Several months ago I read an analysis of “Flat Classroom” blogging in Beyond Schools. The analysis was an attempt to consider lessons learned and to identify “issues” in several international collaborative projects focused on creative writing. Perhaps a way to frame the core message is to note that it cannot be assumed that an activity will be productive just because it is innovative and just because it involves technology.
Among the “issues” noted were:
- time zone differences limiting interactivity
- unmotivated students
- projects that stretch on for too long a time, and
- assessment procedures
I have been waiting to promote reading of the Beyond Schools post because Cindy spent some time in Russia and a collaborate student activity has been part of her experience. I wanted to give the project she was associated with some time to mature and allow the opportunity for some personal insights to emerge (I only watch). I am not certain I have reaching any conclusions, but it is time to at least encourage others to look.
The local project, Getting to Know You, involves middle school students in Russia and Grand Forks. The interaction of middle school students is facilitated by a teacher from the Grand Forks school in which Cindy works and a Russian teacher Cindy met in the U.S. but did not work with directly in Russia. All students are writing in English.
Some issues that occur to me in observing the project.
1) What is/are the objective(s) and do the activities follow? It occurs to me that there may be several possible goals here, but the goals are not necessarily the same for the classes or perhaps equally reflected in the activity. The development writing skills may have been a goal. Clearly, the Russian students have an opportunity to practice a second language. Finally, there would seem opportunities to increase cultural/international awareness. Instructor commitment to goals and student awareness of goals is likely to be important.
2) What about evaluation? I am not aware that the project I observed involved formal evaluation. I know that the local contributions were “Improved” before posting.
3) Time frame for interaction. The Beyond Schools post was worried that time zone differences would reduce the effectiveness of collaboration. The time frame in the Getting to Know You project involved much longer delays between interactions. I wonder if more intense interaction for an agreed upon shorter period of time would have been preferable.
One thing I also wonder about projects like this is whether there is a second round. Do educators try something, consider what happens, make adjustments, and then try again? Or – do educators find a new idea and as a consequence work their way through the steep part of the learning curve only to move on to another new idea. These are questions – I don’t claim to know the answers.