On Oct 11 I was in Melbourne at SLV to see the Listen2Learners seminar. It was a day put together by the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development and the State Library. Based on the successful UK seminar Be Very Afraid, the day was a showcase of students using digital technology as a core part of their learning.
Projects ranged from designing 3D virtual worlds and games to global collaborative projects. The students representing the schools were very articulate and showed a strong sense of pride in their projects. They could clearly explain the details of their project, but had varied levels of conviction in their advocacy of the value of their projects. But despite some students’ lack of overwhelming excitement about their projects, most seemed to be empowering the students to use their existing digital skills in meaningful ways.
Some projects appeared to be doing little more than putting standard classroom programs/process in an online environment. The more impressive projects were using technology to allow the students to explore new ideas, information and environments. The two I found the most powerful in that aspect were: The Flat Classroom and Linking Latitudes. Both of these were similar in that they used online tools to connect their students with students in physically different locations. This was giving students an opportunity to experience ideas and environments they wouldn’t normally be exposed too.
Linking Latitudes was an online exchange project between a primary school in Tasmania and a primary school in an Indigenous community in the Northern Territory. I had actually done something similar in my first teaching position, but this was much more comprehensive and used online tools more effectively than I did. The kids were really excited about their project and seemed to have developed genuine friendships.
The Flat Classroom was a worldwide project where secondary students worked in virtual teams to complete projects on set topics. They helped each other complete their projects (generally the production of a movie), researched together and shared their information in online environments. I thought this project had particularly strong potential to learn from each other, about culture, values and world views that differed. At the moment the main cross-cultural value of the project seems to be the development of skills to collaborate with people from another culture. But I think they could go further to learn from each other.
One idea I had that came from The Flat Classroom was a potential World History project. Students looking at an overview of world history could work in groups to create a video of a particular day/year in history. Each group could have collaborative partners in various countries around the world. Each partner-group would research their own countries history for that day/year (including dress and lifestyles) and potentially use a historic site (or recreation such as Sovereign Hill) to film. Student groups could then compile all the movies from their partner groups to get an overview of world history at a particular point in time. It could be great for comparative exercises too.
Listen2Learners was a valuable day that reinforced the idea that students are very capable using technology, it can be very empowering for them and providing educational opportunities to use online environments will develop useful skills. I think it also reinforced my conviction that using digital technologies should provide NEW opportunities for students and not just repackage existing teaching material and pedagogy in an online format.