From my table by my apartment window in Madrid I virtually participated in a conference this week that was held in Mumbai where I met and interacted with educators and students attending there as well as other virtual participants. I am not new to global collaborations and communicating with other classes via video conference but this experience transcended those with the depth and quality of the experience. The Flat Classroom Conference (part of Julie Lindsay and Vicki Davis’s Flat Classroom Project) is not just students and educators from around the world gathering virtually and physically to collaborate and share. It transcends that wonderful experience with the depth and importance of the tasks at hand. This year’s theme was Opening Up Education “… a chance to explore what is happening in education globally and for participants to debate/create new solutions based on exposure and interaction with other ideas, particularly influenced by the circumstances in India.”
I felt fortunate to be working with Team6. I missed their work on the first day due to my actual work schedule but on the second day I jumped in and they shared their pitch slideshow which they were completing and asked for feedback. I was so impressed with their “first draft” in terms of the quality of the idea, how they presented it, the comprehensive coverage of their idea in the presentation and that four students who had met 24 hours before for the first time could collaborate so well. Beatrice, JeongMin, Will and Arjun shared how they were also surprised with how well they worked together- they thought it was “destiny.” They also asked me to contribute by recording a description of the manifestation of their project in the world as a very short story. I was surprised and pleased with this invitation and later, when watching their presentation live in Mumbai via uStream, I felt firsthand the excitement of this project when I heard my recording (that I recorded and sent 3 hours earlier) in a presentation given in Mumbai.
During those few hours working with this group I learned some new technical skills related to collaborating in real time with someone far away, but more importantly how exciting it can be to work with engaged, intelligent, altruistic young people. (As an elementary educator I know how rewarding working with younger children is but haven’t worked this closely with teens before.) We collaborated through Skype chat and file transfer, Etherpad for the working script document, and email. Their project was chosen as one of the top three requiring them to create a video presentation of their idea the next day.
This was truly one of those experiences that engages and challenges a person and left me feeling excited, connected, and inspired. Also, immediately after the closing of the conference I was left with the questions, how can I infuse the spirit and purpose of this conference at the elementary level? How can this transfer to ongoing learning experiences in an elementary classroom? I will first pose these questions to Will, Beatrice, JeongMin and Arjun
Lastly, at one point in the conference Julie stated, “I’m tired of talk about change” and went on to say that the Flat Classroom Conference is creating and exploring change. I couldn’t agree more.