This is the third year in a row that I have helped a group of students be a Sounding Board for the Flat Classroom Project (well, the first one was technically the Horizon Project, but who’s counting?). Although the first year was with grade eight students, both last year and this year I worked with grade 5 highly able students on this “special” project. Each time I participate in this experience I learn something new, and this year was no exception!
Because the content of these projects is of a very high level for elementary students, I coordinated a time with our wonderful grade 5 teachers to pull out a small group of highly able students from each grade 5 class. The great thing about making this a quick and easy “pull out” project is that students from different classes get the opportunity to work together – mixing and matching beyond their homeroom groups.
I structured the project almost exactly the same as last year, allowing students to form their own groups, choose their own project to peer-review, and teaching them the basics of wiki editing. Due to some scheduling conflicts we only had two one-hour lessons to complete the entire Sounding Board experience (note to self: two lessons is not enough!).
As usual my little group of grade 5 superstars did fantastic work! They worked extremely well in their small groups or partnerships, making the most use of the limited time that we had. They were helpful and polite and coordinated their work extremely well (especially considering they are only 10 years old). Most of the groups had one student looking over the Flat Classroom work and another student with our Sounding Board wiki open, brainstorming and editing together, using both laptops productively and purposefully.
After our two sessions were over (thankfully we finished our feedback just in time), I was able to snag just one more short lesson with this fantastic group to get their opinions of how the project went. Here’s what they shared with me:
- Time was too short – we needed more time to read and understand the student work as well as to provide more detailed feedback to the students.
- We liked choosing our own groups. Some would have preferred larger groups, others liked partners. Being able to choose our own groups helped us work the way we felt most comfortable and with the people we can do our best work with.
- We recommend that all groups must be made up of students from different classes.
- It would have been great to mix grade levels – to include fourth, third and second graders as well. The fifth graders would have liked to teach them about the project and get their feedback as well.
- Although the 3-2-1 format was easy to follow, we would like it to be more open-ended to allow for more student choice in response style and amount.
- We would really like to participate with the bigger project! How can we be a part of the Flat Classroom project instead of just a Sounding Board?
What we liked:
- We liked being able to use the computer to give feedback instead of writing by hand because it’s easier and faster.
- We liked how we brought many classes together, not just one, because it helped to have lots of different opinions and we could see how different people are taught in their classes.
- We liked that we got to share our opinion about their work, because usually only teachers get to do that.
- We liked that we didn’t do the whole thing all in one day – better to break it up over different days – because we only missed part of our normal lessons. Spreading the project out over a few days also helped us be more laid back because we had more time.
- It was good to do in the Learning Hub instead of the classroom, because it helped us stay focused.
- We liked how we had different subjects to choose from.
What we learned:
- We learned about cooperation, if you don’t work together you won’t get anything done.
- We learned that it’s important to read all of the information to really understand what the topic is.
- We learned that people from different countries can work on the same project in different time zones.
- We learned how to summarize big ideas into short sentences.
- We learned a lot about new technology, which was really cool.
- We learned how people’s perceptions of other people can change based on their social networking profile pages.
- We learned more about Google’s different applications.
- We learned about online safety, using avatars and blocking pop-ups.
- We really respected the Flat Classroom participants because they put so much effort and work into all of it.
- It must be challenging to do that kind of project because they can’t talk face to face.
- We’re surprised at how much they were able to do because they were in totally different countries (which we could tell by the references in their work).
- We’re proud that they found out different ways to communicate with each other to create their project.
- We’re wondering how they got to know each other.
- We would like to talk to some of the members of the Flat Classroom project – would anyone be interested in Skyping in with us?
I’m so impressed with their thoughtful feedback! And I absolutely loved that their first instinct to learn more was to request a Skype call with some of the members of the project! How about it Julie, Vicki, Anne or any of the other teachers? Would some of your students be interested in chatting with our fifth graders? I’m sure they have some interesting questions!
Although I know this project is challenging for them, I am consistently impressed in their ability to grasp the most important facets of the experience. I’m always amazed at the way their brains just soak up all this new information like human sponges! Their thoughtful reflections and learnings just reinforce to me that this is an excellent experience for them – one that may be very different from their day-to-day classroom life.
I’m looking forward to working with yet another group on next year’s project already! Now it’s time to get to the judging!
Candy Jars by uBookworm