NMC Conversations #4
[download MP3] 11.9 Mb 26:00
With the arrival soon of the month of August, we at the NMC start thinking again about the Horizon Project as this is the time of year we assemble an advisory board that will generate the topics that will result in January 2008 as the next Horizon Report.
We spoke via Skype with both Vicki Davis, a teacher and technology leader at Westwood School in Camilla Georgia and her colleague Julie Lindsay, who is in transition from her position at the International School Dhaka (Bangladesh) to become an educational technology specialist at Qatar Academy (note, at the time of this call, Julie was on holiday on the Gold Coast of Australia, and our Skype connection was not optimal).
Ironically, I stumbled upon the project via a mention from Vicki via Twitter!
Their Horizon Project, which ran from April through the latter part of May this year, was an international collaboration between their two schools and three others in Austria, China, and Australia. In this project, student teams from across these geographically distant schools worked together to research the six topics of the Horizon Project. Using web 2.0 tools described in the report as well as others, they examines how the six will impact schools, politics, and society in the future.
This was an extension of the first Flat Classroom project, an award wining effort, that Vicki and Julie ran in December 2006.
We talked to Vicki and Julie about how their project came to be, what the students gained from the project, what the teachers gained, and heard fascinating insights into the ideas of the students. And it was exciting to hear that another iteration of their Horizon Project will take place in Spring 2008– plus we are hoping to have participation from these innovative teachers in our Horizon Advisory Board this year.
Some references mentioned in this interview include:
- NMC Horizon project:
- Vicki Davis aka Cool Cat Teacher; Westwood Schools in Camillia Georgia http://www.westwoodschools.org/
- Julie Lindsay; International School Dhaka in Bangladesh; Qatar Academy, Doha, State of Qatar.
- International Horizon Project
- Found out about project on twitter http://twitter.com/coolcatteacher/statuses/22362401
- Flat Classroom Project (see NECC poster)
- Teams and Trends
- Atif’s video on future of mobile phones
- Web 2.0 tools
- del.icio.us links tagging standard
Read on for a full transcript of this conversation…
Alan Levine (AL) :Hello again. This is Alan Levine, and weâ€™d like to welcome you to NMC Conversations Issue #3. Itâ€™s July 2007.
Rachel Smith (RS): Four.
AL: Issue #4. Thank you. Gotta keep track of these things. Thank you, Rachel. Anyhow, weâ€™re going to talk today about the Horizon Project, because itâ€™s about this time of year, in August, when we begin the process to start up the next yearâ€™s Horizon Project. Weâ€™re going to meet two teachers who we kind of met through this yearâ€™s Horizon Project. What have you seen so far, Larry, as we head into another round of the Horizon Project?
Larry Johnson (LJ): Well, 2007 was a very interesting year for the project. Itâ€™s really become something that a lot of people are beginning to embrace. I am so glad we are getting to talk to Julie and Vicki today, because itâ€™s a fantastic example of how people are using the work that we are doing to inform other projects literally around the globe. Thatâ€™s been the biggest new thing. Last year we, for the first time, really took a global view in the work of the advisory board on the Horizon Project. Of course, we will do that again this year. I think it has really paid off.
AL: Thatâ€™s great. Also, kind of new this year, we are working on a research end of this. Whatâ€™s happening with that Rachel?
RS: Well, this was a project, sort of part of a starburst of activities around the Horizon Report, and what we did is we tried to work with people who were using the Horizon Report in projects they were doing on their campuses to identify research questions that were pertinent to the six topics. What we are doing is, we got a lot of feedback from people, we had a wiki where they could go and put their thoughts down on what they would like to see research about, and weâ€™re pulling all that together into a document, which is all but done, and we are getting ready to release it. Weâ€™re really excited about it, and we hope to build on it in the future, do it maybe next year and expand it a little bit. But that should be coming out very soon.
LJ: Yes, itâ€™s going to be a permanent part of the Horizon Project. What we like about it is that it extends the Report, which comes out every January. In fact, as you well know Alan, we are about to start the 2008 edition in, literally, about a week. This makes it be a project that really spans the entire year.
AL: We are really excited to have on our conference call today two teachers that were involved in an international project that, actually, I found out, of all things, through Twitter, which we are not talking about, but it was an interesting way to discover something veryâ€¦
LJ: Tweet, tweet.
AL: Ya, something really relevant to what we are doing. We have Vicki Davis, otherwise known as CoolCat Teacher from Atlanta, and her colleague Julie Lindsay, who is right now, unfortunately for us, on the Gold Coast of Australia. Weâ€™re very jealous. I would like to ask each of you to introduce yourselves to us, and then weâ€™ll come back and ask some questions about your project. So, hello Vicki.
Vicki Davis (VD) : Hello. I would like to compliment Alan. He was actually an expert advisor for our Horizon Project, and we appreciated your involvement. You can imagine the students became extremely motivated and excited when they saw that part of the authorship of the original Horizon Project was advising. It was just really a great moment when that happened. I am Vicki Davis. I am at Westwood Schools in Camilla, Georgia, actually about three and a half hours from Atlanta. Iâ€™m in very rural Georgia. We have about 5000 people in Camilla, so itâ€™s a small town. Iâ€™m a teacher, technology administrator, and advise the curriculum director on technology integration. We do have K-12 at our small school here. I teach 8th-12th at different times during the year. Iâ€™ll pass it on to Julie.
AL: Ok. Julie, you were in Bangladesh actually during the project, and I understand youâ€™re moving to a new position.
Julie Lindsay (JL) : Yes. Hi Alan and Larry and everyone. Iâ€™ve just finished four years at International School Dhaka in Bangladesh, and Iâ€™m currently in Australia. Iâ€™m originally from Australia, and Iâ€™m moving in another month or so to the Middle East. Iâ€™m going to Qatar, and Iâ€™ll be taking up a position of head of IT at Qatar Academy, which is a K-12 school, quite a reputable school in the Middle East. Iâ€™m really looking forward to that challenge.
LJ: What I would like to do at this point, Julie and Vicki, is ask you how the project came to be, and how two teachers, one in rural Georgia and one all the way around the world in Bangladesh, happened to find each other to put together this project?
JL: We got connected through the K-12 Conference last year and, also, I was reading Vickiâ€™s blog and she talked about the fact that she had been reading Thomas Freedmanâ€™s book The World is Flat, and we connected through that common interest. We ran a project called the Flat Classroom Project, which is an award winning project now, and then we moved on to the Horizon Project in the second half of the year, in the second semester, because Vicki said she found this great report, the Horizon Report by the New Media Consortium, and she said this would be a great report. We found three Austrians, and we ran it as a five classroom, completely global, interactive project online. Vicki, over to you.
VD: We actuallyâ€¦ the concept of flat classroom projects, and we actually call the Horizon Project part of our Flat Classroom Strategy, is to eliminate the walls of the classroom and to integrate our classrooms with other classrooms around the world. So, the students will be working on a project with someone that is literally around the world that they cannot see face to face, because this is the business model that is happening in the world today. I have a brother-in-law that has a website design firm up in Atlanta, and he literally has five or six people from different countries all on his team. We wanted our students to experience that, and we also wanted to improve upon what we did with the first project, with better rubrics. We alsoâ€¦ we have 53 students on this project from China, Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, and the United States. We actually split them into six teams, for the six trends that you had in the Horizon 2007 Report, and we actually had student project managers to manage those teams. That added a whole new element to this project. We took the students who excelled at the work in the Flat Classroom Project and we wanted to give them a little bit more of a learning experience. So that is what we did with it. It was a wiki-centric project, and it is an open wiki, and it can be viewed at horizonproject.wikispaces.com.
RS: Thanks. Thatâ€™s a great intro to the project. Can you talk a little bit about its importance to you as teachers, a project that is so unusual and involves so many students in so many different locations?
VD: Well, I know for me, and then Iâ€™ll hand it over to Julie, that so many schools here in America, basically, their computer program, if they have one, is just teaching about Microsoft Word, and that is falling so far short of what we need to be teaching. We wanted our students to understand the trends shaping our world, but we really wanted them to experience those trends. Whether it was using cell phones, and that group would actuallyâ€¦ we had a great video by Atif in Bangladesh, that I would encourage everyone to see, where he actually invented the future of mobile phones.
VD:It was very exciting. We had the students in Second Life and virtual worlds and stating their opinions, but so many people are speaking for students, and these students will be in college in the next one to five years, and we wanted to give the students the opportunity to speak for themselves, because user-created content is one of the trends in the Horizon Report 2007, and we really wanted the students to create student-created content about what they envision for their future. When Alan became involved in the project, they really saw that someone would be reading this and it could even influence the future of the Horizon Report. So, Julie?
JL: Mine was actually a senior IT class through the project, and rather than just study Web 2.0 tools and fiddle around with them in our classroom, we were able to put them into action to communicate with other people and collaborate with other people. I think itâ€™s really changed dramatically over the last five months, the way that I work in my own classroom, and the tools that I use, and how I get the students to communicate, not only between themselves, but to look outward all the time. As a school in Bangladesh itâ€™s rural really in a lot of respects, but at the same time, the students were also already quite worldly in that their families often traveled outside of Bangladesh. So, they knew a lot, and I even had students who had lived in other countries at various times in their lives, but at the same time, they were able to use the technology and to look at the trends that the Horizon Report identified, and to think about that and to consolidate their own thinking. I was quite surprised, for example, with the idea of social networking, your second point in your report. We think all the students think itâ€™s all great, they all want to do it and try to work out ways that we can integrate it into our curriculum, and a couple my students said, you know, this is addictive. We donâ€™t know if we should have this at school; we donâ€™t know if we should have Facebook or Myspace. I could see that they were thinking about it and that they were discussing it, and I just think that this is all just very good, and itâ€™s all very excellent to be working on.
VD: Yes, and with what she was saying about social networking; the students really said they wanted to keep home and personal, work and personal, separate, or school and personal separate. That they really donâ€™t want to do schoolwork on their Myspace, they donâ€™t want to do it on their Facebook, that they want toâ€¦ that they think we should call it student networking or educational networking, and stay out of their personal lives. So many people have mis-assumptions about what they think students want. We actually learned a lot from the students that we had misunderstood.
AL: That is really interesting feedback. Almost not what we would expect to hear from the students. Wow. That is the kind of things that we want to learn, so it is exciting for us that we are actually hearing from the students who are involved and looking at this technology. What I thought was so important about this was that you were using so many of the tools in actually the course of your work. Can you talk about, you know, you mentioned Wikispace as sort of the hub for your project. What were some of the other web tools that you tried, and how did they work out for you?
JL: We had used Evoca, evoca.com, which is recording audio and putting podcast audio up online. We certainly used Youtube and TeacherTube. We used Twitter. We used Meebo for instant messaging. We used Elluminate. We had a grant from the Elluminate people to have a room where we ran synchronous events, although never at any stage during the project could we get all five schools in together on a synchronous event, of course, because we were all geographically just too spread out. Vicki wants to interject with something. Off you go.
VD: I thought the Elluminate was great because we could actually record and share and listen at other times, so we didnâ€™t have to be in at the same time. We also used something called Airset, to help us with our time zones, and once you go into Airset and set up your account, it will actually show you everything in your time zone. We had all of the teachers, the last two weeks of the project, go in and put their time zones in Airset and deliver that via RSS into the wiki. I was just going to mention about the Del.icio.us links. That was one of the most exciting things. We had peer reviewers, which were other students, but we also had used the tagging standards created by the 2007 Horizon Report, and your experts, the experts affiliated with this project, that other people around the world used these tagging standards and actually fed the students the most current research. That was so very exciting. I really believe that Del.icio.us, or some sort of bookmarking tool, should actually be something that every high school student is taught. We just think that itâ€™s very important to make sure that students understand how that works, because eventually, at the college level, as you do research, people that are your peers can actually send your tag, and send you, information. We think that there should be more tagging to be done, and sharing of social bookmarking.
AL: Thatâ€™s great. Actually, you took it to another level, because within your groups you had another whole layer of tags to help document the progress and the researchers. I think Larry wants to jump in with a question.
LJ: Actually, an observation. I really think that youâ€™ve hit on a very important point there, that the social networking aspects of the Horizon Project are really what made the connection between your work and our work possible. The fact that the students used it in the ways that they did to make what was already a fairly fresh Report even fresher is a tremendous example of the power of these tools. I think that it should not just be limited to schools, but that we ought to be finding ways to integrate them into every project. One of the interesting things about our project is that we try to walk the walk with this as we do it, and so the use of Del.icio.us and those kinds of tags actually came out of the previous yearâ€™s report when social networking really started to come on the scene very strongly. We built on it this year, and I expect it is going to become even more important. A tremendous example of why in the work of your students. I would like to ask the two of you, what was the most important insight that surfaced for you as you were working with these students and in this remarkable global project.
VD: Iâ€™ll go first with that one. I think for me, there were so many things that came out of it. About halfway through our project, the students came to me and said, â€œWe realize that the news media is not telling us the truth about other countries, and we think that more students in America, in particular in North America, need to have a better understanding of the world outside our sort of isolated continent here.â€ I think thatâ€™s probably the ethnocentricity that is so apparent. One of the things that we had to deal with was English is different in different parts of the world. The students actually had to specify which; is this going to be Australian-English, American-English, British-English, what is going to be the English, and that was so foreign to them, as well as even things like we canâ€™t say fall, or spring, or winter, because the southern hemisphere has the opposite seasons that we do. We have to specifically specify months. There are a lot of things as they work on these teams that, you can have all the cultural literacy that you want to, but until you truly work with people in other parts of the world, youâ€™re really not going to understand what it means and the cultural differences. We had something, actually, in the first project, the Flat Classroom Project, where we had to teach our young men to be very professional with the ladies in the other classrooms, because there is a different standard of what is appropriate for flirting, actually. We are talking about teenagers here, so that was a big thing for my classroom, was just understanding the difference in the cultures and what is appropriate and what is not, although I could go on and give you many other examples. Julie?
JL: Weâ€™ve already been working through some of those issues, although I know part of the Horizon Project we did get a lot of their advisors, and we had about 35 educators helping us with the project, and we did work through the whole internationalism and globalization of the project. I think for me, the Horizon Project following on from the Flat Classroom Project really tipped the scale. Iâ€™ve gone right over the top now in terms of how I work in the classroom. Itâ€™s really just lit up a globe in my head that this is how it works. This is how constructivism works. This is how you connect and collaborate, and this is really going to be the start of a whole new regime for myself as an educator.
VD: I think that one thing to mention is Daniel Pinkâ€™s book, A Whole New Mind. Itâ€™s really an important book, and we are going to make sure that in our future projects that students are exposed to some of that material, because it talks about theâ€¦ we have to move past the left brain rote numerization and move into the right brain thinking and innovation. Having such projects as this, where students actually have to invent a future that hasnâ€™t been invented yet, I think is very much a part of moving to the conceptual age, both at a college level and at the high school level.
LJ: Before you jump in, Rachel, I just want to ask a question that shouldnâ€™t be on the tape, so since weâ€™re at the end of a segment that weâ€™re going to edit out anyway because it has the boing boings in it, have you guys ever met, Julie and Vicki?
VD: We met at NECC. The first project, the Flat Classroom Project, received their Sigtell Online Learning Award for 2006, so we actually met at NECC about three and a half to four weeks ago. It was like meeting an old friend, for the first time. It was great. It was really great.
LJ: You did the entire project then before that?
VD: We did two entire projects before that.
RS: Vicki and Julie, you talked a little bit just now about some of the insights that the students had. What was the impact of the project on the students? What did they take away from it?
VD: My students, quite literally, are transformed. After these two projects, it was amazing. I had a group of tenth graders and out of this class, I had a very small class, it was one of the smallest weâ€™ve ever had at our school, of 13 students, and we actually had one student go on to win State Extemporaneous Speaking, and another student went on to win State Essay, and their ability to formulate opinions and discuss is just amazing. Itâ€™s all levels of the classroom. I had somebody in to observe that teaches at a PhD level in education and she listened to one of the oral quizzes. I actually give oral quizzes to make sure that the students have read the Horizon Report. Otherwise, you just have to make sure itâ€™s read in order to have that base of knowledge. She listened to it, and she said when we were done, and this was halfway through the project, that those students know more about information technology and the trends shaping the world today than her PhD students. She was that impressed, and it is very impressive to hear. I would like to say that Julie and I and the other teachers, Barbara, and John, and Ed, that we can take credit for what happened with the students, but it is truly an example of where we created the structure, we made the connections between the students, and we pushed and encouraged the students, but they ultimately taught themselves. In each of those six categories, those students really know more than probably their teachers in most of those. It was stunning what the students taught us. They truly became experts, and their lives have changed. I know one of my students actually published some work that is coming out in Coming of Age 2 for Terry Freedman. Julie?
JL: Yes. I would like to say that it made the students realize that I am not just the focal person in the classroom either. I mean, there were other people commenting on the wiki pages on their work. There were other educators and advisors who were helping them with their project work. It wasnâ€™t just a single teacher-centric classroom, it was five classrooms with other advisors, and people stepping in and out and helping them with their videos and ideas and this and that. It was just an extremely amazing experience for them as well. The Horizon Project just sort of brought all of that together. I was saying to other teachers; well they are working for me, they are doing wonderful things with the Horizon Project. It just sort of gave them a sense of purpose and gave them a new way of working that was non-traditional but allowed them to excel in things that they were interested in, because they were able to go off on their different tangents and to actually have some fun with it as well. I think that is really important.
AL: That is really exciting. I really appreciate both Vicki and Julie for joining us. Just scheduling this took a little bit of gymnastics and suffering through the mysteries of Skype. We hope we can come back and have another conversation to hear more because there is so much to really tell about this project. Iâ€™ve seen your names on the wiki and I hope that there might be a way for you to participate in some of the advisory board or some part of the process for next yearâ€™s cycle.
LJ: Yes. I was thinking the very same thing, Alan. I have a feeling we are going to hear more from both Julie and Vicki, and we want to thank you very much for your time today. We are definitely recording all of those keyboard strokes.
AL: This is the reality of communicating on the net. Iâ€™m sure youâ€™ve dealt with many stories when working with five different schools. Itâ€™s an amazing accomplishment.
VD: If youâ€™ll let me, Iâ€™d love to mention about the upcoming project that weâ€™ll be running in October and November, and then we do plan on having another Horizon Project. I would say in the spring, but we are actually looking at the March and April timeframe. We are looking for a few more schools, and they can check the wiki for information, horizonproject.wikispaces.com. But we would really like to find a school in Africa, and we also have a couple other places we would like to find schools, as well as a public school here in North America as well, and another one in South America. That is kind of where we are looking to move, to have more geographic diversity, and we also have a few other things planned. Just contact us, drop us an e-mail or stop by the blog, and let us know if you would like to participate.
AL: That is really exciting, and you can definitely count on the 2008 Horizon Report coming out in late January. I am really excited to hear that you guys are going to do this again because it just added so much to this yearâ€™s process.
VD: We would love to have multiple Horizon Projects going on, not just ours, and really expand it. We can even see hundreds of classrooms doing a similar type of project and have some ideas for how that could work. Your report is great. It is great material. It is very current, but it is also concise enough to be handled in a classroom. Excellent job.
JL: It was great, and we really would love to stay in touch with you and be part of the next Report and working with this, because itâ€™s been fantastic.
RS: Thank you.
AL: Alright. Thank you again everybody for joining us. We will be doing another NMC Conversation in a couple weeks. We are going to make this a regular series and we will have all kinds of technology adventures. Right folks?