Taking the Long View

I was recently given the privilege of giving a short keynote talk for the upcoming Flat Classroom Project cohort. The Flat Classroom Project is a wonderful professional learning program run by Vicki Davis and Julie Lindsay which focuses on getting teachers and students working together on global collaborative projects – connecting classrooms around the world to work together. Julie contacted me recently to ask if I would be interested in doing it and I jumped at the opportunity.

I was fortunate that I started doing some really full-on global collaborative projects with students back in the late 1990s, thanks to a program that was run by AT&T called Virtual Classroom. Although the format of the VC program was meant to be competitive – teams of three classrooms from around the world worked together to build a website on an agreed common theme – the essential principles of working together online were very much ingrained into my brain over the three years we worked on these projects. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that the experience of doing these projects not only helped me to understand how to be a better teacher, but it’s what kept me involved in, and enthusiastic about, teaching. Without those few intense years of seeing the power of connecting, communicating and collaborating together across the world, it’s a fair bet that I would not still be teaching today. It was quite literally my “peek over the pail” to see exactly what education could really be all about, and it’s influenced almost everything I’ve done since. Those projects had a significant long term effect on me as an educator.

Those students I worked with back then are all in their late 20s now and I often wonder if they experienced the same sort of long term benefit from our global projects. So when Julie and Vicki asked if I would do this keynote I thought it might be a great opportunity to find these guys and actually ask them that question. Although I haven’t kept in regular contact with all of them over the years, I managed find several of them on Facebook to ask them whether they felt it made a difference to them. Just the fact that they were so willing to talk to me and reminisce about what we did 15 years ago, I think says a lot about the relationships and connections that these projects created.

And really, it’s in those relationships and connections, and being able to play a part in creating ripples of influence that reach far into the future that make teaching so different to so many other professions. It’s why those of us who love it, love it.

Anyway, the keynote video is on the Flat Classroom Project site, but (with Julie and Vicki’s permission) I thought I’d share it with you here too.

Special thanks go to Daniel, Richard, Peter, Chris and Laurie. You guys were awesome back in school, and you’re just as awesome now. Thanks for helping me learn what it means to learn.

I also want to say how grateful I am for my co-teacher partners in crime from those days – Janette Wilmott, Janet Barnstable, Mariko Yana, Hajime Yanase.

If you’ve never tried working globally, do yourself a favour and give it a go. Get involved in Flat Classroom Project, or even checkout the Global Virtual Classroom (what the original Virtual Classroom Project morphed into)  If you just look around, there are so many opportunities for collaborating online together… just find one and dive in. You won’t be sorry you did. Just ask my students.