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Day 1 of the flat classroom workshop as a virtual participant

February 25, 2010

Today was a good day of virtual participation for both the students and educators here at Yokohama International School. The students gathered from mid-morning in our IT lab, excited to be missing classes but still not exactly sure what they had signed up for. We are three and a half hours ahead of Mumbai which is a strange time difference, not half a day but enough to be out of kilter. It did though help to build anticipation and there was clear excitement when the livestream came on from the ASB unplugged conference opening and we heard Julie talking and then disappointment when it dropped out. However the students were already well engaged in the backchannel and starting to meet other virtual participants.


Julie’s livestream came back and helped us to follow the gist of things happening in the main room while we chatted and tried to get involved. Being some of our most technology inclined students I expected a fair level of technical skill from the group but I was surprised with the ease with which they coped and utilised the multiple channels of communication they were engaged with. I did feel the need to encourage them to spend some time reading the pre-conference links as well as carefully selecting their avatar pics and ning themes but then this was a way for the students to set the tone and agenda for their subsequent conversations and introductions.

As the main conference broke into teams I observed with interest as our virtual participants tried different ways to engage with their peers in Mumbai. Chatzy, skype, wallwisher, ustream, the conference wiki and ning were all used in different combinations and all the students eventually made contact although some with more success than others. YIS teachers were popping in to see what was going on, their questions and reactions differed. The myriad channels and lack of centre kept some at a distance while others wanted to jump on the computers and join the discussions. The seemingly hyperactive and fractured nature of the conversations the students were having led one teacher to speculate that there is a danger that this type of learning, while technologically interesting, may ultimately lack depth and substance.

However, now that I have seen the ideas come out from those discussion sessions I think my colleague’s concerns were misplaced. There are already some original, clever and well thought out projects developing that have identified real problems with insightful potential solutions. They also show an understanding of the transformative opportunities that open access to collaborative digital tools provide. While I am at a distance I also sense that the groups are very much being led and structured by the students themselves and crucially that these groups are comprised of students of different ages and cultures working in different timezones. Roll on tomorrow. cc

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One Comment leave one →
  1. February 25, 2010 5:40 pm

    Colin, so excited you have found engagement with the virtual involvement. Loved our pics, and your students played an important role in helping teams here realise what virtual learning and communication is all about. Love your comments about ‘dismissive’ teachers……..I hope you can stay with us for the next 2 days.

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