12 February 2013

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We had our kick-off meeting last week on Tuesday 5 February 2013. I was able to connect using Blackboard Collaborate, something I had not used before, but unfortunately had to leave as I was at school. However, with it being Chinese New Year I have had an extended weekend, so was able to catch up and watch the full recorded version. I have also had a cold so have not felt up to tackling the mountain of marking, but have caught up on my reading for the next meeting, namely Chapters 1-3 of the book, 'Flattening Classrooms, Engaging Minds'; my Tweets about the most interesting salient points for me personally, can be found under @MrsHollyEnglish under #flatclass.

Having reached the end of Chapter 3, I have come across my first 3 of the 15 Flat Classroom Challenges. Having taken part in the survey assessing my current connectivity, I feel confident that I am currently in a good position - I already have established a sound PLN that I build on when I can and have added some more people to follow as recommended across the three chapters; I Tweet and ReTweet and share ideas with others on Twitter daily and blog as often as I can, aiming for at least once a week though I often have more than that in draft form. I think reading Kristen Swanson's Professional Learning in a Digital Age before starting this course has really helped to set up and take charge of my PLN in the three forms of CurationReflection and Contribution: reading these posts will show you how this little book can help anyone get digital and create a PLN easily. Anyone feeling overwhelmed at this point in the FCT, should take the time to read it as the extra effort will really help in the long run.

Challenge 1: Set up your RSS Reader
I already use Google Reader to tie all my blog and RSS feeds together and use Flipboard to 'pull' them to me along with my Twitter feed, some choice hashtags and other useful sites. I have also set up appointment times for myself and put them in my calendar to spend fifteen minutes twice a week on spending time researching. I already spend more time than this on reading and researching I think but monitoring will be useful, as time on the bus each morning does not always see me commenting on other's blogs - and this is my goal. I will try to comment on others' blogs in these time slots to fulfill my contribution quotient too.

To organise my PL, I use NetVibes - I set up my Flat Classroom tab to help me to organise myself with the various different places I need to go to stay on track with this course.

Challenge 2: Set up your Blog
I already have a Blog and am starting to get more traffic particularly as I Tweet a link when I post with the hashtag for the course I doing - at the moment it is obviously Flat Classroom but concurrently, I am also taking part in an awesome MOOC via Coursera with the University of Edinburgh on E-Learning & Digital Cultures: click HERE and HERE for links to the posts written about this learning to date. Therefore, I decided to set up a FLAT CLASSROOM PAGE on my Blog that will contain links to my Flat Classroom blog posts, and therefore will act as a journal and one-stop shop to find all my ramblings about this learning. I have to email this link to someone in my learning community but I hope the fact that I will Tweet it will suffice...?

Challenge 3: Connect & Reflect
Reading the first three chapters has made me really excited. As a new school and department, we are in the daunting but luxurious position to redesign our entire curriculum. As part of a thread I want to have running across the 6-12 grades, I have discussed and introduced the Google idea of 20% time for personal projects, the MYP idea of the actual Personal Project as well as wanting to build in a Flat Classroom project for our older learners. What really excited me was the huge scope of projects offered that can even have our Primary learners involved so they are ready for more challenges when we get them. I would like to talk to the Head of Primary about introducing the 'A Week in the Life of...Project', the 'Lucky Ladybug Project', the 'Pumpkin Seed Count' and the 'Life 'Round Here' projects. I would then like to talk to the Head of Secondary about introducing the 'My Hero' project and the 'Digiteen Project' as well as the 'Flat Classroom Project' that I have been told can be an option in the future. I think providing a variety of opportunities to engage globally from a young age is beneficial and is the curriculum innovation we need to start embracing in our school community.

I found a couple of quotations particularly helpful to me personally; I love the term teacherpreneur and take great solace in the fact that the book acknowledges that whilst many such teachers gain great accolades, many are also seen as those who 'rock the boat' (p44). This rings so true to me at present as someone who is forging a path in the school in the hope that others might get on the rocking boat with me. We are going to have to sail along alone for a while, but I am hoping the more who see what we can do as we steam through the choppy and ever-changing waters, the more will join us and help give weight to our endeavours and provide steadiness so we can begin to sail smoothly, where global thinking and collaboration is the norm.

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