Learning Through the 80 Schools Collaboration

May 3, 2009 at 12:01 pm | Posted in Collaboration, Global Collaboration, Literacy, Podcasts, Resources, Web2.0 | 1 Comment
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I’ve collaborated with other schools recently as a tech-facilitator and before now for over 15 or more years as an elementary classroom teacher through email, wikis, blogs, Voicethread and Skype. However, Silvia Tolisano’s Around the World with 80 Schools collaboration I’m participating in now is different in that a template for participation and participant network was already established when I began. Also important is it’s ideal for the teachers I work with who are new to global/online collaboration because the community and template were established and the time commitment allows for easy integration into the established classroom environment. The framework is flexible enough to allow many conversations or a few a year and classroom-based participation or school-wide as we are doing. I have also enjoyed the opportunity to expand my PLN through the contacts I am making while setting up conversations for classrooms. Most of all, the students are excited, engaged and they raise questions for further learning that wouldn’t have occurred to me.


So, why participate? Why make the minimal effort to have a short conversation with students in a class on another continent? For me, the answer is that the students and I feel lifted up, engaged, and want to know more about what our new friends know and think about our world. The social interaction and connection is stimulating. But not all educators are on the same path- what is passionately clear to me is not for everyone, so I feel the responsibility to ask Why? to be able to effectively express my point of view to those who aren’t “in the choir.”

I can start by again sharing the ISTE NETs standards, but these are a bit broad for a starting point.

I wanted to refer to conversations and research so I started with Silvia’s post where she shares the project and links to other related posts she’s written.

I then decided to re-listen to SOS Podcast 2: How does making connections affect learning? With David Carpenter, Jeff Utecht, and guests Justin Medved and Julie Lindsay. Here are a few of the thoughts I came away with:
-Students know how to use tech for entertainment and communication but not as well to communicate and collaborate for learning.
-How well do we value and allow process, sharing and reflection of learning?
-Collaborations create an authentic audience that engages kids in the learning process
-Students can learn how to collaborate globally (as they will no doubt be doing in their future) by doing it.
-Start with the end in mind and if we believe in these 21st Century outcomes we need to redesign what we are doing with our curriculum.

I also found a Wes Fryer post from 2 years ago(!)
Wes shared quotes from Google CEO Eric Schmidt when asked in a WIRED interview, “Google’s revenue and employee head count have tripled in the last two years. How do you keep from becoming too bureaucratic or too chaotic?
His response:  It’s a constant problem. We analyze this every day, and our conclusion is that the best model remains small teams running as fast as they can and tolerating a certain lack of cohesion. The attempt to provide order drives out the creativity. And so it’s a balance.
To this Wes reflected, “The lesson here is that the business world does not merely want to hire listeners and fact regurgitators, but rather thinkers who can collaborate, “run fast” and create innovative ideas which reflect both higher level thinking as well as creativity.”

The SOS podcast was recorded a little over a year ago and Wes’s post was written 2 years ago. While progress is being made and I am inspired every day from contact with those in my PLC, I am also impatient because it seems we’re still just discussing these issues and stalled in this regard in most schools.

As a classroom teacher I would use 80 Schools from the first week of school. First begin to explore the talents and interests of each person in the room but also introduce the classrooms we have access to and the possibilities of interaction with the individuals in those rooms. An 80 Schools Ning and Twitter group would be a great way to share what classes are studying and experiencing that would be beneficial topics for other classrooms. I can see it as a living, thriving collaboration for the entire year.

Finally, just as I have a PLNetwork or PLCommunity, students in a classroom should be growing their own as well- the network within and outside the classroom walls. We need CLNs- Classroom Learning Networks and our 80 Schools collaboration is the first example of a CLN that I have participated in.


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