Earlier, I watched the keynote of the first Flat Classroom Project installment of 2010, by Judy O'Connell from St. Joseph's College in Hunter's Hill, Australia. In her video, Judy mentioned the popular film, "Avatar" and how it can be seen as a kind of metaphor for the Flat Classroom Project. In the film, Jake Sulley is given the opportunity for "a fresh start," on "a new world." "You'll be making a difference," he is told, and these words are his invitation to travel to Pandora on his mission. All Jake must do is say yes, and accept his mission. As we come to see in the film, it is not an easy one, but Jake comes to learn about, participate in, and eventually understand a different culture and group of people different from himself. He learns, however, that he and the people of Pandora, are not so different after all.
Like Jake Sulley, participants in the Flat Classroom Project are given an opportunity to participate in a new world. "The Flat Classroom Project is your Pandora, a fresh start in global learning, it's your opportunity to be world-class students, develop your world-view, demonstrate to all of use the importance of good scholarship and good digital learning." O'Connell is spot on in her analogy, in that the power of the Flat Classroom lies in students' opportunities to expand their perspectives in our world, and see beyond the walls of their physical classroom. Instead of limited interaction with students within our physical community, Flat Classroom makes meeting, communicating, and collaborating with students across the globe, a reality. Children are highly adept at using online applications, Web 2.0 tools such as social media, search engines, as well as other tools supporting creativity. Therefore, they have the perfect set of provisions to support their learning in an online, global environment.
The Internet provides an optimal platform for global education to occur because it "levels the playing field" for individuals anywhere. Using multiple means of creativity and sharing, from text, audio, video, hypertext, and other multimedia, we can show our thoughts and ideas, and give feedback to others, with just the click of a mouse. And because our students today are so used to (and good at) this high level of media creation and manipulation, it is becoming more prominent in classrooms, both traditional and online. Check out this video created by Michael Wesch (in collaboration with 200 students at Kansas State University!) about how today's students feel about changing the face of learning and the traditional "classroom."
The Flat Classroom Project supports both digital literacy skills and learning, as well as global collaboration between classrooms across the planet. In the Flat Classroom, cultural understanding becomes personal, for each student, because he or she is interacting with students from cultures outside their own. What better way to learn about another culture than to speak and work with individuals from diverse backgrounds? The result is that students become less ethnocentric, and more globally aware. By learning about other areas of the globe, we also learn about ourselves. They also work on their skills with Web 2.0 tools, as well as tools essential or online learning and communication. There may come a day where our classrooms, however we define them now, may look a lot different, in that there may be no more "classrooms" but students will host their own learning networks, through online collaboration and communication.
I am starting to look at my own classroom experiences differently. I am starting to think "I wonder what it would be like if everyone in my classes, including myself, became more globally aware?" Would we see each other differently? Would we see what we read about, write about, and learn about in the same way? Will my future students have a better sense of global relevancy, and how will this affect the lessons I teach and the literature I choose to share? As a future English teacher, I am focused on how my students will read and write in the classroom, sure. But now I'm starting to think, how will my students read, write, and SHARE? And where will this lead them?