Tag Archives: 2012

Celebration Time! Come On!

During the fall of 2012, I worked closely with two teachers as they participated in the Global Read Aloud (GRA) for the first time. We were all beginners in reaching out to other classrooms-in our schools and beyond our schools-in using various web 2.0 tools, and in thinking through this kind of teaching and learning. The GRA 2012 ran the month of October, but our celebration happened in December because the teachers integrated other subject areas with the novel and expanded and extended the scope of the work. Students went well beyond a read aloud and summary posts. They connected the story of Ivan (The One and Only Ivan) to biodiversity and endangered species. They considered the larger issues as a class, and then small groups chose narrower topics to research. Each group gathered their findings in a Glogster, and then presented them to their families. This was a face-to-face event because for the most part the community does not yet communicate regularly via the Internet.

What can I now say about the role of celebrating the learning?

The event was spectacular. Students were showing off their work to their parents. They were accessing the tools, doing the explaining, and in total control. The teacher simply stood back and let it happen.

I think we need to always remember where we are in the collaboration process. Regardless of what is possible or of what others are doing, we needed to go through this step before we can really consider the type of collaboration and celebration that happens within a true global project.

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What do you mean, you need more time?

The desire to work in a linear and chronological order is, at times, overwhelming. I can multi-task and I thrive on having many irons in the fire, yet there is order in what I do first, second, and third. But then that must mean that I am working alone because I can control the circumstances. Collaboration, on the other hand, means that my work is contingent on the work of others. We are not dividing to conquer; we are working toward a common end that will have an ebb and flow determined by the pacing, resources, and schedules of others. None-the-less, if the Flat Classroom Challenges are delivered in an ordered fashion from 1 to 15, then that is the way I wanted to complete them.


My big learning about collaboration (this week) is that there needs to be lots of time to get the collaborative process up and running, opportunities for people to carve out the time they need to do the work, and an understanding that linear thinking may not suffice. This learning for me comes on two fronts – the Flat Classroom Certified Teacher (FCCT) challenges and my involvement in a collaborative inquiry with colleagues from within my school board – although they are connected. The collaborative inquiry group at work is bravely going where none of us has been before both in working collaboratively and in using a wiki to support the conversation. We need time to get our heads around this way of learning, thinking, talking, and leading. Through the FCCT challenges, I am learning that the order of completion is less important than the process by which you get things done. I cannot finish Challenge #9 without a partner to connect with, I cannot finish Challenge #12 until my teachers are ready to celebrate, and that’s okay. Julie Lindsay’s (cofounder @ flatclassroom and co-author of Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds) constant understanding, reassurance, empathy, and positive attitude connect the two fronts for me. The FCCT challenges will be completed, albeit in a wacky order, and I am emulating Julie’s supportive and patient perspective with my collaborative inquiry team.

It’s been a big week.

Thanks Julie.

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Collaboration…..food for thought


Collaboration: to work together.
That’s simple enough, isn’t it?
But what does it look like? And it what way is it different than cooperative learning or group work? Does it matter if I know the difference? I think we need a metaphor to provide some clarity.

I know that when I use cooperative learning strategies with my students, I need to do a lot of front loading and just as much scaffolding.Learning and working as a group, even when that work is compartmentalized as it is in a jigsaw or 4 corners strategy, is hard. Many students feel enormous amount of pressure in these situations, and they would prefer to work independently.

But cooperative learning is not collaborative learning….I mean that cooperative learning is a specific kind of collaborative learning. It is a set of processes which help us interact together in order to accomplish a specific goal. Its focus is on the product of the learning.  So in a jigsaw, students work to learn and share knowledge; they act as teachers of a component of the learning.

Collaborative learning is really working together to create or build new knowledge together. Collaborative learning requires that we all have input, that we all make a contribution, that we all learn from each other.

Have you figured out the metaphor? Thanks go out to Olga Kozar, a TESOL Master’s student at Manchester University for this idea.

Consider the metaphor of a pot luck dinner, where people cook and bring different dishes to the table. The dinner is more exciting than what each individual would have eaten individually—but the guests return back to their homes being able to cook only the same dish they brought to the pot luck. Even though they may have gotten recipes, they still need to learn to make the new dishes themselves. On the other hand, had they cooked together in the first place they would have observed and learned a lot more from one another; they would have taken away some practical, hands-on skills even if cooking together had meant a messier and a more chaotic process. So give collaboration a chance! It is worth the effort.


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Digital Citizenship


My digital footprint. Of course, I had heard of the digital footprint before now. But what I didn’t consider is its longevity, possibly its permanence, and its insidious nature. What does this mean for the kids today? Teens, by their very nature, do not clean up after themselves. What’s more they take pride in their very teen-ness. There’s the loud, sloppy, indifferent, ‘you don’t know what you’re talking about’ version …let’s say teen 1.0; and then there’s the quiet, secretive, head down, maybe in a book or plugged in, ‘can’t you stop bothering me’ version…let’s say teen 5.0; and then there are all the ones in between. But regardless of where they fall on that spectrum, worrying about their digital footprint is not in their top 100 list. Understanding what a digital footprint is, discovering that you have one and what it looks like, and then deciding to do something about it is a process.

Take me for example. I do care about my ‘brand’ (now that I know I can have one), but I needed to learn to get past the rock that I live on. The idea that since I live rurally and remotely nothing I do on line will come back me. I mean, who cares about what I say or think anyway? No one knows me, right? I am not suggesting for one moment that I have ever been cavalier about my behaviour or the words I have used online. It’s just I really didn’t believe that anyone was listening. And then along comes the Flat Classroom Certified Teacher course and its expectation that students (that’s me) get out there. No more lurking folks. Rev up that Twitter engine and tweet and retweet and join tweetchats. It’s time to create content. I had run into Storify some where along the way and thought, “well this looks like a nifty little tool that students (the teen kind) would really like to use”. Pulling content together on a theme from social media sources to tell a story for marks might just make a few kids cry with joy. The trouble is that I don’t have any students. Sure, I can pitch Storify to my teacher colleagues, but I had to know what I was talking about. The opportunity arose with a quad-blogging assignment (more about that in a future entry) for which I suggested, quite quickly to my partners, “Let’s do a Storify”. They graciously agreed, and we were off.

You know that rule that says, ‘if you suggest an idea, you get to do it?’ I set up the Storify and my partners worked diligently to pull the social media to it, so I could assemble the final product. Et volià! We were done.

It’s what happened next that stunned me. Our Storify generated a topic for discussion in a global tweet chat, which got embedded into a blog promoting the topic, and the little Storify assignment took off. In ten days, over 800 people have viewed the Storify. And all of a sudden, I felt the responsibility of the work that I am doing online. I hoped I was proud of the work because it was too late not to be.
Let me be clear. I was in good hands. Both of my partners are global educators and professional educators. They knew what they were doing, to be sure. And the Storify was co-created—it was their work as much as mine. This experience only happened to me because the Storify was in my name. It was my profile on the page. Somebody was listening, at least for a moment. And if that person was curious and wanted to know more about me, what would he or she have discovered?

For our students, we must explicitly teach the implications of their behaviour online, and we must keep at it until they hear us. Someday they will care about where those digital breadcrumbs lead.

Here are a few sources that can help:

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