As usual, I must start with the obvious: why NOT flat classroom? Why NOT open your students – and yourself – up to authentic learning? And what is this alleged “authentic learning” anyway? I don’t know what the proper definition is, and if you’ve read any of my posts you know I don’t care much for “proper” anyway, but I take it to mean REAL LIFE STUFF. The process that we engaged in over the last 48 hours at the 21st Century Learning Conference Hong Kong is what happens in reality. It’s not a lecture, it’s not passive (nor is it aggressive, thank goodness), it’s a genuinely tangible manifestation of real life. It’s a real problem, it’s a real solution, and it’s real time.
Getting my four students to Hong Kong was a blur; the process of application seems like it was years ago; but these last 48 hours made it all worth while. I feel like it’s one of those “why I teach” moments: I gaze across the room and see my four little angels engaged in a real conversation on the concept of the Digital Divide (aka the haves and the have-nots, the digitally informed and tuned in and the not, etc.) and they are THINKING. They are MOTIVATED. They are OWNING THEIR LEARNING. You know, I wonder when I’ll move past using capital letters to emphasize my points and just let the points emphasize themselves…but I digress. After the usual flailing, “What-do-we-do-Ms.P-What-do-they-want?” conversations to which I responded “What do you think?”, the inspiration struck and they ran. They planned, they researched, they reflected, they pitched their ideas, they skewed their ideas, they created a digital artifact that reflected their ideas, they presented their ideas, and above all, they BELIEVED in their ideas. It wasn’t what we told them was right, it wasn’t what the rubric said was right, it wasn’t what would get them into Harvard, it was just a real-life solution to a real-life problem and the kids believe that they have the real-life answer. That, my friends, is authentic learning.
Getting to work with the likes of Kim Cofino and Julie Lindsay, collaborating and doing my OWN project with other international educators, challenging and being challenged – to up the cheese quotient (seriously, you might like a gorgeous baguette to slather this cheese all over…mmm, that sounds yummy…I digress again), this changed me. I mean, I’m still me (fear not, dear fiancee), but I feel like I can see something, like I’m making bigger Connections to What This Is All About.
And I love it! The teachers had an exhilarating conversation last night and threw ideas around about making things happen: students teaching students who need them, students using their social networks to gain momentum behind an idea (hello, real life anyone?), and students serving something bigger than themselves.
It was beautiful, and this experience was beautiful as well. And so I shall shout the rooftops: “Join Flat Classroom! Connect With Others! Change The World!”