A few weeks ago, I gathered a small group of especially bright fifth grade students to act as a Sounding Board for the Flat Classroom Project. I did the same thing last year with my eighth grade IT class and was really impressed with what they learned. In all honesty, I was a little nervous about how fifth graders would deal with the high-level content discussed in the Flat Classroom Project, but once again, I was pleasently surprised.
The official Sounding Board rubric was a little too in depth for the two hour-long blocks we had together, so we used Chrissy Hellyer’s wonderful “3, 2, 1” graphic organizer as our focus for the project. I had a group of 10 students so we were only able to peer review 4 of the projects (2 groups of 2 and 2 groups of 3), but it was a very productive experience for the students.
First, as a large group, we discussed what the project was about. I showed off the wiki, introduced the different schools that participated, and gave a general overview of each section. I then asked the students to take a more in-depth look at the individual wiki pages to choose a topic that seemed interesting to them.
Once we had our smaller groups defined, I worked with each group individually to try to understand the content discussed on their section of the project. We looked at the information written on the page, and then watched each video – very slowly, absorbing as much as we could by pausing and discussing whenever we didn’t understand.
The students then had about an hour to really review their pages and leave some productive peer feedback on our wiki. Listing 3 things the groups did well, 2 things they learned, and 1 thing the groups could improve on was a great way to focus our work.
At the end of our sessions together, I asked the students for some feedback about their experience. Here’s what they said:
- Helpful to be prepared to give good feedback to other people that we don’t even know, which is like my dad’s job – he has meetings over the computer and the phone with people he’s never met all over the world.
- Helps us be able to work well with other people so that we’re more used to it.
- It’s interesting to see how people in different places think differently.
- Showed me that people have different perspectives – technology lets us have different perspectives and agree and disagree in our discussions.
- Practice being confident and give ideas.
- It’s a good experience and I would want to do it again – it’s interesting to talk to other people that are anywhere else in the world – helping them get better at what to do helps me learn and get better and evaluate my own work.
- Giving feedback about this project helps me reflect on my own work that I do so it can help me improve.
- I liked to see how these projects had writing and movies.
- You get to meet and get to know people you’re rarely with and even people you don’t know.
- I learned a new way to learn, communicate and discuss.
- You get new ideas from talking to people in other places.
- You learn how important technology is and how much of an impact it has on communication.
- You’re in a new environment (the Learning Hub, instead of the classroom) which can make you think differently.
Clearly, although the content may have been difficult for them, these students really understand why it’s important to be connecting globally with other students. Now I just need to make sure we have more of these experiences more often!