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Real participation in a virtual “Flat Classroom”

February 24, 2010

Flat Stanley in cherry tree by sheep guarding Llama

Later this week I will be participating, along with eight of our tech team students, in an educational conference called “The Flat Classroom Workshop“. Influenced by Thomas Friedman’s book “The World is Flat” educators Julie Lindsay and Vicki Davis initiated this series of conferences/ workshops with a view to take Friedman’s notion of a flat world and apply it to an educational context. They are, as far as I can see, essentially exploring the extent to which they can create a ‘flat’ classroom. A classroom that uses digital tools to support collaborative learning with no boundaries.

I am drawn to this conference both by the structure and the premise. My understanding is that the teachers learn alongside, with and from the students in small teams as they work together on tasks. I like the fluidity of this set-up, the idea that the experienced educator can both lead and be led. The concept of ‘flattening’ that Friedman highlighted has been rightly debated but I think to take what was a descriptive observational understanding about global trends and turn it into an intentional and ambitiously transformative event is brave and I look forward to making a contribution and supporting this endevour.

I am further encouraged as by the “Opening Up Education” theme for the event. I am interested to see where conversations around increased access to technology and literacy will go and the ideas we can generate about this. The pre-conference reading included links to projects like the “hole in the wall” initiative that brought computers into rural villages in India and observed how the communities used the internet and other digital tools to develop new skills and opportunities. I look forward to exploring with students and teachers the implications and possibilities of Friedman’s assertion that events have transpired to “empower more individuals to reach farther, faster, deeper…by giving so many more people the tools and ability to connect, compete and collaborate.” International schools are, generally, culturally diverse and open places to learn. However, the large fees and the distinctiveness of the established norms of these schools can leave them as islands not completely engaged with their local contexts, and therefore, to some extent, not fully in the real and complex world we live in. I will be interested to see the impact this conference has on the students from my own international school, to see if the they are drawn into new areas, understandings and conversations.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Gordy permalink
    February 24, 2010 1:37 pm

    Could happily have a bit of a chat round that proposal!

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