Tag Archives: Flatclass

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The Real Value of Connecting All Schools

The Real Value of Connecting All Schools

This is  an excellent article in Education Week

A couple quotes:

“I have seen study abroad experiences change the lives of many students in our International Studies Schools Network. The new Connect All Schools consortium has a very specific goal: to connect every school in the US with the world by 2016. Travel is one way they are doing this and here David Potter, Chief Development Officer, iEARN-USA, explains why.”

“It is unimaginably hard to do this,” Wallace adds, “to stay conscious and alive in the adult world day in and day out.” It is difficult for educators in the day in and day out of teaching, testing, and trying out new technologies to commit their students to a collaboration with We need an empathetic, globally aware citizenry capable of working with their counterparts in other countries to meet the economic and geopolitical challenges of this century.”

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Gearing Up for Common Core in Math: Vicki Davis with Darren Burris

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Collaborative & Engaged Education. It’s what we all say we want! What’s stopping you?

Wow! What an amazing thing happening in education in a small North Georgia town!  Direct To Discovery is what engaged and collaborative education is all about.  Amazing leaders make all the difference. It’s great to see Vicki Davis, my mentor and colleague, leading the way. We can’t all do this, but we can all do something.

Innovative use of technology in the classroom. What’s stopping you? Sometimes everything you want is just on the other side of fear.

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.” ~John Quincy Adams

Barrow County Georgia

You’re in a Global Project. Now What?

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There are so many great organizations and global collaborative project options, so just jump in! Once you get your feet wet and figure out the terrain, it’s time to make global projects work for you by specifically addressing your curriculum. You’ve opened up your classroom to the world to allow your students to connect and learn with kids all over, but curriculum standards are different around the world. It is easy to make the project not only collaborative, but also individual to suit your needs.

I’ll take a project my class finished recently to demonstrate how to tailor a project to fit your own needs. Using Data to Understand the World was a collaborative project between Illinois, Alaska, Taiwan, Canada, Costa Rica, Ireland, and Australia.  It spanned grades 3-6. On the surface, it was a project to compare geography throughout the world by tracking data (temperature, precipitation and sunlight), and then discussing topics (animals, plants, and land forms). Each participating teacher agreed to provide the data and to participate in a conversation among classes. I could have left it there, but I used the project as a backbone to integrate my curriculum. In our district, the 5th grade curriculum includes:

  1. Ecosystems (Science)
  2. Compare and Contrast (Language Arts)
  3. Informational writing (Language Arts)
  4. Data and graphing (Math)
  5. Culture (Social Studies)

So to address those things, I included these aspects:

  1.  Ecosystems: I used my science text-book as we worked. Then I assigned deeper investigative research on the relationship between sunlight, location to the equator, hemispheres, and the ecosystem.
  2. Compare and Contrast: Students chose two countries to compare and contrast animals and discussed how geographical location effected animal population.
  3. Informational writing: Students chose a country’s plant posting and wrote an informational piece after researching.
  4. Data and graphing: We used the data from around the world each month to graph and chart. We learned about mean, median, mode while comparing the counties and relating that to distance from the equator. I used my math book to teach these lessons while we worked.
  5. Culture: throughout the project, we discussed culture as we Skyped, discussed, interacted with kids and teachers.

In addition, we used edmodo.com as a place for students to interact directly. I taught digital and global citizenship, collaboration, and technology while we worked online.  Schools participated on different levels and to different degrees, so I used that to frame my collaborative connections.

I chose Using Data to Understand the World in this example, but this can be done with any global project. So far this  year, we have worked with iEARN and Flat Classroom, and through kidblog.org. This individualization can be done with any project, so start small. Also, take advantage of the other teachers out there. Educators that are online in global projects are  there to mentor and help as well. There is an amazing network of teachers online that welcome questions with open arms, so don’t be shy! Professional generosity is abundant. Jump in!

Here are some great places to start:

iEARN

Flat Classroom

Global Classroom

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I can’t do That! Sure you can…

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As we start the school year and online projects, I’m reminded that incorporating the richness of global collaboration into my curriculum has been a gradual process. The whole process seemed more daunting when I first started, but there are so many people and organizations willing to help make it a real possibility for you and your students. There is no end to the Professional Generosity, a phrase Lucy Gray describes in her TedxTalk, available within the global education community.

In my class last week, after our mixed-class small group meetings, Lisa Parisi instructed both of our classes on fact checking and how to cite sources for their collaborative Google docs. That may not seem unusual, but it was all done on Skype, and  Lisa’s class was in Long Island, New York and we were in Geneva, Illinois. We are working collaboratively on a geography unit called Natural Disasters and Us.  This is a complex project involving research, documenting, writing, communicating online and on Skype, and finally the creation of community prototypes that are designed to withstand specific natural disasters.

Lisa and I are able to spend time in each other’s classrooms to learn together as we co-teach. We can be mentors and advisers to one another. She has influenced my teaching greatly. All that, and I have never actually seen Lisa in person. A couple years ago, I could never have envisioned myself doing such a complicated interdisciplinary unit outside of my own four walls. This didn’t happen overnight. I was able to do this little by little with some amazing help.

My first exposure was a pilot global project, A week in the Life, a Flat Classroom Project, and at that point, I had to ask my then principal , Dr. Barrett, what a Web 2.0 tool was. The Flat Classroom teachers in that project patiently walked me step by step to not only a successful outcome, but a toolbox filled with web 2.0 savvy.  Next came my first iEARN project, the Holiday Card Exchange, involving another group of amazing teachers to learn from and with.  Many of us are still in contact doing projects together and sharing information.  iEARN’s motto is Learning with the world, not just about it… and that is true in every sense.

I cannot stress enough the value these interactions hold. The available growth as educators is nothing short of amazing. Opportunities to learn from teachers all around the world, with varying educational cultures and climates….and with different background knowledge… has added a dimension to my teaching that could be gained no other way.

If I can be the teacher in the first paragraph, so can you. All it takes is a gentle guiding hand to lead the way. You can find that in iEARN or the Flat Classroom, as well as many other wonderful organizations.

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Professional Generosity

As part of Connected Educators Month, I sat in on “The Sun Never Sets”, a panel discussion about global connected education trends and how educators around the world can help each other improve practice, with panelists Ed Gragert, Lucy GrayVicki DavisJulie Lindsay, and Anne MirtschinSteve Hargadon was moderating.

Lucy Gray mentioned Professional Generosity, a phrase she describes in her TedxTalk, and I can’t think of better examples than the people on this panel. I have benefited first hand from each and every one of them, and there are many more examples out there using venues such as Twitter, blogs, websites and webinars, all demonstrating Professional Generosity.  Being generous in our field of expertise is not a new thing, but the advent of social media has brought this natural tendency of some people into the light in a powerful way.

There are seven billion people on our planet. That makes seven billion people all breathing in what they see, hear, experience, read…breathing it all in…making sense of it in their own way inside, and then breathing it out as individual expressions in how they live, what they think, and how they act…into work projects and relationships, into ideas, concepts, plans and dreams. We all see the world through our own eyes, so we each make meaning of what we breathe in uniquely. The out-breath of all of that comes in the billions of examples of what we create in all forms, tangible and not… forms of all kind like a garden of infinite variety.

On that out-breath, some people breathe out their new understandings in an open expression of generosity. That is their natural tendency. Not always as some deep need to right a wrong in the world…not always to bring attention, recognition or fame to themselves…but simply as their natural out-breath. They share. They give. They offer.

In this generous out-breath lies the key to many of the problems we find ourselves in, and not only in our education system. What would happen if all teachers and educational leaders demonstrated Professional Generosity? What if all school districts did? What if all organizations and industries did?  I wonder where the tipping point would be…in my own school, in my district, in my state, in my profession, in my country…in our world. We have the technology. We have the trailblazers. We have living, breathing examples out there doing it. I can easily do my part. All it takes is a little Professional Generosity intention on the out-breath.

Do you speak my language?¿Hablas mi idioma?你說我的語言嗎?

In the past few years, my classes and I have been on a journey across the globe using the internet. We have interacted and collaborated with classrooms across the world by working with excellent global education organizations such as Flat Classroom™, iEARN, and Globalclassroom.  We have emailed, Skyped, snail-mailed, and used so many online Web 2.0 tools I have lost count.

As a parent, teacher and member of the human race, I think that being comfortable in a global arena is not only the key to the economic success of our country, but the key to any kind of stability in our world.  The world we live in now is much smaller with technology, and will continue to get smaller. There is so much misunderstanding, fear and distrust between nations, religions, races, and cultures. I experience that separation dissolve when human beings interact on a personal level as students, parents, teachers, sons, daughters, husbands, wives…as just people.

On a recent trip out of the country, I appreciated the fact that many people around the world are making an effort to learn English, but it also made me sad for the missed opportunity we as English speakers have. As a person who speaks Spanish as a second language, and not perfectly even after 20 years, I know the difficulties I can have trying to convey a message or to conjugate a verb properly, and just how frustrating and exhausting it can be to communicate.

To have that experience makes me more understanding and tolerant of those trying to learn and speak English. Struggling with another language goes a long way in building a bridge between what I know and what I am unfamiliar/uncomfortable with. It gives me a depth of understanding that not many others things do.  It is impossible for me to convey that to my students as we work with children from other countries that are attempting to speak English.

As our country works to align our schools’ curriculums with the new Common Coree Standards adopted by 45 of the states in the US, I believe that it would go a long way toward global stability, economic success, and overall tolerance if we also considered the importance of teaching a second language throughout all of the school years, as it is apparent that others countries are doing.

Graphic from: American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages.