When Lisa and I got talking we mentioned that the different time-zones between our schools made it hard to collaborate online and synchronously. So being the problem solvers that teachers are so well known to be, we made the problem into an opportunity. We’d make a wiki that could be a resource for teacher planning, and at the same time respond asynchronously while we were working out the best time of day to work together. This would get students thinking about the implications of these differences (shades of Thomas Friedman and the flatteners that are operating in our world today and will increase in the future, thanks Vicki and Julie for the chance to learn about that while working with you on the Flat Classroom project).
So come September the students will meet each other virtually and start producing content which will help them get to know and understand each other a bit more. This will be with my year 7s, although the US students will be a bit younger I think it will still work. I imagine the wiki when it is finished will have a comparison of what the students in the different countries are doing at each hour GMT, so we can see when people are sleeping, at school, awake at other times, to establish the best local time for interacting. The different timeslots may have podcasts interviewing students about their leisure activities and interests, video of a classroom maybe showing how long lessons are in each school (75 minutes each in my school), where and how they eat lunch, role plays, TV viewing guides, etc. I imagine the night time hours may be a bit same-ish. But I have an idea for that.
And both my Year 10 English classes are blogging and collaborating on an online study guide for the novel The Secret Life of Bees. I have asked Pat Hensley aka loonyhiker to be out correspondent on the spot as she lives in South Carolina where the novel is set. She has kindly agreed and gone out of her way to make the study guide even more student friendly and informative. I have great hopes of this wiki. I would love to have more students to interact with my students as they also study the novel. Please email me if you are studying the book with your students and would like to collaborate. The student blogs are really interesting. I asked them to reflect on what they thought of a study created study guide. Here’s what a couple of them said:
This is Emily:
“I think that our school has too much technology in some areas and not enough in other areas. We have to much technology in everyday classes that don't need technology. We don't need technology in every class. We could use the technology in computer classes but not classes like English and Religion. As to not having enough technology in computer classes, the computers are very basic and we could use technology in Maths and Science. At our school we spend money on technology for all classes but I think it could be better spent for modern computers and science equipment. During classes like English I think we should spend more time with hand writing because during exams and tests you don't have a computer to check spelling, grammar, information and ideas. It would help our writing abilities if we spent more time hand writing instead of using computers for everything.”
“Everybody in today's century is way too reliant on technology. I mean even now, we have to express our opinions online just to be heard properly, when we can easily say it during class, while saving electricity. Sure technology has its good side, it's entertaining and easy to use, but the old ways of teaching a class got you to be more social and friendly towards others and made you speak up and express your opinion strongly.”
Very interesting, especially in light of what we read about students loving technology used in their classes. What I like about it is that the students are not afraid to articulate an opinion contrary to the received wisdom about young people and technology. I would love some comments on this year 10 class or the other year 10 class if anyone reading this would like to leave an encouraging comment.
I am so looking forward to the continuing learning of my Year 7 class and my two year 10 classes, and the continuing global collaboration.