Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Flat Classrooms Really Opened My Eyes!

reposted from original post on Magistra's Musings July 2, 2008

The Workshop

Today, I had the unique opportunity to participate in a workshop happening in San Antonio at NECC 2008 even though I am not there. I responded to a tweet earlier in June about being a virtual member of Vicki Davis and Julie Lindsay’s workshop on Flat Classrooms. And I had forgotten about it, until yesterday when Vicki emailed me to remind me to be there this morning. I love the power of the Internet that allows us to volunteer for projects happening somewhere besides where we are physically. I thought I knew lots about online and collaborative projects, but participating in one “live” was more than I ever expected. My eyes are now wider open to flat classroom projects than before!

So today, we were in the workshop together via Ustream. First, we learned about their projects including Flat Classroom, The Horizon Project and Digiteen. They led the NECC participants in a simulation of setting up a flat classroom project with roles and responsibilities. Then we started talking about the tools and using the tools of worldwide collaboration. And all the while the virtual workshoppers could see and hear what was going on in San Antonio and add to the chat in Ustream. We went into Ning to meet each other first. We made introductions on Ning using the Comment Wall application. See my Ning page here.

Then, we went to the class wikispace to collaborate with our team members on the tasks we had been assigned. Prior to the session, Vicki and Julie had assigned all of us to teams using colors. Give it up for the Green Team!

Derek Olson—6th Grade teacher from Minnesota

Nancy Pratt—Technology and Instructional Specialist from Arizona

Julian—from ISTE

Laurie Fowler—Professional Developer from Alabama

Here is my team’s page on Uploading.

We ran into a few glitches at first. We had 2 pages for the Green team and had folks editing on both pages. Then we discovered this and moved the content all to the “official” page that Vicki and Julie had set up for us. It was really neat to see Nancy figure out that she was working on a different page than the rest of the Green Team. And with the magic and wonder of wikis, I was able to go and pick up the stuff she had put on the other Green page and copy it into our “official” page. She saw me doing this and commented on how cool that was. And then Derek and I were on the same page and had a wiki war. (A wiki war is when two (or more) people are trying to upload and edit a wiki page at the same time.) So one of us had to get out of the editing mode so the other could get into it. And the cool thing was that the history tab in the Wiki helped us make sure we got all the stuff we were trying to put up simultaneously. The three hours literally flew by and all of a sudden it was time to stop. L But we have these cool spaces and relationships started so hopefully we can continue to explore and experiment in these online places.

Stuff I learned about Wikispaces during this workshop

Although I have used wikispaces for over a year, I learned lots of stuff today that I didn’t know. Here is a little of what I learned:

  1. · [[toc]] will make an automatic table of contents
  2. · How to use history, discussion, and notify me tabs
  3. · The importance of tagging wikis
  4. · That wikispaces will let you set up templates
  5. · Can embed live stream into wiki using embed code
  6. · Can lock page so only administrator can change stuff
  7. · Using a tag like turnin so I will know when student work is ready to be graded

Reflections on the Workshop

At first, I was unable to get into the chat but I could hear and see Ustream of the session in San Antonio, but I was very frustrated because I didn’t want to be a lurker, I wanted to be able to talk to others in the chat room. After I tried to log in using the Ustream account I had, I ended up making a new account so I could get into today’s chat. Also, during this time, Vicki was sending me IMs over GTalk to try and get me in. Very cool how we can use all the tools and keep going through our toolboxes when a tool doesn’t work for us.

While the “real” class was doing the simulation in San Antonio, those of us online started playing with the wiki at Vicki’s suggestion. My first edit was just changing the title but before long I was changing stuff and adding links and adding to what others had put on the page. I was an editing maniac before the rest of the Green Team even got on the Wiki! It was very engaging and really drew me in. I hope that I can use similar strategies to engage teachers in using wikis when I do professional development sessions on them. I think the key is to get right in and start playing because with the history tab you really can’t screw it up too badly.

Another reflection is that with the Ustream audio running in the background of my computer, I really felt like I was there in San Antonio with the rest of the class. I was working on my computer and adding to the wiki but I could hear what others were saying (at least those closest to the microphone!). And, I even heard someone play a video that I had just uploaded to the Green Team wiki over the Ustream. The connectivity that high speed internet and easy video and audio streaming tools allow us is mind boggling.

And at the end when NECC folks were coming up and giving their reflection on video, I saw Kim Vance from Cincinnati come up and talk and I realized that she is in my Influencer Online Book group that we are doing with Scott McLeod from CASTLE in Iowa. What a small world!

Open Eyes, Use Content and Collaboration to Build Community

This workshop really opened my eyes to the collaboration that the web 2.0 tools can encourage. And it reminded me, too, that it is about the content and the collaboration, NOT about the tools. The relationships we encourage students to make with one another and students around the globe are much more important than which tools they choose to communicate that message. Thanks to Vicki and Julie for including us “non-resident” NECC folks in this session! It was a very valuable learning experience.

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