Is it really over? (Virtual Book Club)

I must have been in denial.

It has taken me almost a month to get around to listening to the recording of the final session of Virtual Book Club. This opportunity to connect with educators around the world about a topic as important as #globalclassroom with a text as rich as Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds has been an unbelievably powerful growing experience. Listen to the last session yourself and hear the multi-layered, reflective conversation yourself!

We’ve come a long way baby.

Our first session was jammed with over 30 teachers from all around the world. We had loads of Blackboard Collaborate newbies that cruised up the multitasking learning curve and learned how to listen, type, read, and talk all at once. As the sessions rolled on, we all settled in and began to develop comfort with the mike and chat room and even tried out the breakout groups and learned a lot about how to enjoy the virtual side of a virtual book club.

The content of the conversation broached a number of different critical aspects of learning, technology, and global awareness. We challenged ourselves to find ways to connect our classrooms and to break down walls that prevent students from learning about the wider world. We wondered about how to find connections, feel valued by our administrators, and how to stay motivated and energized. We listened to success stories and shared the near misses and almost great moments. We supported each other, shared links and offered words of encouragement.

Our final session was probably our most probing and thoughtful and, interestingly, also concrete. We challenged ourselves to come up with creative ways to get more students access to educational technology  (after-school tech clubs, blogging clubs and graphic novel book clubs). We explored what a digital divide might be: a lack of access to technology for educational and professional purposes. And we reflected on the idea that an education with out global connections is like a 2D world. Akram, Joanne, Elena all shared thoughts about why it is so important that we have our students working with and collaborating with students from other places.

And we really pushed ourselves to think about our

big three

This idea comes from a section in Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds called “If You Only Read One Thing, Read This.” Basically, it suggests to choose three things that you are going to work on. Just three things. So we put ourselves into breakout groups and committed to each other three things that we want to work on. It was a really nice way to begin to wrap up the group and begin to plan for the future. (My apologies if you are listening to the recording because there will be about 10 minutes of dead space while we do this.) To see what some folks committed to, check out Chapter 12: Rock the World.

And then, it was over! (I’m getting sad again just listening to the end of the recording.)

Vicki and Julie– thank you so much for writing such an important, powerful and practical book! And thank you for your professional generosity. You probably have no idea the impact your support had on me, let me just say, it was tremendous.

Lisa, Michael, Tina, Theresa– From that first tweet I saw from Michael about gathering interest in Global Classroom projects, I have thrived on the collaboration and connections that GlobalClassroomProject has created. Thank you so much for all your support, interest and ideas throughout this project and others.

Jim and Mara– For taking a risk to help me! You were both great co-moderators. Don’t worry, I’ll be contacting you again for our next book club!

All the ACPS teachers – it was so wonderful that you chose to join the Virtual Book Club, whether you came to one or all sessions, you learned more about what is out there, and tried something new. I hope you also got a little inspiration to make some global connections!

Finally, I never like to say something is really over. Please click here if you would like to add your name an Twitter handle to a list of participants in Virtual Book Club. And please click here if you would like to suggest titles and ideas for Virtual Book Club II.

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Final Session of Virtual Book Club – How will you “Rock the World?”

Our final session of Virtual Book Club discussing Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds by Julie Lindsay and Vicki Davis is already this Monday, March 18th at 7:30pm EST (that’s Tuesday, March 19th at 12:30am GMT)! For your time zone, click here. We will be discussing Chapter Twelve – Rock the World!

Use this link (https://sas.elluminate.com/m.jnlp?sid=2007066&password=M.065891D192F8072208BF5756999CE0) to log onto the live session or watch this space for a posting of the recording afterwards.

I can’t believe it is our final session. This Virtual Book Club has been a wonderful space to connect with educators from all levels that are passionate about their work, are life-long learners, and are willing to share all they know as well as question what they are still learning about.

As I plan for the final session, I am looking for any remaining questions that we haven’t addressed yet. Please take a moment to leave a comment on this blog with topics you would like to see covered in the last session. Whether it is a question you have about how global projects work, ideas about how to set up rubrics for collaborative projects, challenges using wikis or blogs, or comments about the value of connected learning, let me know so that we can take some time on this last day to chat and reflect on the subjects that are important to you.

If you missed the session last week, listen to the most recent recording here: Virtual Book Club March 4th/5th and please share your thoughts on this blog: Virtual Book Club. Our focus was Chapter Nine – Celebration and Chapter Ten Designing and Managing a Global Collaborative Project.

I think the big themes of the session were these:

  • Find as many opportunities as possible to give students feedback about their work, whether it is an awards ceremony gala, a carefully written note or just pulling chairs into a circle to talk. Kids are starved for feedback – feed them!
  • Be creative when thinking about time and space – using Skype, VoiceThread or Blackboard Collaborate might allow experts, parents or other teachers to be a part of your celebration.
  • Take time to reflect and celebrate projects as a professional. Whether it is privately, publicly, online or face-to-face, take a breath and consider what worked well and what you want to repeat.
  • Start somewhere with a global project – join one that already exists, start with a teacher you know in another place, plan your own, but START.

And if you are just finding us in time for this last session, please feel free to drop in! We welcome all educators that want to learn more about global projects or share what they have already learned.

Hope to “see” you there!

Tonight! Meeting #5 of Virtual Book Club – How do you celebrate?

I can’t believe our 5th meeting of the Virtual Book Club discussing Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds by Julie Lindsay and Vicki Davis is already this Monday, March 4th at 7:30pm EST (that’s Tuesday, March 5th at 12:30am GMT)! For your time zone, click here. We will be discussing Chapters Nine and Ten – Celebrating, Designing, and Managing Global Collaborative Projects.

Add your voice to our group! Use this link (https://sas.elluminate.com/m.jnlp?sid=2007066&password=M.065891D192F8072208BF5756999CE0) to log onto the live session or watch this space for a posting of the recording afterwards.

I am really looking forward to sharing ideas about how to best celebrate student projects. This is a weak point of mine so I’m excited to review the ideas in Chapter Nine with teachers. And I’m already thinking about how we can celebrate the closing of Virtual Book Club at the following meeting. Ideas welcome!

Chapter Ten also has so much rich material for discussion. This chapter really walks you through how to design and manage a global project. It will be so meaningful for our network of teachers to share what they have done that works, what new ideas they got from the book and what questions they still have.

Join us and add your expert or novice voice!

Offering Choices – for Students and Teachers

Ways to offer students choices was the theme of Session #4 of the Virtual Book Club! If you weren’t able to join us, listen to the recording here: Virtual Book Club Feb 18th/19th and please share your thoughts on this blog: Virtual Book Club. We have been reading and discussing Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds by Julie Lindsay and Vicki Davis  and our focus this time was Chapter Seven (Choice) and Chapter Eight (Creation).

We began with some great comments:

  • @Durff shared that she tells students on 1st day that they are all intelligent (Gardner), it is her job to find out how to make them shine
  • Jim shared that he believes teachers should be helping students learn, not giving them the answers
  • Laurel mentioned that some students need content delivered directly from teachers before they are able to make choices in the classroom (and shared an interesting book: Why Students Don’t Like School?)
  • Monica added that she likes to model how she learns so that students feel comfortable making mistakes in her classroom

We also struggled with considering how teachers can create choices in the classroom in a time of standardization and high-stakes testing (at least in the United States).

  • Paul shared that part of personalizing the classroom is establishing relationships with students – it isn’t just about content, it is about connecting
  • Michelle talked about the need to let teachers have choice as well – when something is working, having the freedom to pursue it, not have to stay lock-step with a scripted program
  • Elena introduced the idea “of individual teachers being ‘experts’ with specific tools and working collaboratively with their peers is a more manageable and realistic approach for interdisciplinary teams.”

We also shared our own struggles and challenges with creating and maintaining electronic spaces for learning with choice in mind. We all agreed that monitoring electronic spaces are difficult to maintain and that we would love to have ongoing eportfolios that follow students through their years of learning in a school (Google Sites, KidBlog, Evernote, Weebly and even PhotoStory were shared as ideas). We debated a bit about how to choose new tools – what is trendy, and what is trendy with a purpose? Paul raised a great point about involving students in planning electronic spaces and many shared stories about ways they’ve done this.  As part of this, we also wondered how to make sure more students have access to technology beyond the classroom.

From there, we talked about how to structure learning experience that offer students ways to make meaning. Rocky shared the idea of students meeting with teachers to create useful materials for them and Robyn shared a bit about a project her students are doing to save rhinos! Interestingly, we found we have less experience offering students chances to invent or build. It would be fun to talk more about how we could build these concepts into our teaching more.

We ended by trying out the break-out room feature in Blackboard Collaborate. I guess I modeled the idea of the “teacher” not being perfect but willing to take risks since I had no idea how it would work! 🙂 Thanks to everyone who was there for humoring me and experimenting along with me.  I think we’ll try these small groups again next time with a focus question. Big virtual hugs to @Durff for telling me more about how to use this effectively at future sessions. And my apologies for those of you listening to the recording since there will be a long pause when you are listening (another important aspect of this tool for me to understand!).

Thank you again for everyone that participated. I’m reminded of the quote by C. S. Lewis cited on page 34 of this book:

The next best thing to being wise oneself is to live in a circle of those who are.

Thank you for being in my circle and adding to my wisdom! And to Mara for agreeing to co-moderate. If anyone is interested in co-moderating next time, please leave a comment or send me an email, I’d love your help!

Our next meeting will be Monday, March 4th at 7:30pm EST (that’s Tuesday, March 5th at 12:30am GMT). For your time zone, click here. We will be discussing Chapters Nine and Ten – Celebrating, Designing, and Managing Global Collaborative Projects. Hope to “see” you there!

Meeting #4 of Virtual Book Club – Add Your Voice!

Looking forward to our fourth meeting of the Virtual Book Club discussing Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds by Julie Lindsay and Vicki Davis Monday, February 18th at 7:30pm EST (that’s Tuesday, February 19th at 12:30am GMT). For your time zone, click here. We will be discussing Chapters Seven and Eight.

Add your voice to our group! Use this link (https://sas.elluminate.com/m.jnlp?sid=2007066&password=M.065891D192F8072208BF5756999CE0) to log onto the live session or watch this space for a posting of the recording afterwards.

We have had some powerful conversations so far about digital citizenship (see The Making of Digital Citizens), building and maintaining a Personal Learning Network (see Launching into a River of Information), and starting and joining global project (see The Virtual Book Club Has Launched).

This is a community of teachers sharing with teachers: reflecting, listening, sharing, questioning. Join us!

The Making of Digital Citizens

What a rich discussion we had during Session #3 of the Virtual Book Club! If you weren’t able to join us, listen to the recording here: Virtual Book Club Feb 4th/5th and please share your thoughts on this blog: Virtual Book Club. We have been reading and discussing Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds by Julie Lindsay and Vicki Davis  and our focus this time was Chapter Five (Digital Citizenship) and Chapter Six (Contributing and Collaborating).

We confessed, bragged, questioned, shared tips and traded resources on the topic of Digital Citizenship. It seems there is always more to consider from using images in our presentations to setting our privacy settings but we all agreed that we need to model strong digital citizenship for our students and explicitly teach them how to be a thoughtful contributor in the digital world.

  • Connie shared “Just as we model and teach ways to effectively present and collaborate in face to face groups, digital citizenship is just another layer.
  • Joseph agreed and asked, “Students need to understand that there are differences in communicating on facebook, twitter with friends versus using this type of media in school…but how to teach?
  • Elena commented, “It[digital communications] also provides an opportunity to evaluate how we interact with each other face to face. Sometimes in the middle school environment, speaking to others with a certain tone or attitude can become the norm.
  • Amy agreed, “Not only do we need to relate to our students using technology but we need to teach them how to communicate in positive ways using technology

Some of the great resources that were shared to help with teaching digital citizenship were:

Some tips given about getting students to care about digital citizenship:

  • Use real-life examples (read Chris’ story here) and facts (thanks to Laurel for sharing that 70% of employers look at digital footprints)
  • Have students create Digital Citizenship materials (Digiteen and Digital ID are examples)
  • Provide an authentic audience (when students see that others are actually reading/listening/watching their work, they care more)
  • Make it easy for students – provide them with music and images that they can use
  • Model by adding the URL for photos within classroom presentations
  • Use your librarians! They often have lessons ready to go on this topic
  • Start with a private wiki or an Edmodo class where you can monitor and give feedback to students before collaborating with another classroom.
  • As Rocky has done, actually contact authors and artists to request permission to use their materials. (Read more about what Rocky has done here)

We wrapped up by sharing a bit of advice about getting started with global projects and we all got really excited about trying Mystery Skype. And, as usual, the time flew by. I never knew an hour could pass so quickly!

A huge thank you to Vicki Davis for joining us in between prom planning and Flat Certified teacher training. Your professional generosity is unending. Another thank you to Jim for picking up as co-moderator. It is so helpful to know someone else is listening, reading, typing and talking as fast as I am! And a thank you to all the busy educators who took time out to share, question, and connect.

I’m looking forward to our next meeting on Monday, February 18th at 7:30pm EST (that’s Tuesday, February 19th at 3:30am GMT). For your time zone, click here. We will be discussing Chapters Six (Choice) and Seven (Creation).

Join the conversation! Virtual Book Club – Session #3 starting soon!

Our next meeting of the Virtual Book Club, discussing Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds by Julie Lindsay and Vicki Davis, will be Monday, February 4th at 7:30pm EST (that’s Tuesday, February 5th at 3:30am GMT). For your time zone, click here. We will be discussing Chapters Five and Six.

Join the conversation! Use this link (https://sas.elluminate.com/m.jnlp?sid=2007066&password=M.065891D192F8072208BF5756999CE0) to log onto the live session or watch this space for a posting of the recording afterwards.