Thursday, April 16, 2015

How much collaboration should really occur inside the classroom?

I recently came upon an interview by Vicki Davis and Julie Lindsay in which they talk about their flat classroom initiative.  Basically what the term means is that people from all over the world work on the same lessons to create a collaborative project that would not be possible without the input and different perspectives from another group.  The focus is on collaboration and the use of Web 2.0 resources to shrink the world and come to the realization that in today’s society; even those people on the other side of the world are no farther away than your rival school down the road.  This idea however would not be possible without a deep understanding and respect for other cultures and traditions.  Without the respect to put aside differences and perhaps due something that is different than the way it has always been no true collaboration can occur.  Howard Gardner, in his book 5 Minds for the Future, talks to this when he states that humans are born empathetic to the needs of others. “Infants in a nursery see or hear the distress of another infant; they signal their awareness by whimpering or crying themselves.” (Gardner, 2008) Yet, as humans develop this empathy for others can either be fostered or curtailed leading young adults to have a, “Fixed attitude toward others,” that is basically set for the remainder of their life. (Gardner, 2008)  It is this window when a person’s attitudes towards others is still fluid that education plays a roll.
In the classroom we have the responsibility to teach students to be prepared for the future.  At few jobs does that mean working by yourself with no input from others.  As Julie Lindsay stated in her interview, “I think that’s one of the great things about this project [flat classrooms] too, it mimics what your life is going to be like in the business world or once you are out of college.” (Flattening Classrooms) It is the ability to have people from diverse backgrounds work together for a common purpose that allows for truly great things to occur.  As the world continues to shrink, in terms of communication, it is vital that students know how to work with others and be respectful of differences of opinions and cultures.  It is with that in mind that I would like to share a project that I have created that I hope will foster collaboration amongst my students inside and outside of the classroom.
The overview of the project is simply to work as a team to re-elect one of the last five former president of the United States of America.  As a group they will be responsible for creating video advertisements as well as posters and lessons about their President.  Where the collaboration comes in is that each group is dependent on each member to learn and present information about one of the four other presidents that are part of the project.  As a team they will work together to create unique and collaborative resources to share with the class as well as with other students throughout the school.  As the end of the project, the students will be viewing the work from other classrooms, as well as sharing their own work, to determine who the school would re-elect.  While not a flat classroom project, the amount of collaboration and respect that needs to be shown to others definitely fits the criteria of what I have discussed here today.  As a teacher of the 21st century I feel it is vital to have students work with their peers in collaborative projects regularly.   “A person who is determined to do something constructive with his life needs to come to terms with the fact that not everyone is going to love him.” (Gardner, 2008)  By being respectful of other differences in collaborative projects, my hope is that I will be preparing my students for the world they will be entering after leaving my classroom.

Gardner, H. (2008). 5 Minds for the Future. Boston, Massachusetts: Harvard Business Press.

Flattening Classrooms and Engaging Minds with Global Education: An Interview with Vicki Davis and Julie Lindsay on Education. (n.d.). Retrieved April 15, 2015, from 146 PM - 189340-DiscoveryTranscripts/508 Unit 6 Intro Flattening Classrooms & Engaging Minds.html?ou=188324

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