Name of Project: The Network Class Educator(s) Rasmus Christensen and Stine Hjorth Pedersen School Brief description of school context The schools are from separate province of Denmark, respectively Jutland and Copenhagen. Both schools are part of Microsoft's Partners in Learning. Both schools are using ICT as a natural part of teaching and the students have a netbook given from the schools. School Website www.soendermarkskolen.dkwww.soendermarkskolen.dk and www.rg.kk.dkwww.rg.kk.dk Content/Subject Areas Our project exposes the abilities of internet communication and cooperation in resolving common and not specifically subject based issues. In spite of this rather enigmatic title various subjects were represented in the innovative subjects, including Danish, Mathematics, social science, natural sciences and geography. Age/Grade level The project is linked to two 7 th grade classes. One from each represented school. Project Objectives We had several goals of the project, the overall goals were that students cooperate over the web. At the same time, we wanted the students to play an active role in teaching peer to peer as a large part of the project. The project will run for the period of one school year. This period is necessary due to the fact that there are many small subordinate details that must be completed that all contribute to the final result.
Project Description Design of the Learning Environment The core of the project revolves around communication through “clouding” and other media. The initial idea regarding the project arose from the desire for intra-national communication and to achieve long term virtual cooperation. The main target was to explore how the classroom of the future would be like if it was not just one physical unit but rather a network of classes cooperating and interacting – a network class. Above and beyond this, our desire was that the two 7 th. grade classes could establish contact whit each other for friendship and learn about each others’ environments. Our project builds itself around topics that are interesting to 7 th. graders and bases itself in the daily activities and lives of the students. The theme “My city” was to be the source of cooperation via Skype and the result was intended to be a joint online presentation for both classes, where they could present their findings. Randersgades school’s students were not familiar whit the presentation software Prezi, a definite choice on behalf of the teachers. During the intermittent period, the students in Billund had become aware and competent users of Prezi and therefore it seemed a good choice for the Billund students to teach the Randergade students in its use. We have constantly been inspired by the “Peer to Peer” teaching concept. We believe that this form of teaching and instruction contains a great merit when students are allowed the chance to teach and be taught by each other. We also wanted to remove known roles in both classes. The formal position - teacher and students, young and old, adult and child became of secondary importance. This proved to be a great success and both classes were enriched by both the presentations and the software. Known roles became transparent and both classes successfully entered into new groupings where automatic roles were not adopted. An anarchic approach to social interaction proved a great leveler. Especially because we as teachers also were collaborating closely and ensuring that the accountabilities were properly met by the students.
Collaboration The core of the project are collaboration, and the project revolves around communication through “clouding” and other media. The initial idea regarding the project arose from the desire for intra- national communication and to achieve long term virtual cooperation. Both classes have had to learn how to collaborate over the Internet and use its methods. They have fixed Skype agreements after school where they have collaborated on their topic. Furthermore, it is essential that they didn’t knew each other from the start and never met each other, therefore it is essential that they have taken the time to learn to know each other and that they have complied with the agreements. We believe that the project has had several positive aspects, as they have just learned how important it is to be included in a network. Additionally, they gained more skills in particular to engage in networking and in particular the virtual interaction. A very positive surprise came during the start up process. We had set a date for the formal introduction but when that day was approaching we found out that the students had already themselves been interacting via facebook and other social medias and already knew each others quite well. This indicates if you encourage peer to peer interaction in the didactical design of the project the students take great oweership themselves and accelerate the learning process. Another example of peer to peer learning has a great effect is that students were included in new positions. In the sense that the usual roles in both classes were converted - this is possibly a claim, but we believe that our project has helped transformed the hierarchy of the classes as the students realized that they have many competencies to contribute in a network. Some were good at creating dialogue, others were good at partnering and others were good at using ICT. For us teachers, it was also beneficial to see that roles can be changed and it was also it “wake up call”. In the Network class we were able to benefit from extended teacher collaboration. For example virtual instruction and workshops were the teacher who is most competent in a subject teachers the other class. One example is that Rasmus, along with some of the Billund students, held a teaching session via Skype. Here, Rasmus presented the timetable and schedule of events for Randersgades School and he and the students demoed software to be used in the project. It was obvious that the students at Randersgade thought the session to be both interesting and fun to receive teaching via the internet. The chance to meet another teacher and accept this form for instruction to which their “new” friends had so richly referred was also heartily accepted. It was in this way that the virtual classroom was introduced for both classes.
Evidence of Learning ICT has been the core of the project. Without the use of ICT the project could not have happened. We wanted to challenge the way in which internet communication can be apparent. Simultaneously, the desire was evident to prove to the students that internet communication and cooperation have a real and tangible place in future society. Many software aspects have been employed in the project; Moviemaker, Prezi, Skype and ordinary email to name but some. The project could not have seen fruition without the use of ICT in that it is ICT that bridges the ford (geographical as well as cultural) between the two groups. ICT has proven useful in creating an exciting and challenging forum in which to learn and receive teaching. The students have seen and experienced this aspect at first hand. ICT has been the medium of cooperation and contact. Plainly put, ICT has created the framework for the project, for teaching in which the contents have been affected by the students’ own daily affairs. In this way, elements form the students’ daily lives have been incorporated into their instruction and we have experienced a greater flow in the classroom than is normally seen. Our roles as teachers have been to provide the framework for teaching, to facilitate the flow of information and the students have, at all times, been instrumental in expanding the project so that it ultimately gave further ways of learning than originally intended. The students helped to create the project along the way and their role has now changed to be active co-creator in the teaching. Questions such as when we suppose to work together with the other class became normal in the classroom and in fact the students know see networking as a natural part of there everyday life now. Here are a few examples of uncompleted productions: http://prezi.com/wyiw89j-4ns_/konfirmation-og-bla-mandag/ http://prezi.com/myfatvtdqs3x/randersgadeskolen/ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8c1sROehsJ8 ….. and here are some photos from when our students work:
Knowledge Building & Critical Thinking Extended Learning Beyond the Classroom The Network Class has helped to break down the walls in the classroom. Our cooperation is not a project as such but more a state in the sense that we are not friendship classes but students are part of a network with one another. Teaching has become more serious since both classes are using each other for advice and sparing in many more areas than originally thought. It is our experience that the Network Class enables the students to take a greater ownership and initiativ i their learning process, which is one of the most important aspects of education when preparing the students for life long learning. A good example is that Søndermark school has long been inspired by Randersgades school’s climate project “Green Kids”. When we (the teachers) told the class this, the students suggested themselves that they would organize a virtual workshop for students in Billund. In the workshop they told about the concept but also about the things they should be aware of setting up such a project. Conversely, Randersgades school were very interested in LegoLab and Søndermark school will also organize a workshop for Randersgades school concerning possibilities for the use of Lego in the classroom. Thereby it is now the students there are helping to set the agenda for the teaching and the learning is now more relevant to the students. Precisely because they can see a purpose in our relationship and because they can see that they get new knowledge and competence in this cooperation. Properties they could not get out of a textbook. A secondary benefit is that we as teachers have experienced a great value in our mutual cooperation in the daily execution of our learning activities. Teaching each others students through Skype, mentoring groups in cross class collaboration and using each other for planning and evaluation etc. is a great resource. A valueable relationship thats not substituting the relationships we have with our collegues at the school, but rather opening a whole new (virtual) dimension to teacher teamwork thas very enriching.