Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Flattening your classroom and Flattening your own world

I have been having a great time reading Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds by Vicki Davis and Julie Lindsay. This book is an excellent resource for anyone considering global projects or for any teacher who is just interested in expanding their own classroom view. The book itself models a collaborative global project in every way imaginable. Here are some of the ways it does this:
Photo by Clive Darr
  • Whenever a classroom project example is given, or a powerful quote from a teacher or expert is provided, the authors encourage the reader to follow that person on Twitter. I have loved this. There is really no better example of how flat our world is than just clicking the "Follow" button under someone's name. You now can follow their thoughts, find out who they are following, and even mention them in your own Tweets. 
  • Along with the book are 15 Flat Classroom Challenges. These challenges encourage you to set up RSS like Google Reader (check!), start a blog (check!), join a collaborative network like Google Teacher Academy or Apple Distinguished Educators (check!), from there the challenges get more, well, um, challenging. But I love this idea. To encourage readers to take on the challenge, the authors suggest tweeting as you complete the challenges or posting on the Flat Classroom Ning. This helps make it all feel more like a fun scavenger hunt instead of homework. I love this idea so much I am considering how to make it a part of some of the local professional development I do.
  • There is a virtual book group! I was so glad I checked Twitter at the moment an announcement about the book club came across my stream. The book club meets once a week for an hour via Blackboard Collaborate. Ben and Neil from Engaging Educators moderate and either Vicki or Julie (the authors) are always there. This is a great opportunity to share your own reflections while reading the book as well as to ask questions of amazing teachers that have been living and breathing global collaboration for years now.
  • More! QR codes that link to student projects, Flat Classroom Diaries that give you glimpses into the personal stories behind different global projects, and a professional development toolkit that I haven't checked out yet.
There are many, many aspects of this book that I am finding inspiring, stimulating and thought-provoking and I hope to blog more about these in the future. For now I'd like to say that I am so thrilled to see a professional learning tool that really models what it values. If we want teachers to start to use technology in transforming ways, we need to do more to model professional learning experiences that mirror what teachers can be doing with students. That is what is knocking me out about this book. By encouraging teachers to tweet, blog, connect, comment and engage with this book, the authors are really showing what learning in the 21st century looks like. To quote Vicki Davis during our last book club, "Learning is not about consuming, it is about contributing and creating." Kudos to Julie and her for writing a book that doesn't just talk about that idea, but lives it. 

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