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.
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.