When I started my job as a Digital Literacy Coach this year, my boss Tracy Miller @chilangatracy suggested I follow Vicky Davis @coolcatteacher, and Julie Lindsay @julielindsay and that I should “read their new book Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds, become a Flat Classroom Certified Teacher, and attend the Flat Classroom Conference in Yokohama, Japan.” I must admit that I nodded, said, “sure” and secretly wondered how in the world I would get everything done in the eight months that followed.
I am happy to say that I am at the other end of the tunnel, and glad that I made the journey. For those of you who are interested in the Flat Classroom I have a couple of thoughts to share.
My take: The book, published less than a year ago, will immediately strike you as a different kind of guide to prepare today’s global citizens. By that I mean that it is the first book I have ever read that is so filled with additional resources, QR codes and suggestions of experts to follow, who can provide insight into the topic at hand. The book is a great resource for those who are already on their way to incorporating global projects into their classrooms as well as those who have never even collaborated with the teacher in the room next door. There seems to be a problem with purchasing electronic copies outside of the US, but Julie and Vicky are hard at work to fix this. Conclusion: If you are looking for a professional development book to read this summer, put this one on your list.
The Conference Flat Classroom Conference
The next conference will be offered in Hawaii, July 24-26 2013. I was delighted to attend the event hosted in March 2013 at the Yokohama International School, in Japan. I am very fortunate to work at The American School Foundation in Mexico City, a school that truly supports professional development for teachers.
My take: The best part of the conference was that the organizers truly modeled the philosophy that is outlined in the book. We started each day with live video conferences with people from other places in Japan. Activities were then built around relevant topics for both teachers and students. This is another highlight of the conferences, students and teachers working side-by-side, providing feedback and judging/evaluating each other. This was the first conference I have ever attended that brought teachers and students together. Also there is a great deal of focus on emerging technologies, specifically those listed in the Horizons Report.
Bottom line: If you have the funding and can attend, I highly recommend it. If not, you can always participate virtually.
Professional Development Certified Teacher Program
The next cohort starts in August and has a registration fee of $495US. You are also able to earn college credit for the course which can be helpful if you need renewal credits for teacher certification.
My take: If I am totally honest (which I am) it is the hardest class I have taken in a very long time. There is a big learning curve for those of us who are not wiki , Ning and blog experts. However, I also learned more than I have in a very long time. The beauty of the class is that you follow the process you will later use with students for global collaborative projects. You also have to be flexible because synchronous classes take place over the course of the semester on different days and at different times accommodating teachers in various time zones.
Is it worth it: As with most challenges in life, it is worth it. I now feel much more comfortable approaching the administration at my school with a plan for global projects.
Student Connection Flat Classroom Projects
The Flat Classroom student projects seem to be the heart of the program, and they were the reason Vicki and Julie started collaborating. They are probably what still drives them today.
My take: If you are not ready to commit to teacher training and can not attend one of the conferences, you may want to test the waters by participating in one of the many student projects offered across various grade levels each year. You can also volunteer to be a teacher judge of the projects. I was a judge for two of the projects this year and found the experience to be enlightening. It gives you an idea of the
quality of work being done by students all over the globe.
Good place to start: If you are intrigued and want to find out more about the world of Flat Classrooms, I would suggest trying one of the projects with your students or judging a current project. It is a great way to learn and prepare yourself to take the plunge into global projects.
If you have been wondering where to start with global collaborative projects, or didn’t even know what they are and are now intrigued, I highly recommend you take a look at what all of Julie’s and Vicky’s projects, classes, books and conference have to offer. I am glad that I did.
The very best part of all: Making and learning from new friends all over the world.
Photos by Alan Levine