Open Thread: Questioning Global Collaboration: Does Flat Fall Flat for Teens?

danah boyd just posted a “request for brain-fodder” from her readers, and I played along by posting the below (or trying to – maybe it’s being moderated, maybe it was spammed, maybe some cyber-Cerberus ate it on the banks of the thread).  It’s a question I’ve been turning over for a while now, and enough of us have jumped into collaborative classroom projects now to share our reflections on the question I asked danah.

Let me preface this by saying that I think Julie Lindsay and Vicki Davis deserve monumental statues on Cyber-Main Street for their pioneering work in the Flat Classroom Projects.  They sparked my own plunge into the 1001 Flat World Tales and Project Global Cooling.  So I’m not dissing anything here, but rather critically reflecting on our own assumptions about our students’ psycho-social developmental readiness to catch the buzz we’ve all caught from this so-spiked digital koolaid.

As I say below, in horribly confused prose, danah’s presentation of her research on teen networking practices made me question whether teens are as impressed by the potential of global collaboration as we (rightly) are.  I’ve gone through two of them now, and am fairly certain that once the unit was over, so were any connections that those teens made with other teens flung wide around the globe during that unit.

Faceless Flat, Huggable Round?

And that leaves me wondering if local collaboration – within a school (and my, does that hurt Mr. Unschooly to say), or a comfortably snug geographic zone like a town or city – might be more engaging for the students.  Face to face is possible across town, and less so around the globe – and face to face seems, if I get danah right, to matter more to teens. The world may indeed be flattening, but round may have its own excitement for them.

Another anti-koolaid factor for teens might be that generally, they’re too busy with schoolwork to have developed any passionate, intrinsically compelling causes to collaborate about. Beyond schoolwork and school society, neither their identities nor their concerns extend. So . . . . you know, “Collaborate about whatWhy?  Don’t you realize the football game is Friday and the prom is Saturday?”

I’ll only add that part of all of these reflections involve the levels of engagement I saw in two different types of collaboration I’ve done in the past two years: one was global (wiki workshop here, anthology of best stories here), but the other was within the school-building. That second one involved all the students in world history – five classes shared between another teacher and me, meeting at different times, but all working on historical fiction set in the French Revolution on a wiki, all linking to the characters’ diaries created by their friends, all creating encounters of their own characters and their friends’ characters in a wildly promiscuous way.  My takeaway, when I compare, is that the collaboration that had the most zing to me was obviously the global collaboration: come on, my students in Seoul were writing with students in Colorado and Hawaii.  But my students?  They were way more zapped (in teacherspeak, I mean “engaged”) by the work confined to the fourth floor of our high school.

It makes me want to pull out my “Child Development” textbook from my education classes for more input.

But in the meantime, I’ll ask you for input too: Here’s the question for this Open Thread:

If you have led students through a global collaboration project, are you aware of any permanent change in your students’ networked lives?  Have they sustained any of the relationships formed then?  Have they used the experience to start their own independent collaborations?  Or have they climbed back out of the rabbit hole and resumed teen life as usual?

I really hope some of you – and Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, especially you students out there – will throw some observations in comments letting me know your thoughts. My Korean student population may be anomaly, for all I know.

If they’re not an anomaly, though, it bears asking: with all the incredible labor that goes into teacher design, planning across time-zones, and managing of these projects (not to mention the same demands the students have to face when participating in them) – if local is more developmentally appropriate, just think of all the crows’ feet and raccoon eyes we escape by scaling things down to local size.

*    *    *

I embedded danah’s presentation in a footnote to my post last week about getting students to learn the story of history, but here it is again. She starts around the 8 minute mark, wearing the wool cap.

Here’s the comment I left her, but I won’t hate you if you stop reading here. I said it all above.

Okay, this k-12 educator who drank the “global collaboration” edu-koolaid a couple years ago will bite:

I saw your preso on YouTube (where, Berkman? Berkeley? I forget), and your summary of your research on teen practice online supported a creeping suspicion from my own experience that teens just aren’t yet psychologically developed enough to “get” the power of global networking. Their maturity levels – and thus their online practices – are still local and somewhat narcissistic. So while their teachers expect all sorts of vistas to expand in their students’ understandings, the students are pretty uninterested in the fact that they’re doing project work with other students a pole away, and far more interested in working online with their schoolmates in a classroom down the hall.

So: a) Do you think “flat classroom” projects (global collaborations) in high school assume a psycho-social developmental level that teens largely lack, and thus might be a largely wasted effort on the part of their teachers (who do grasp the significance of the shifts)?

b) At what age do you think such experiences will enhance education?

Sheesh, this feels as woolly as my grey matter right now. Hope it makes sense.

30 thoughts on “Open Thread: Questioning Global Collaboration: Does Flat Fall Flat for Teens?”

  1. I to have gone through a few ‘localized’ and ‘international’ projects. In analyzing the conversation from both I think that the local conversation by teens centers around familiar topics that only local kids would have. I certainly think there is value to finding connections across nationalities, but the time and effort are tremendous.

    The local connections seemed to of more value as kids connected over common school work, social issues and local information. Local projects spilled over after completion as the conversation kept up based on shared experiences that only local kids could have.

    Working in a large areas like Chicago, there is a tremendous value to connecting locally across districts. I just haven’t seen that connection when working with kids across the world.

  2. Oh, it made real, sad sense to me. I was unable to even get my students interested in looking at, let alone participating in, connected projects. Couple that with our districts repressive attitude towards interactive tools and a general staff defensiveness regarding technology and you get a grim gray picture.

    I don’t intends to be around long enough to see the inevitable shift. My philosophy now is to show my students what’s available, plants some seeds of awareness, and try to modernize the traditional tools (PP – sigh!) with which they feel comfortable.

    It’s not much, but it’s a start.

    dianes last blog post..Both are Transformed

  3. Students don’t find global collaboration that interesting simply because we expect it. For adults (even savvy ones), the idea of connecting with someone across the globe in near realtime simply adds such a large “wow” factor that it offsets any costs (in sleep). As students, we take that ability for granted: it has pretty much always been there, and always will be.

    If the coolness factor is taken out of the equation, there really isn’t too much going for global collaborations. In general, they take a lot of effort from all involved while the payoff feels impersonal. It doesn’t seem to be connected to *my* life (relevancy), which means it really isn’t all that interesting. If I succeed, I won’t receive passive praise. Global collaborations are generally hidden from those not directly or tangentially involved with them.

    To illustrate my point, here are some bad examples:
    1) I get more satisfaction out of writing a letter to the editor than a blog post (even a high traffic blog post). Online, people must *actively* seek out the content and thus are not really bystandards. However, people will passively read the letter (regardless of subject or writer) and thus get exposed to the ideas. (Plus, I just like the ego boost of random people telling me they liked my letter on the street.)
    2) I get more satisfaction where I can *see* the difference I made. $1 given to a local charity gets about 1 meal for someone. Meanwhile, $1 given to a charity abroad can feed a family for much longer (depending upon location). However, I still prefer donating locally because it is *my* community. We like to improve things we belong to, not things everyone belongs to.

    I do think global collaborative projects have a place. They are great for rural schools where there simply aren’t enough peers to have decent diversity. I also think the tools can be leveraged locally in very effective ways. Google Docs works great for collaborating on a project across the globe, but it also works great sitting right next to each other.

  4. We have been trying to connect students to issues within our own community with the mixed results that I expect given their developmental readiness to both engage outside the friend/peer connections and to generalize or extrapolate evidence of social injustice at a small scale to the world. I know, we are asking a lot. In their narrative writing it was clear to me that some were ready to “get” connections to issues in our community, and some just came across as spoiled kids who had a hard time understanding why they had to go outside on a cold day. I edited the junior anthology of writing – each student had to submit this narrative assignment for inclusion in the anthology. We worked with google docs, so if you would like I could “share” some of these got it/didn’t get it examples with you.

    I’ve been trying to get teachers to brain dump to a wiki so that we can see some patterns. That too is asking a lot (

    I’m excited by some Shirkeyesque thinking that Dean Shareski wrote about recently in his blog post about a group in San Francisco called Carrotmob.
    This is concrete enough so that students might see results and feel successful at creating connections and change.

  5. I wrestle on one hand with wanting to “give kids the world” and, on the other, with the concept of education as something emergent in response to kids’ personal interests and intrinsic motivation. In that light, I’ve wondered…to what degree is structuring/requiring/generating mass collaborative projects another kind of (gulp) schooliness?

  6. Global collaboration works keeping one vital factor in mind. Teacher engagement PRECEDES student engagement.

    Some projects just want to throw kids together and don’t have meaning for the students. Connecting globally isn’t easy. It is very challenging and I think it best happens when you start with say two teachers and two classrooms with a meaningful project and then on from there.

    There will NEVER I repeat, NEVER be a “magic pill” for education where teaching just becomes easy and kids just do it themselves. It doesn’t happen in our flat classroom projects nor does it happen in any course I’ve ever taught.

    That being said, when global collaboration is done well and when teacher engagement is high — the learning that results is permanent and transformational — at least that is what I’ve seen.

    I don’t like the term “social networking” for education and prefer “educational networking” — by mixing the two up in research we’re getting some sort of bastardized results that don’t really reflect what we’re talking about.

    Also, remember, that we must work to do age appropriate, class appropriate, learning style appropriate projects and teaching. And that all of this is very very hard work.

    No magic pill here — however, I can 100% say that my students would not have the same result collaborating with just schools in Georgia as with schools around the world.

    Finally, there are ways to flatten the classroom by working with people in the community — just check out what Ernie Easter in Maine is doing with his project to create online virtual museums with several community organizations.

    Flat comes in multiple flavors, but it must be meaningful and requires teacher engagement.

  7. I’m off the intended age group since I teach elementary and do projects involving mainly grades 3-7, but I did want to comment on one question, about scaling back. Maintaining interest level over time does require a lot of extra work by the teacher, keeping the kids interested, reminding them that we have our good friends in Taiwan who need to hear from us, and so forth. The realities of life right here in Hannibal often supersedes the attractive-connective-foreign-magic of our projects. So… keeping the projects shorter, and keeping them to a given short term target (having a giant salad party after collaborating with Pakistan on plant science) helps the effort to stay alive. 1001 Tales to the Alien King, for example, is a great project, but if not managed carefully and spirited along to the agreed upon edit/review dates, it fades in the kids’ minds. So if too many teams are grouped, too many teachers are pulling out their hair to get the cross-group stories written and commented on; other teachers may have completely sort of forgotten about the project, again a fading point for members waiting for feedback. So before this gets too long – the magic that works for my kids’ projects is short, specific, and done — then later, we recall and reconnect using the memories of what we have accomplished, and the friends we have met. Usually, only a few kids will continue on connecting with the kids they have met in projects. So hopefully along the “short” path, kids have socialized, shared, done some thinking, and contributed to an overall learning community, even though it may have existed for only a short time.

  8. Morgante’s comment on the lack of “wow” factor is spot on. As a teacher young enough to have grown up with the internet, talking to and networking with people around the world is just a part of my life. I only think about how neat it is when I realize that other people don’t have friends on several continents.

    As a teenager, I spent time on a variety of online communities, and the web was young enough at that point that there was a certain cool factor to think that soandso was from Australia and we were interacting, but at the same time, it was just another way of doing what you could do with a phone, if you only knew the person already. Instant communication, in other words, has never not been a part of my, or my students’ life experiences.

    If anything, local, and face-to-face collaboration is the unusual thing in our students’ lives. How many really have a sense of their own community outside their social circle? How many have local issues that they care about, and would love to get to work with others to solve?

    I do see the value in global experiences for students. There are all kinds of lessons to be learned through working with people from all over the world. I see the best projects as those which build from childrens’ curiousity about the world (most have at least some ridiculous thing they want to know how people do in other countries) towards collaboration.

    I don’t know how much of it is developmental, but I would say that teenagers are by nature already so focused on finding identity within their “tribes” that expecting even 13, 14 and 15 year olds to really get much out of it could be too much. Danah’s examination of how they use social network sites matches with my experience and my understanding of what teenagers are doing. It’s all about moving from your identity as a child, in relationship to family, to an identity based on your relationship to peers. Identities based on a larger circle probably do have to wait for a later stage.

    Penelopes last blog post..The end of summer break…

  9. I have my own two children (11 and 13) in my classes. It really doesn’t seem to matter to them if they work across classes in the building or across continents. As my oldest has said, work is work. In some ways, if I do the work in the building I know everything will be ready and up-to-date in time for the next scheduled bi-weekly class.

    At the same age growing up, I had a pen pal in Africa and one in Sweden. Those letters captured my imagination. Probably because I determined the content and direction of the letters. We prescribe the projects and requirements in most cases at school.

    That said, it is still worth the effort. I am teaching my students how to communicate across continents. I am teaching them how to be culturally sensitive. They are practicing good digital citizenship. Many students will need those skills as they go to work. Perhaps they won’t have those opportunities in high school. I’m glad to provide them in the K-8 setting.

    After school, they are putting up YouTube videos, participating in social networks, and who knows what else. Like others have said in the comments before mine, it’s just their world.

    Ann Oros last blog post..Google Custom Search Eye-Opener

  10. Two thoughts come to mind as I read your post Clay, and the comments that follow:

    1. Why are we collaborating? Too often I think we seek out places in the curriculum for collaboration for the sake of collaboration (I am as guilty of this as the next teacher) instead of first starting with our learning objectives and finding the most appropriate activity to achieve them. If we know collaboration is available. we know how to set it up, and it seems to be the best fit than great, otherwise our students will not see the scale of what we are doing.

    2. This conversation about collaboration seems to need some redefining or sub categorization. If we have our students edit Wikipedia they are still participating in a global collaboration but not on the same scale as if they are involved in group blogging, Skype conversations, etc. with a group of students half a world away. Both are global collaborations but each has a different level of connection with other individuals. Students might not form lasting relationships with other students overseas from a collaborative project from the latter example but there is a good probability that students in the first will continue to contribute to a site like Wikipedia at least to some degree. In the end which is more valuable?

  11. Hi everyone,
    Aren’t we talking about teenagers? I remember this as the most self absorbed time of my life. Service learning cracks that only so far as they work on local issues – and in my experience the only time the international edge gets a buzz was if we were twinned with other folks of similar ages working on a similar issue somewhere else. Webcams/sharing videos/that had buzz – but only once some work was done to set up the twinning project.

    Great for the adults in the picture as well – always nice to have international colleagues. Maybe there should be a social network for teachers to meet and twin projects with others – or is there one I just don’t know about yet?

    I don’t blame them – time enough to take on the issues of a global world once we develop real competencies in our personal lives.

  12. @Reggie: Good input. The “spillover” you mention is a factor worth remembering – local issues continue to play out in our locales (duh), meaning followup and extension beyond the unit are easier and more relevant.

    @Everybody: As Reggie notes, “There is value to finding connections across nationalities,” and I’m not denying that. I’m just seeking food for thought on more sustainable and relevant ways to do that (for teachers and students alike).

    @Diane: I look forward to watching you work after your retirement. Should be interesting, seriously!

    @Morgante: So you’re a student? Thanks for weighing in. I’m laughing as I read your comment’s parenthetical “(and sleep)” – very relevant to this guy in Korea. But I’m thinking as I read your student’s perspective on teacher “wowiness.” And your points comparing the local to the global are very appreciated – seems less “narcissistic” than simply “personal.”

    @Kate: Do you have a blog? If not, how much do I have to pay you to start one? 😉 I’d love it if you’d link to any Google Docs you find relevant to this discussion, but love it more if you’d post about them (said kindly). And a HUGE thanks for the Shareski reference. It generated a project idea in the post after this one.

    @C. Tschofen: See @Morgante above. I discussed this dilemma – prescribing collaboration v. inflicted schooliness – with Chris Craft in this podcast, and in a follow-up podcast with Dean Shareski. I hear you. @Terry Smith succinctly identifies a lot of reasons for scaling down duration and geographical reach. I really like what Chris Harbeck did with “releasing the hounds” (see the K12 Online Conference presentation from 2007), and my own experiments with similar “unprojects” this year in my Networked Learning class felt like ways to thread the horns of that dilemma. There’s something fascinating about not prescribing the “what” (content) or “how” (form) at all, only the “how much” ;-). (Don’t take that last phrase too literally!)

    @Vicki: Again, I don’t mean to suggest global projects don’t “work,” but to question to what degree they do, relative to local ones, and whether the benefits justify the costs.

    The projects I’ve both participated in and overseen for others have without fail had massive amounts of teacher engagement (thus the “crows’ feet and ‘coons’ eyes” reference), and have been pedagogically well-thought out, from meaning/relevance to scope and sequence; they were not of the “Some projects just want to throw kids together and don’t have meaning for the students” variety you depict. And to repeat the point of the post, the students much preferred the activities in which the classroom walls went down – uniting an entire grade level in a history unit – than when the school and national walls went down. And that takes us back to the psycho-social readiness question that prompted this post.

    I’ll point to Chris Harbeck’s “Release the Hounds” and my own variation on this last semester as possible evidence that less can be more, that “teaching” can become “easier” and “kids [do] just do it for themselves” (as self-directed learners, with all the messiness that entails, and the freedom and time to fail, recover, and try again).

    Out of curiosity: How many students in the Flat Classroom Projects are still in contact with the people, or active on the issues, they worked with/on during the project? That, again, is the kind of information I’m curious about longitudinally, as it bears on that psycho-social readiness question I’m curious about.

    It seems you come close to @Terry Smith’s position that there are “multiple flavors,” including less intensive and prescribed ones, at the end of your comment.

    All that being said, Vicki, I’ll repeat: I’m not dissing the FCP, nor your contributions to mapping the new territory. I’m just curious to hear people reflect on their experiences with all of this. Thanks for troubling to comment.

    @Penelope: How interesting, you young thing. I graduated HS in 1980, and went through college with a Brother word processor with floppy disks. So your input from across the teachers’ digital generation gap adds an interesting element to all of this. And I especially appreciate your comment on the lack of local connectedness. That’s why schooly student councils tick me off to no end for being Haunted House and Prom-obsessed. Thanks, too, for your input on your experience in reference to danah’s research.

    @Ann: Again the issue of “prescribed” versus “self-determination” comes up in your great example. As for the experiences you’re providing your students, where do they fall along that “prescribed – self-determined” continuum, and along the “long-term – short-term” one as well? Just curious.

    Thanks again, all.

  13. The thing that I keep coming back to is actually what you’ve been espousing for quite a while now, Clay. Isn’t all of what we do in school contrived at some level? Doesn’t it have to be? And who is going to ever be totally engaged in that? And, to push the rhetorical questions further, as evidenced by many of the comments above, our kids do a lot of this global connecting stuff after school in the context of what they are passionate about. Yes, it’s about teacher engagement to some degree, but at the end of the day, it’s more about whether or not the student is learning about what he or she really WANTS to learn, not what someone else thinks they should learn.

    And one other thing…even though you may not have felt “success” in your efforts, I think there is a residual learning about simply the process and the complexity of creating and working in those connections that will benefit the kids you worked with a great deal.

    And one other other thing…I do think that face to face collaboration and collective action (Shirky) are more stimulating and engaging, but I also think the value of helping kids do the unf2f stuff is absolutely as important.

  14. @Will: Thanks for stopping in. Contrived “at some level,” yes – and that points us back to the question of degree of prescription that keeps popping up in the thread above.

    For the record, I didn’t say I felt “no” success in these efforts, but that I observed more engagement with the local than with the global – which all goes back to the by-now-cliche “psychosocial readiness” issue at the heart of this post, thanks to danah.

    I’m glad you brought up the “residual learning” point, because I’ve had the same thought myself and made it to my students, predicting that many of them won’t see relevance or potential in the experience until long after they’ve left my classroom.

    Again to clarify, I’m not arguing “for” f2f “against” online, but instead for online collaboration that more easily (being local) can lead to f2f. So to add a variation to your last sentence, I “think the value of helping kids do the unf2f stuff [in a way that may result in face to face collaboration and collective action] is absolutely as important[est].” 😛

  15. @Carl: Sorry, a brain misfire kept me from responding to your comment w/all the others. Re: “collaboration for collaboration’s sake,” agreed. And your prescription for judging when collaboration is desirable is in line with mine, somewhat. I still think embedding it as a “Quick-in/Quick-out” (“natural”) feature of learning, rather than designing a unit around it, has more sustainability and authenticity. Treat it like a phone call you’d make when you needed that call, rather than killing yourself scripting the whole thing. Maybe include carrots for authentic, high-leverage use of these tools in any learning activity from interested students, but otherwise just model the stuff by using it, and let it sink in that way.

    Nice sub-dividing of different types of collaboration. Good closing question. As Vicki notes, maybe the “social” is less important than the “educational” sometimes, in which case the continued editing of Wikipedia is more relevant than the continued connection with peers worldwide. (Why does this put me in mind of the Twitterverse?)

    @Alana: Indeed, indeed. The more I think about it, the more the local is the logical bridge between the narcissistic and the global. It’s the swimming pool before the sea.

    (And there are more partnering networks for classrooms than there are Protestant denominations now, from Ning to Wikis to barbershops worldwide. Okay, not barbershops.)

  16. As a teacher who embraced what you began with Project Global Cooling I’d like to add my 2 cents worth to the conversation. My students were really keen to make this project work and to all intent and purpose they did. They pulled together a concert from nowhere in six weeks. They did it because they believed in the idea and they knew they were part of something that was global in scope. My one criticism of the project was the lack of student to student collaboration across the participating schools. This collaboration needs to be facilitated by the teachers involved in the projects. Lindsea was our only real contact and she was doing this pretty much by herself without a lot of school support. I think it’s really important to get the teachers involved talking with one another thus enabling opportunities for students to get to know one another. This is what Vicki and Julie do well and hence their projects are meaningful. My students still want to reach out. They’ve just set up their own blog as a means of reaching out and fostering more involvement.
    They started writing their first post yesterday which should go up sometime this weekend. As a school we are new to the idea of global projects but there is interest from our students. They can’t do it on their own however. They need passionate teachers guiding them.

    Jenny Lucas last blog post..School’s out Friday

  17. Clay, thanks for starting this conversation. I have blogged a more detailed response at

    My conclusion reads like this…..
    “So, I say let’s get beyond wondering what the average teenager is thinking or doing as most likely it will be something self-centred, but let’s continue to reach out and provide experiential learning opportunities that are confronting and challenging knowing that by starting with a spark a fire is sure to follow and that the process and practice of global interaction is pedagogically sound. So Clay, I think the benefits, albeit intrinsic in nature, far outweigh the costs on teacher time. We need to wake up our fellow educators and students to the advantages of cultural diversity, collaborative learning and online tools to support this pedagogically and embrace flat learning experiences as the norm. We need not be ‘disappointed’ if our students are not changing their work patterns immediately or at all, the residual knowledge gained from flat classroom experiences will ultimately shape the way they approach the world, as it has for educators.”

    Julie Lindsays last blog post..Beyond the ‘Wow': Embed the Flat Learning Experience for Sustainabiliy

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  19. Hi Julie,

    I read your full post on your own blog, and nodded in agreement with most of what you had to say.

    I especially liked the “beyond the wow” thrust of it all, which dovetails nicely with several other comments about not doing it for its own sake, but only when there’s a good purpose for it.

    I’m still unable to let go of the idea that, at this developmental stage, local collaborations geared toward local action and connection might serve as good “training wheels” before pushing kids off to ride global bicycles alone (and that’s one mangled metaphor, but I hope you get my drift).

    In other words, “Think globally, act locally” might still be good advice for leading kids out from their classrooms and into the world – but first their close world, and later, the far one. Local citizenship, as Morgante noted above, has more immediate and personal results; and more importantly, aims to improve the local community. That’s something best done by the local players, students included.

    Which is not to say there’s not room for both.

    Thanks for weighing in.

    Would you like that statue in bronze, or marble?

  20. Hi All,

    I love the lyrics in this song sung by Kathy Mattea and written by Pat Alger and Ralph Murphy. It reminds me of the wisdom of taking the longer perspective when working with students.

    “Sometimes I stop on my way home
    And watch the children play
    And I wonder if they wonder
    What they’ll be someday
    Some will dream a big dream
    And make it all come true
    While others go on dreaming
    Of things they’ll never do
    We’re all just seeds
    In God’s hands
    We start the same
    But where we land
    Is sometimes fertile soil
    And sometimes sand
    We’re all just seeds
    In God’s hands
    I saw a friend the other day
    I hardly recognized
    He’d done a lot of living
    Since I’d last looked in his eyes
    He told his tale of how he’d failed
    The lessons he’d been taught
    But he offered no excuses
    And he left me with this thought
    We’re all just seeds
    In God’s hands
    We start the same
    But where we land
    Is sometimes fertile soil
    And sometimes sand
    We’re all just seeds
    In God’s hands
    As I’m standing at a crossroads once again
    I’m reminded we’re all the same when we begin
    And in the end…
    We’re all just seeds
    In God’s hands
    We start the same
    But where we land
    Is sometimes fertile soil
    And sometimes sand
    We’re all just seeds
    In God’s hands
    We’re all just seeds
    In God’s hands”

    I love the sentiments expressed here. Looking back to those confused teenage periods in my own life, I see how my best teachers planted some powerful seeds. The most powerful where ones that eventually formed the foundations of my own philosophy of being in the world by exposing me to the wisdom of ancient cultures. These were the seeds that formed the basis for the understanding of my own soul.

    I wonder what I would have said about those lessons back when I was a teenager. I expect I would have mocked them like so many others of my peer group, but that mocking would not have truly reflected the impact those lessons had in forming my way of being in the world.

    As a teacher, I try to develop the mindset of one of my many mentors, the one who plants trees. He told me that he plants them not from himself, but for his children’s children. His is a perspective that has wisdom and honors the totality of the human life span.

    So I teach, innovate where I can and continue to hope and trust that seeds planted today will grow in unknowable but profound and beautiful ways.

    All the best in everything that you do,


  21. I’d like to weigh in on this topic from a different perspective. I left “Corporate America” several years back to teach Career and Technology Education classes to high school youth. I made this leap because I was tired of improving a corporate bottom line–I wanted to do ‘something’ to improve the lives of young people in what is an increasingly competitive job market (not to mention getting into college!).

    With that said…my perspective is shaped, honed, skewed (possibly) from a business perspective. While I admit that I am a newbie with regard to wikis and global collaboration in my classroom, I am a seasoned veteran with regard to building and sustaining a competitive advantage in the workplace.

    In my estimation, our students need all types of collaboration–building, local, national, and global. And, as others have already stated we can’t collaborate just for collaboration’s sake. Young adults (all of us, actually) are always asking, “So what?” As educators it’s our responsibility to answer all of the ‘so what’ questions before they are asked…we have to let the students know up front ‘what’s in it for them.’ If the content isn’t relevant, if they can’t make the connection(s) on how they can apply (in the ‘real world’) what they are to learn, then what’s the point?

    I consider it my ‘duty’ if you will to prepare my students for the inordinate amount of (and sometimes downright nasty) competition they will face as they enter the marketplace. In addition, I am driven to teach my students how to build and sustain a competitive advantage in both college and career. By participating in meaningful collaboration projects (be they global or otherwise), students are exposed to another valuable learning tool that will help them build that advantage.

    Estie Cuellars last blog post..Thing #20 YouTube and TeacherTube (part 2)

  22. Sorry for being late! I am slowly going through this but, here is the response I posted on danah’s blog post. [you have my email if you’re still interested]

    I don’t think that teens lack the psychocosial foundations of connecting with the world. For the past 4 years, we have held global projects connecting 3 million students from across the world with each other and with experts investigating environmental change and life in the Arctic regions of the world. Their experiences caused change rarely seen in the regular old classroom. In other words, they initiated action within their own community, holding fundraisers, carving dogsleds (the projects have to do with dogsleding across the arctic), and striving to teach others (adults and teens alike) that local actions have global implications… My perspective is that teens are ready. We just need to figure out the best way to get them excited about such projects. If you just tell them “hey look, here’s a kid in Greece, talk to her” I don’t think you’ll be seeing much “change.”

  23. The world is about as big as your next click as far as students are concerned. I am not even sure they are able to conceptualize ‘connected over distance’. They are connected at the hip to their friends through technology, and everything else appears ‘distance-less’. Collaboration is massively limited by time-zone, so real time (in Australia) is really hard to deliver as a ‘norm expectation’ in classroom learning. The AT&T ad that promotes that ideal, is significantly floored in that regard. Collaboration is a skill, driven by need and should start in your classroom and ripple out … if the ripple is strong enough to reach other shores. The teachers desire to ‘go global’ is admirable. But you have to prove to kids that its worth the effort. I think they they see the enthusiasm we often have to ‘go global’ as rather amusing. Perhaps they are more amused at the outburst of passion than they are by the project delivery.

    Local issues can link to wider ones – but meta-cognition goes a long way in propelling the ripple I think.

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