Sunday, February 1, 2009

Heading to Doha to see how flat the world is!

This should be an exciting week. I'm hours away from leaving for Qatar to present and participate in the Flat Classroom Conference at the invitation of the Qatar Academy in Doha.

At the conference I will lead LIGHTS, CAMERA, LEARN! workshops for teachers and students from Ethiopia, Australia, India, Pakistan, Oman and the USA. I'll work with film studies students to document the conference and sit-in on a couple of panel discussions. I think I'm most excited about the opportunity to present a unit on TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD to a 10th grade English class. I think is the coolest thing, so soon after the inauguration of our new President.

The Flat Classroom movement is great program created by Julie Lindsay and Vicki Davis (coolcatteacher blog). Julie in Qatar and Vicki in Camilla, Georgia. It is based on the constructivist principle of a multi-modal learning environment that is student-centered and a level playing field for teacher to student and student to teacher interaction. Sounds yummy, right?

I'm making the trip to throw a little Screen Education into the mix and I'm really looking forward to The World is Flat author Thomas Friedman's keynote, live from Washington DC via a Skype link-up.

Day One
There is nothing like traveling to the other side of the planet to see just how flat the world is...

I was awakened this morning by the sunrise call to prayer from the many mosques in the area. So many different cultures represented at the conference and it was kind of bracing to be a minority American... only a few of us here. Most of today was getting acquainted sessions. I spent a lot of time with the Qatar Academy film studies students on documenting the various sessions.

This is me with Julie Lindsay of QA and Don Knezek, the CEO of ISTE just before the presenter's welcome breakfast.

The student teams participating in the conference are essentially in competition to create a project around the conference theme "Citizenship in the Global E-Learning Economy" and the teachers participating are getting leadership training in using web 2.0 tools. I was spending time with some student teams interested in using video in their projects.

Tomorrow I present my first of 2 LIGHTS, CAMERA, LEARN! workshops to the teachers and my first full session to the students. Should be fun.

Flat Classroom Conference Wrap-up:

Today was one of those days when you realize why amazing opportunities present themselves in the strangest of places. The bulk of the last day of the conference was a mad dash between 4 multi-cultural groups of young filmmakers who were challenged to create short videos to promote their Flat Classroom Projects. The projects were to engage and rally other young people around the world to a cause using Web 2.0 tools. And noble causes they were; Racism, Poverty,
Educational Opportunity. Given a seemingly impossible task of creating a video pitch concept
to completion in under 3 hours, these amazing kids overcame language, culture and the endless failure of technology to rally around their conviction, their creativity, the supportive environment of the Qatar Academy and pizza to move everyone with their videos. It was truly inspiring! Check it out!

You can see all the video projects from the Flat Classroom Conference and even vote for your favorite to determine which global project gets funded and deployed on the Conference Ning.

We said goodbye to the Flat Classroom Conference participants today after the final screening of their videos and I think this experience will have a lasting effect on me as I reflect on just how true the old saying is that people are people no matter where they are.

Tomorrow I present my study unit on TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD! and start a 2 day consultancy with the Qatar Academy to work with the film studies program and a round of workshops with the faculty.

Thanks to all the students and educators of Flat Classroom, present and virtual for an amazing experience, Julie Lindsay and Vickie Davis for bringing us all together and the our hosts at Qatar Academy.

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