of Earth were considered a bit of a joke for being “so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.”
Here is my own response that I have for Chris (as left in the comments):

I think it is important to realize that everyone has their own personal journey into this computing age.  As change agents it is important to realize that just because something isn't amazing to us does not mean that it is not amazing to another person.  I think the reason more people don't jump into technology is the condescension of those already in technology.

If someone thinks it is amazing, the first thing to do is to put their hand on the mouse and then let them try it. Then it travels from amazing to "I can do it."  And when it becomes non-amazing and part of what they do on a daily basis, then, we have enacted positive change and helped people transform.

We have to help these things move from amazing to normal for people and as long as people are thinking these things are amazing we aren't making it real enough for them to think that they can do it! 

Please be kind to the others you work with - they are probably great people who just aren't there yet and need some encouragement.  And when the light bulb goes on, we all gush on and get excited and then we move on and just use it.  Newbies need some kindness and grace from those who know more and not made to feel like dummies.  How will those you help feel if they read this post - will they feel appreciated and accepted or will they feel like you're on the inside looking down at their stupidity?  They aren't stupid they might just be newbies and that, in itself is a HUGE accomplishment because each person needs to start somewhere.

It is also amazing that we have the ability to build our own social networks and do it for free and that we can set these things up.  There are a lot of amazing things computers can do -- does it mean that separating conjoined twins or the stars in the sky aren't more amazing. I guess it is sort of like how the Eskimos have so many words for snow -- perhaps we need more words for how it feels when something is really really cool.

I do think Chris is right that it is about time for many of these things to move from "amazing" status to just what we do.  But we're not there yet AT ALL.  The fact is that these things really are amazing to a whole lot of people.

Honestly, I find my iTouch's ability to coach or help me manage my christmas list or my calendar pretty amazing because it has made my life better and I remember just a year a go when I didn't have it.  I also find Twitter's ability to connect me to everyone else all over the place pretty amazing as well - since we didn't have this ability around 4 years a go.

Do I find it as amazing as the sparkle in my young son's eyes as we play with the cat?  Or as seeing my Mom serve Thanksgiving yesterday when we didn't know last year if she'd live through 2008?  Gosh, not - those things are transcendent.

I think we just have to give people time.  Love them, encourage them, help them and also teach a true patience when newbies are just learning something because truly we're all newbies and gush on about something new to us that is old hat for someone else.

Chris is a great guy and I'm sure as he helped these people that he was just thinking inside himself: when, when is this going to move on and be something everyone knows how to do? Why am I the only one doing this? Why can't they see that this is no big deal?  We all feel this.

And yet, we have to temper how we feel with the reality that a lot of good people in education out there are really just now starting to begin to understand these tools and patience and helpfulness when they are ready is a great asset in our desire for change.

In sports - I would do anything for my coach who was kind, loving, and encouraging but the most arrogant coach I ever had coached the sport I loved the most (basketball) but the one I quit because he was so frustrated that we didn't get things that were old hat to him but very new to us.  Coaches gotta keep coming back to the fundamentals when new people are on their team.

Progress is being made - keep it going.  Help teachers connect themselves using an RSS reader and Twitter - that is a great first step to helping them connect and learn themselves without being so dependent upon a few people at their school.

And one side note:  when these things are no longer amazing, they no longer carry a premium price tag for the people who can help them with it -- so if you're an IT person worth your salt, you'd better be working in the realm of amazing to the other folks at your school, that IS what they pay you for.

Finally, it is all about learning and helping students learn.  To me, when my students in 8th grade first make a video, they think it is amazing but by the time they are done with tenth grade - videos are just what you do and are part of what they know how to do.  We should be part of transforming these important tools, skills, and knowledge from amazing to just what we do for the students and the teachers -- although this is something we will have to continue to do as long as new humans are being born on this planet.
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Thursday, November 12, 2009

WaterShed Moment in the History of Online Safety Education

In Larry Magid's Brief, Poingnant Overview of the recent third annual conference of the Family Online Safety Institute, he called it a "WaterShed Moment int he History of Online Safety Education" I felt buoying hope.  Below are the extracted annotations from his article from me but I'd like to add something that I just emailed to Larry.

Wow, Larry. Just a note that your current article in the San Jose Mercury News is SPOT ON - http://www.mercurynews.com/breaking-news/ci_13723472?nclick_check=1

We've been seeing this in our Digiteen projects where the kids determine their own ACTION project to teach digital citizenship to the audience of their choice.  (You can see this year's action projects forming here - http://digiteen09-3.flatclassroomproject.org/Westwood+-+USA -- they are right now in progress.) The kids research digital citizenship w/ partners around the world and self form teams.

One of the coolest is my Super Social Safety Team (http://supersocialsafety.blogspot.com and http://www.twitter.com/socialsafety ) they are testing programs for kids 8-12 and upset that many sites are being marketed that are irresponsible.

Just wanted to reach out and say YES!!  There are schools using social media like Nings and wikis and Twitter and some ARE receiving erate funding -- eRate funding has long been an EXCUSE to do nothing and the blocking has gotten ridiculous with a lot of public schools not even being able to upload a video for Obama's youtube contest.

I hope that people are reading, but right now with budget cuts, outsourcing of filtration, and the typical struggle to keep your head above water mentality many of us have right now - I hope that wise people become progressive about these things and realize that the greatest danger is the person who picks up the kid in the car every day - not some random stranger who might see a kids picture on the Internet. (Although kids SHOULD be educated about that.) Personally, I think Digital Citizenship encompasses more than just safety and that all kids of all ages should be included.  But as my ninth graders say, they are often best qualified (with guidance) to create compelling educational lessons for younger kids on safety.  

Magid: Treating kids on the Web in a new way - San Jose Mercury News
  • a watershed moment in the 16-year history of online safety education.
  • in that young people were viewed less as potential victims of online crimes and more as participants in a global online community.
  • the "predator panic" that was rampant a few years ago has largely been put to rest as safety experts and law enforcement studies from the Crimes Against Children Research Center and elsewhere show that, statistically, the odds of a prepubescent child being sexually molested by an
  • online stranger is virtually zero and the odds of it happening to a teenager are very low, especially when compared with children who are harmed by family members and others they know from the real world.
  • the culprit is far more likely to be a fellow young person.
  • Kids are affected by their own behavior ranging from posting pictures or comments online that could come to haunt them later to "sexting," sending nude or nearly nude pictures of themselves to others.
  • a few misguided ones have used these laws against children.
  • others continue to perpetuate myths about Internet dangers.
  • "one size doesn't fit all.
  • There was a lot of discussion about the lack of interactive social media in schools.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Blessings and Stressings: Reflections from Home

A Break from Traveling
Since July I gave myself five months off from travel. There were simply some things to attend to. My youngest son needed to be tested in more detail (he has dyslexia and a form of ADHD) and my older two - one in high school and one in middle school needed a chauffeur and a cook each night.  Life begins at home and if I should raise children who do not contribute to this world in a positive way then no matter what else I do, in my own mind, I'd be a failure.

Also, we have had the Eracism project to kick off and have been struggling and trying to raise money for the Flat Classroom conference in Mumbai, India still need about ($20K to do a few things we feel like we need) as well as other upcoming projects.  I picked up running the week after NECC (using the amazing Couch to 5K app on my itouch) and have lost another 10 pounds since then and ran my first 5K about four weeks a go (this weekend I run another.)  I'm totally addicted to running and I enrolled my youngest son in Tae Kwon Do two days a week while my husband and I run-- he has lost weight and my husband and I have as well and he has his first testing Saturday.

Opportunities and Challenges
Additionally, I've had several book offers but also have been strongly considering self publishing as well.  I've had to enmesh myself with the legalities of Intellectual Property with some contracts coming my way that literally would have taken Flat ClassroomTM from Julie and I, should we not have been savvy and alert.  It is upsetting but the "nature of the beast," I guess.

Kim Caise has been hired by Elluminate to help Julie and I 20 hours a week with the tremendous growing Flat ClassroomTM projects which we are struggling to keep free, doling out money from our pockets at this point a little too often.  We've also got some proposals out to work with some groups to take some Digital Citizenship education resources out further to others with the Digiteen model.

Computer Lab is Dying
Meanwhile, I am teaching in a 5 year old computer lab with computers dying on me and no money to replace them and working on grants to try to raise the $60,000 I need for upgrades at the school and to just keep my SANITY! Our school is actually growing (surprising) and my classes are bigger than ever and now EVERY class has a major global collaborative piece in it.

Needless to say, it has been busy, but a different kind of busy.  I've really had the time in the classroom I needed to innovate and help my students get grounded before I take off to speak in New York in January, keynoting TICAL in Little Rock, Arkansas in February, co-leading Flat Classroom Strand at ASB Unplugged in February 2010, keynoting MACUL in Michigan in March, my students and I will be leading a leadership workshop for librarians at Valdosta State College in March, and keynoting the TNT Conference in Bismarck, North Dakota in May and of course ISTE 2010 in Denver, CO.  Talking with a few schools about the summer and organizations about next year and I may have  a few spots that will come available in April/May.  (If you want to talk about what you're doing, just email me to see if we can work it out.)

{Oh, and tomorrow night, November 12 at 7pm EST, I'll be presenting online about Differentiated Instruction and Global Collaboration as part of George Siemen's Online Learning PD Activities (he has some amazing presentations lined up tomorrow.)}

I've got a lot on my to-do list - updating my websites, creating a new website for me, a new elementary science Flat ClassroomTM project, and lots of other things needing handling.Really it is quite overwhelming.  K12 online 2009 presentations (we wrote 3 proposals hoping for 1-2 acceptances and then learned they likely accepted everyone -- well, if they're going to do that, I'm NOT going to do that again and submit one!!)

Halfway Between Hyperventilation and Blackout
Although right now I'm in a break from the conference thing, my life does seem about halfway between hyperventilation and a blackout.  Picking up kids and running places - long late night trips home from ballgames and shopping for a pageant dress for my 6 foot size 4 daughter!  These are the things of life and they are great but it is quite fraying on my sanity! My husband has had to downsize his department from over 120 staff to around 30 and it has been hard on him. (They are dependent on automotive work.)

You know, it is easy to look at someone's life and think they have it easier or better.  My husband got a nice handy little PAY CUT which was unannounced along with all the other employees of his company, so we've had to do a huge share of belt-tightening like many of you.

So, this morning when I woke up feeling pretty rough and knew that I had another full day of Justin Reich, wiki uber-researcher (and now a good friend) observing my classes today, this was the only thing I could tweet:

Overcoming hardship is only glamorous in the movies made years after the tears and sweat have evaporated.

Guess I'm sharing all this to bring those of you who are my friends out there or who somehow think that other people have it easy in some way that, it is rough all over! One of my "pet peeves" is when someone calls me a "rock star."  At first, it was cool, but somewhere while running around the track these past months, I realized that I don't want to be anybody like that -- (I mean who wants to be a super popular, lack of privacy alcoholic drug addicted sex addicted mega-millionaire anyway if we play on all those stereotypes.) 

I'd really rather be a normal person out here who encourages other normal people to strive to be excellent in their profession of loving and educating this amazing generation of students in our classrooms. Truly, the lowest points of being able to help anyone are when I started believing that stuff and that somehow the fact that some really cool people read my blog that it made me right all the time.

My dear friend, Terry Freedman always makes me laugh when he says "I'm quite proud of my humility."  Well, it isn't about being humble - you can be confident without being arrogant.  To me, it is about being usable and relevant - usable to be used to help others achieve and do and learn more and relevant so that perhaps some of you can identify with this woman who put her keys in the refrigerator yesterday but still somehow manages to educate her students well.

Pie Day
This past Sunday was "pie day" in my house - the self-proclaimed day after Fall Festival when everyone is allowed to eat any homemade pie or cake that they won at the Fall Festival the night before.  Well, we won 12 pies and 3 cakes!! Not kidding! It was too much -- so I froze some of them for later. If we'd gotten in to all those pies, it would NOT have been pleasant and we would have ended up wasting some of it. Well, in my life I sort of feel like I felt when I looked at all those pies on my table Saturday night - that if I try to take it all on it is too much - -that I'm outmatched and am not up to the task.

So, I ramble up to a couple of points here:
  1. If we really look at our lives, we are all blessed in many ways: family, friends, children, rewarding careers.
  2. If we really look at our lives, sometimes the blessings are also stressings:  family, friends, children, careers.
  3. The Blessings and Stressings are Part of Life:  Get Over It, Get Up, Get Going and sometimes Get a Nap!
Today, when my students in the Arab Israeli Conflict Simulation where sharing the most important things that they had learned, one of the students playing Barak Obama said,

"I've learned that these things take time and all these other world leaders want results NOW but it just takes time to work these things out.  Sometimes freaking out makes the situation much worse - you basically have two choices - blow everyone up and make  a mess or take your time and work it out and improve things for everyone."

OK, so he said it - but I listened for my own personal life.  If I freak out, it makes the situation worse.  If I blow up -- it makes a mess.  But if I just take my time, plod ahead and do my best, I can improve things continually for everyone:  my family, friends, children, and career.

Blessings and Stressings
These Blessings and Stressings are part of the fabric of life and if you haven't noticed we're all having to cut budgets, cut out expenses, get creative, and keep our chins up. (Yes, I said chins! ;-)

I don't know about you - I've got a life to live here and why on earth am I going to ruin it whining and having a pity party about any of my struggles - there is always someone with more and always someone with less.  I am thankful I do have a God to take these worries to each morning to help me through them. Who am I to think that somehow I "deserve" to live in the best time in history? (As if there were a best time.) 

Did our forbears deserve to live through the great depression and 2 world wars? 

There is more than enough hard work to go around but if I 've got to do it anyway, golly pete, I'm not going to fuss about it. 

You know, Abraham Lincoln, and Winston Churchill and Ghandi were not born into happy go-lucky fun times when everyone could afford a vacation, they were great because they had great leadership, insight, and vision and they were able to inspire people who would have been hopeless otherwise. 

They were able to somehow stand up against the tides of dissent and cesspools of despair to churn up their own tidal wave of change that rocked the shores of society!

This is a time of great change for all of us. If you look at when societies struggle, it is when they somehow think that money can buy anything worth having.  Money CANNOT buy as good of an education as having an involved caring parent and teacher and hard working administrators.  Money CANNOT pull a nation or world out of economic depression or recession-- only hard work and wise counsel. 

The problem with many of us is that we'd rather watch TV for four hours a night than to spend that time with our kids or helping them do homework.  WE don't complain about the kid who plays on the Xbox for 20 hours a week, but God forbid the teacher send home 30 minutes at night!  If you asked us to restrict kids to 30 minutes of TV a day, we'd balk.  Where are our priorities?

I hope that we will all take a look at what is happening and realize that we can't spend money we don't have, that we have to choose how to spend our time and not allow it to go down the drain of mindless activity and that no matter our generation or the strife of our societies that we can, my friends, choose our attitude.

Thank you for allowing me to ramble. I'm always nervous with such a long, stream of consciousness post that I'll have mistyped or said something wrong here -- "In many words is folly" and the more I write the more likely I'll mess up by mispeaking or writing. 

My Heart ForYou
However, my heart for you, my friends out there, teachers, educators, and technology buffs is one of wanting to encourage you whereever you are, whatever you're going through to get up, smile at the sun (or the Son as in my case), enjoy the snow on your eyelashes or fragrance wafting towards your nostrils and:

see the blessings around and have a good attitude towards the stressings that are also inherent in life today.

Keep the faith.  Don't quit and remember, as my Granny always said,

"Sometimes you gotta let the rough end drag and it is OK!"

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Monday, November 09, 2009

The Conference for Educators and Students to Change Your Life

Last year, we had our first Flat Classroom conference in Doha, Qatar during which the students invented global collaborative projects that they believed would improve a social issue.  Out of that conference, the students invented and voted the Eracism Project as their winner, a project to hold weekly debates around creating an understanding of race and culture.  The first week into Eracism, I'll say the student vision was amazing and as teachers we are so excited about what we see with the potential for "simulated sychronous" environments to bridge gaps.

Now, Julie Lindsay and I are working diligently on the next Flat Classroom Conference, which we are calling a "mini-conference" because it is being held as part of ASB Unplugged in Mumbai India this upcoming February.  We are bringing the same project based learning environment along with incorporating adult educators - not as "teachers" but as co-participants and equals in the process of not only understanding technology but in improving the world at large.

Students will again be assigned a diverse group of students (last year in a group of four each student was from a different country) to use leading social technology tools to design the future of how students can use these tools to improve our world.  Most likely we will be settling on an environmental theme this year and will let you know in the upcoming month.

But the bottom line is this - we are making sure that you know that this conference in Mumbai is here for those who want their students and teachers to improve and change the world.  Through partnership with ASB Unplugged, we've worked to make 50 student scholarships available for housing and attending the conference and although the scholarships are first issued to students from schools who have participated in  a Flat Classroom project (Flat Classroom, Digiteen, Horizon, NetGenEd, and Eracism see http://www.flatclassroomproject.org for information on these projects.) we are opening up applications from any school.

If you want to view what happened last year in Doha Qatar, take a look at the powerful documentary about the conference.  We also are talking to some sponsors at this time not only for February 2010 but also for February 2011, which is at a location that will be announced soon.  We are talking to companies who believe in harnessing the power of social media and the engagement of students from around the world to improve our world through global collaboration in education.  We have tough problems to solve and it is important to engage our students in working together towards improving our world!

Julie and I are completely passionate and dedicated to making participation in our projects and conferences as affordable as possible and thus far have not charged one dime to participate in any of our projects and have scholarshiped students to these conferences with them only having to raise airfare and incidentals, but we are at the point that it just cannot be done alone.  We need your help!

So, spread the word - we're looking for at least 20 more students and their teachers to come to this amazing conference (most schools send about 4 students and 1-2 teachers) and also for sponsors who believe in this vision or who just want to understand how a PBL conference integrated educators and students into a meaningful, life changing experience is done.

How can you help?
  • Share this with your school and ask them to get involved in this grassroots movement to connect students in powerful, global ways.
  • Share the conference information - http://flatclassroomconference.wikispaces.com
  • Consider attending ASB Unplugged or our Flat Classroom Conference Strand as an educator 
  • Tweet information out.
  • Look for information about virtual participation.
  • Consider donating to help some at a local school pay for airfare. (Contact your local school directly as we are not taking donations at this time through us.)
We simply would not be doing these things without YOU.  My gratitude extends to you and all of those who have supported Flat Classroom projects with their time, volunteer efforts, and wisdom.  This sort of open-collaobration represents where we are heading and our minds and hearts are simply spinning with the huge demand and desire to bring this to so many schools.

Thank you again for sharing this with those who are interested. Here are the important links:
Press Release about the conference


Details for those planning to attend

Flat Classroom Workshop at ASB Unplugged Overview

The American School of Bombay and ASB Unplugged are proud to be the host of the Flat Classroom Workshop (and mini-Conference), February 24-27, 2010 in Mumbai, India. Flat Classroom Projects have joined with ASB Unplugged, a conference organized in collaboration with the Anytime Anywhere Learning Foundation, the Near East/ South Asia Center of Overseas Schools (NESA), and the Laptop Institute. The Flat Classroom Workshop Strand will include a unique, project based learning approach allowing participants to use cutting edge technology tools AND interactions with educators on the leadership strand to redefine learning while involving students in the process.

Co-founders of the Flat Classroom Project , Vicki Davis and Julie Lindsay, have joined forces with colleagues and supporters from around the world to provide another opportunity for a face-to-face, real-time gathering. The aim of getting together in the one place is to fully extend and foster connections and collaborations that will ultimately improve classroom practice and pedagogical approach using technology as part of a global flat classroom.

In an ever-changing world the impact of the Internet, in particular Web 2.0 tools, has been so significant it has changed the way students and teachers can interact and learn. There are opportunities for different learning relationships and for multi-modal outcomes using multimedia and online tools. The conference will provide opportunities for leaders in education, classroom teachers and administrators as well as students to learn with and from each other in a 'flat classroom' model. It is envisaged the workshop experience will culminate in actions that are then shared around the world and sustained by continued projects based on community and curriculum needs.

What is the Flat Classroom Workshop?

The aim of the workshop is to bring together geographically dispersed participants with a view to sharing ideas, using mobile computing, learning about Web 2.0 communication and collaboration tools in a flattened world, and working on a project theme that can be transplanted back into their home school. The selected theme will inspire unity and action as well as fostering continued connections after the event in Mumbai. It is envisaged this will improve global understanding and cement friendships for ongoing collaborations. It is also envisaged that this will provide an opportunity for students and teachers together to 'create the future' through exploration of a global or social issue and developing an 'action' plan to work globally to overcome this

Who Should Attend?

The workshop is aimed at Middle and High school students. It is envisioned that past and present participants in Flat Classroom Projects and previous workshops projects will be interested in coming as well as classrooms who are wanting to have a 'Flat Classroom' experience and take the ideals and skills back to their own schools. Each participating school is encouraged to register up to 4 students, and if interested, 2 teachers. Workshop teams will be made up of participants from different schools and countries.

What will you do?

An essential element of the workshop is to join students (and teachers) together in a constructivist learning environment, and by using 'flat classroom' tools, work through a project-based, action-oriented learning workshop. Skill development in Web 2.0 and multimedia tools along with enhanced cultural understanding and digital citizenship support the pedagogical approach to collaborative learning in a digital world. The skills and tools will provide the scaffolding for developing ideas and putting into place actions that could make a difference to the world. We invite you to browse the recent Flat Classroom Workshop in Hong Kong wiki to see what we did there. All conferences and workshops connect via the Flat Classroom Conference Ning

Flat Classroom Conference

Flat Classroom Conference, held in Qatar, January 2009, brought more than 150 education leaders, teachers and students together to Qatar to envision the future of education. Students and teachers from very diverse backgrounds such as Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia, United States, China, Australia, Pakistan, India, Iraq, Ethiopia, South Africa, and beyond came to the Leadership Workshop and Student Summit. The student videos and reflections on the conference Ning show the positive affect that the conference had on reducing stereotypes, not only of the Middle East, but of one another.
This conference was not a lecture-based conference but primarily a project-based conference using the latest in educational research in project based learning to rework how content is delivered in a conference format. Using small teams, group presentations, and multiple interactions between students and educators, a rich, interactive environment evolved. Multimedia was a focus, with students exploring topics and creating rich presentations. Many presenters, educators, and students have expressed their favorable opinion in their post-conference reflections of the need to deploy this method of improving education on a global basis.

What is the Flat Classroom Project?

Info from the ABOUT wiki found at http://www.flatclassroomproject.org/About

The Flat Classroom project is a ground breaking, internationally recognized project which combines hundreds of students from various cultures, countries, and backgrounds into a meaningful collaborative writing and digital storytelling project to study the trends in information technology. After the initial project won multiple international awards and was included in Thomas Friedman's book, The World is Flat v.3, it has been remixed into 11 different projects following the same model. These projects have joined together almost 2,000 students from more than 20 countries and is widely considered a best-practice for as a holistic and constructivist educational approach that creates students who are competitive and globally minded.
The project was co-founded by Vicki Davis http://coolcatteacher.blogspot.com/ (Westwood Schools, USA) and Julie Lindsay http://123elearning.blogspot.com/ (Beijing (BISS) International School) in 2006 when they were located literally around the world from one another. This project uses a wide variety of Web 2.0 tools including wikis, educational (social) networks, cross-timezone calendaring, collaborative digital storytelling and publishing to "flatten" or lower the classroom walls to join two or more classes virtually to become one large classroom.
A little more about the projects:
The current projects cover the following topics:
  • Flat Classroom Project - The topics studied and discussed are real-world scenarios based on 'The World is Flat' by Thomas Friedman. Students collaborate on a wiki then produce an individual multimedia piece in response to their topic. A clip in this piece is 'outsourced' to a team member in another classroom, so not only do students study the flatteners as discussed by Friedman, they use them in the project.
  • As a sister to the Flat Classroom Project the Horizon Project, as mentioned in Don Tapscott's recent book, Grown Up Digital now renamed as the Net Generation Education project and run in collaboration with Tapscott himself, also lowers or 'flattens' the classroom walls by emphasizing connection, communication, collaboration and creativity as well as higher-order thinking skills and problem solving. This project is based on the Horizon Report released annually by New Media Consortium and the Educause Learning Initiate that outlines 6 trends they believe will be impacting college and university campuses within the next five years.
  • A further imitative recently is the Digiteen Project which has linked classrooms of middle school students from Australia, Canada, USA, Spain and Qatar with the aim of promoting better online citizenship through research and discussion and culminates in each school taking action within their own community to promote this.
In 2009, the Digiteen and NetGenEd projects are adding a virtual component in OpenSim and have gridizenship added as a component of digital citizenship in their work. In addition the new project 'Eracism' will provide an opportunity for global debate around he need to 'erase racism'.

Registration Details

Our aim is to encourage participants from around the world to attend the Flat Classroom Workshop and wish to support this by providing accommodation and most expenses for students, including meals and sight-seeing, while in Mumbai in the form of a 'scholarship'. Students and teachers who have been past or current participants in the Flat Classroom Project or at recent Flat Classroom Workshops will be given priority however we strongly encourage all interested applicants.

Interested applicants are requested to complete this online form to register and to be considered for scholarship benefits.
Application deadline has been extended.
Successful applicants will be notified by November, 2009

More information is available from flatclassroomproject@gmail.com

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Daily Spotlight on Education 11/07/2009

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Daily Spotlight on Education 11/05/2009

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Daily Spotlight on Education 11/04/2009

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.
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