Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Module #4 - Global Learning

iClipart for Schools
We are engaging in education online. This means that we can sit in our office or classroom or den while we interact with classmates from a distance. This distance might be anywhere in Iowa or the midwest or the U.S. or around the world. What do you think about this online learning? Is it useful? Are you learning? What are the opportunities that can be afforded a learner using distance learning opportunities?

The successful individual cannot just be a citizen of a state or even a country. We live in a world where we must be aware of people and their customs around the world. We must be worldly citizens who feel connected with others.

The World is Flat . . . or at least that is what Thomas Friedman tells us.  What does this mean? It means that the “playing field is being leveled.” Workers in India and China are competing for jobs all around the world. Accountants, doctors, teachers, software programmers and editors are all positions that can be done at a distance using today’s technology. This means that, due to a group of flatteners identified by Friedman, technological and political forces have converged to create a web-enabled playing field that enables participants to collaborate regardless of geography, distance or language.

Friedman’s book, The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century, is a book that all educators should read (or at least have some familiarity – you can watch the 1:15 lecture at Yale to get a brief view of his ideas.) His primary ideas have to do with how the world is changing into a world where the traditional rules of commerce and workplace are no longer valid.  Mix these ideas with those of Christenson (and company) about the Disrupting Classroom and you see that there can be some serious changes in how education needs to be addressed to support our global economy.  Have you ever worked with students in another state, country or continent in your classes (as student or teacher?)

Flat Classroom Project
Two high school business teachers were exploring Friedman’s book with their students in 2006. They bumped into each other on the Web while they were searching for information about Friedman's concept. They began questioning if they could and should flatten their own classrooms. If commerce can cross borders, then what about classroom? While these two teachers, Vicki Davis and Julie Lindsay, were on the same page when it came to their teaching pedagogy, they had a whole globe between them. Vicki taught in a small school district in Camille, Georgia (U.S) and Julie taught in an American school in Doha, Qatar. Together they set out to design their first project. 

The Flat Classroom Project was an endeavor where the students were challenged to work collaboratively through the web to explore ideas in communicate about them using both words and video media. This project expanded into a variety of projects include Digiteen, Eracism, and NetGenEd.  Each of these collaborative projects requires students to engage in global collaborative projects using collaborative work spaces.

The Flat Classroom Project model breaks the global collection of students into 11 groups. These groups coincide with 11 flatteners of the world. Each of these groups is composed of students from various schools around the world. Here is an example of how the groups were divided in early 2010.  Each flattener was broken into 6 more pieces. A small group of about 5 students assumed the task to communicate about each of these pieces. First they had to use a wiki as a collaborative tool where they could research and respond to writing prompts. Here is one based upon the #2 flattener “How the World Wide Web has Changed the World.” You can find the list of students involved in this flattener at the end of the section. After writing about the flattener, the groups began the task to create videos to further explain a specific perspective concerning the flattener.  Here is the set of final videos that this same group created concerning the #2 flattener as well.  All of these written and video creations are judged by additional teachers and university students.  The top projects are recognized with awards.  It is a whole different perspective on learning.

Spend some time exploring the different types of projects on the Flat Classroom Project website.Read about them and explore the various finished projects for each of them. These projects include: Flat Classroom Project, eRacism, Digiteen and NetGen Ed.

Watch the video on the 2009 Flat Classroom Project conference. You can also learn more about the 2011 Flat Classroom Project conference in Bejing, China.

Global School Network
Another center for global education is the Global School Network. GSN has been around for over 20 years. It began with connecting students through Apple II+ computers and telephone lines and has evolved into a center where educators and students can connect with colleagues from around the world. Go to their website at and you will find a collaborative center that provides many educational opportunities.
  • Doors of Diplomacy - An international exchange for middle and high school students. This US Dept of State sponsored program facilitates collaboration both locally and across borders.
  • International Cyberfair - This project encourages students to create collaborative projects in their local areas and then share it through their websites.
  • Projects Registry - A huge database of projects where students and teachers can participate. Enter the specifics of the students and subjects you want to explore and you will find many opportunities for you to engage in Global Learning.

Around the World with 80 Schools
Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano was a language teacher with a dream. She saw the opportunity that video conferencing tools like Skype afforded the classroom teacher and she used them to enable her students to interact with other students from around the world.

So What do you think? Is introducing the world into your classroom a reasonable way to begin to develop global citizens?


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