Sunday, March 13, 2011

At the W.A.L.L. ~ We All Learn and Lead!!

    The sites we visited throughout our stay were amazing, but it was our last few days in Beijing that were the most inspiring.  A group of teachers and students from more than 14 countries around the world came together to take part in the Flat Classroom Conference.  This is not your typical educational conference where a participant might attend to sit and listen to presenters giving information for you to just absorb.  Were there experts there, yes.  However, instead of presenting as most would know it, they were facilitating international group's project creation.  Project-based conferencing is how Vicki Davis describs this new way of conducting a conference.  There were two strands; a student strand, which I helped to facilitate around 100 students, and a leadership strand made up of approximately 100 teachers.  The other presenters were the Flat Classroom co-founders Julie Lindsey and Vicki Davis. As well as Kim Cofino, Bernajean Porter, Frank Guttler, and Andrew Churches, and our UNI professor Leigh Zeitz.  Dr. Zeitz and our UNI Instructional Technology Cohort members; Lisa Schaa, Cathy Olson, Deb Bruxvoort, Brandi Day, Farrah Kashef, Jennie Kies, Carrie Jacobs and myself helped to facilitate as well as presented on instructional design and how it relates to collaborative project creation.  We prepared for this presentation by meeting on Tuesday nights for several weeks in advance via Adobe Connect, Skype, and Google docs during our Applied Instructional Design class instructed by Kathy Klink-Zeitz, who also traveled to China with us and helped to facilitate student groups.
    The main goal for both of the strands was to come up with an idea for a global collaborative project.  Lisa Schaa and I, the only two elementary teacher facilitators, chose to work with Kim, Bernajean Frank and the student strand. The students were divided into teams of 4-5 students from a variety of countries.  There were 20 teams and no team had 2 students from the same school/country. With time constraints on the assignments the groups were initially given, there was no time to waste.  I was very impressed how the students all had the initiative to get started right away.  The self motivation I witness in these students was incredible.  Each team had to come up with a project idea, give an elevator pitch on that idea to groups of the leadership strand who gave feedback, then create a presentation using a storyboard or animatic to compete to be one of the six finalist groups selected to work with the experts to create a movie for their idea.  In previous conferences, the project voted best of conference became a Flat Classroom project that was actually conducted by classrooms around the world. Voting has just recently closed, however you can view all the finalist videos on the Flat Classoom Ning.
    The newly created elementary Flat Classroom Project "A Week in the Life" connects elementary students in grades 3-5 from around the world in sharing what life is like in their respective schools and countries. It encourages students to connect and communicate to build an online learning community and to collaborate on a common set of guiding questions and objectives.  The new project is beginning the end of March and running through the end of the school year and my 3rd grade class has been selected to participate. I am very excited for this opportunity to help my students understand what is out there in the world and how to use collaborative tools for learning.

1 comment:

  1. Great video, Jami.
    I like how you revisited the trip. It will be an exciting event to see how your 3rd graders experience the Flat Classroom Project. You are pioneers on this project. Good luck.