Saturday, May 8, 2010

How Flat is Your Classroom?

William Ferriter's article "How Flat is Your Classroom?" documents the journey of two high-school teachers joining together to build relationships with their students who happen to live on different continents. Vicki Davis, a high-school teacher in Georgia and Julie Lindsay, a high-school teacher in Bangladesh, teamed up together using digital technology to form an online learning environment that fostered international collaboration. As the article points out very succinctly, it was their goal that "their students would not just walk away with a better understanding of tomorrow's workplace – they'd walk away with a better understanding of one another." This proved to be a very powerful experience for both sets of students. It enabled the students to meet (through digital video) and interact with (through online discussion boards, video conferences, instant messages and e-mails) students from across the world. This under normal circumstances would definitely not have occurred. Both sets of students had the opportunity to learn about their peers in the opposite country and form opinions based on information they gathered instead of simply resorting to information they might have been able to gather via various media outlets. As you can imagine, the project was a great success and has expanded to help other classroom teachers create global exchanges that benefit students in similar ways.

One of the learning environments that the article suggests visiting is ePals. I took a brief look at this website and was very intrigued. It offers learners and teachers in 200 countries the opportunity to interact with one another. Not only would such an experience teach students to connect and communicate with students of other cultures, it provides students and teachers alike with a safe learning environment as well as the opportunity to engage and learn from individuals that may be as close as a neighboring city or as far as on another continent. I definitely plan to look more into ePals in the future. It seems like a very worthwhile opportunity for teachers and students and I look forward to one day implementing it within a classroom of my own.


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