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Business - Written by on Tuesday, February 24, 2009 15:42 - 5 Comments

Guest Blogger: “Collaboration: Concept, Power and Magic” by Julie Lindsay

(Editor’s Note: Julie Lindsay, currently Head of Information Technology and E-Learning at Qatar Academy, Doha, is an enthusiastic, global-minded education leader and innovator. Originally from Melbourne, Australia, over the past few years she has been teaching and leading the use of technology in schools in Zambia, Kuwait, Bangladesh and Qatar. As co-founder of the Flat Classroom Project, Horizon Project and Digiteens, Julie is recognized worldwide for her innovative programs using a wide array of Web 2.0 tools to transform learning for the emerging digital, “world-is-flat” educational landscape. More information can be found on Julie’s digital portfolio, her blog, or on her Net Gen Ed page.

The Flat Classroom Project is currently working in partnership with Don Tapscott on the Net Gen Education Challenge, linking students, educators, parents and business leaders around the world. Check out the joint initiative at netgened.grownupdigital.com.)

This blog post is in response to an invitation from Jeff Plaman at International School Beijing’s 7 Steps Towards 21st Century Education Ning, to write about global collaboration in order to raise awareness of possibilities and to share my enthusiasm for making connections and working across boundaries and borders. I often write about connective living as an educator, eg A Day in the Life, and try to emphasise the need to develop a personal learning network in order to make these connections happen. It is through connections and communications using Web 2.0 and other tools that collaboration opportunities can emerge.

I am often asked how I got started in global collaborative projects, and I am then asked how others can come on board as well. My history in classroom Internet-based, global goes back about 12 years with Global SchoolNet and Cyberfair, iEARN, and now more recently co-developing Flat Classroom Projects. However let’s not drag up the past, let’s focus on NOW and how the reader of this blog (You!) can get involved by joining and/or creating a 21st century global project, and all that entails!

Please note this is written specifically from my point of view and includes the work and projects I have been involved in so is therefore fairly narrow, but at the same time I think progressive.


The ability to connect, communicate and collaborate with educators and students in all parts of the world using common online tools has changed the way I teach in the classroom, as well as changed the way I work as an administrator. A 21st century educator is connected, communicates in a reliable and responsible way, and ‘flattens’ the walls of their classroom in appropriate ways to enhance the educational learning experience of all. Therefore, every topic, every unit of work, every opportunity needs to be reviewed in terms of how it can be made relevant through external contact and collaboration. Gone are the days where it was too difficult to bring the world into the room. You, the teacher, are only limited by your imagination! With tools such as Skype, wikis, blogs, Elluminate etc there is no excuse for not staging a real-time or asynchronous link-up to support your curriculum objectives. There is also no excuse any more for not participating in a global project, a more deliberated, designed, planned and executed approach to collaboration via the Internet.

I have written many times in the past about the concept of global collaboration.

Power and Practice

I equate practice with power. If you are practicing collaboration you have the power to change the world, one classroom at a time. The power of learning in a social and extended context, yet in a safe and supportive environment is achievable. I think sometimes schools and teachers give up too easily, put this in the ‘too hard’ basket too readily. Some blog posts about this include:

  • My 2020 Vision for Global Collaboration, where I give more of the history of my involvement in global, collaborative projects, and talk about the ideals of embedding this into the curriculum, develop digital citizenship skills, unblock tools etc
  • The Year of Global Collaboration 3.0, where I talk about the evolution of global collaboration to the 3.0 status. Let me copy the main points again here:

Global Collaboration 3.0

  • Fully engaged teachers who communicate with all participants (other teachers and other students)
  • Use of Web 2.0 tools for communication and interaction (networking) and for creation
  • Different global classrooms work together on a theme/project and become one classroom
  • Common assessment objectives
  • High expectations for connectivity and collaboration on teachers and students (it is not enough to email once a week!)
  • Extended community partners included in the project (other educators, experts)
  • Output may be individual or class/school based but includes input from others
  • Output uses multimedia and attempts to make a difference to the immediate or extended environment
  • Teacher and/or student initiated, student-centered learning

Further to the idea of practice here are a list of resources for the Flat Classroom Projects over the past 2+ years

Also, here is a current presentation showing the 7 Steps to a Flat Classroom:

The magic of collaboration comes from seeing students andteachers find their own voice and take charge of their own learning. It comes from being given choices and ownership and empowerment of their learning path. In the blog post “The conference that changed lives” I share the amazing power of bringing together people from around the world, students and teachers who came to Qatar for a face-to-face gathering and the magic that occurred before, during and after this event. This post also shares the 4 student videos that came from the winning teams, and is witness to the power of collaboration of strangers. The video that opens the Flat Classroom Conference, found on the Ning, details the development of a collaboration between myself and Vicki Davis that has changed our lives, created a pedagogically significant body of work, and encouraged others globally to reach out and make this happen.

Finally, I think the recent blog post “Take One Hour to Go Beyond Reflections“, comes towards sharing the impact and true magic of global collaboration, when it shares artifacts and responses to the Flat Classroom Conference event.


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Feb 25, 2009 7:07

Good work on this, it is certainly the right direction.

As someone who spent a lot of time both learning and teaching, I can say that the biggest hurdle by far is motivation. I see a lot of money get spent on impressive buildings, big lecture theaters, tasteful interior decoration, the latest electronic equipment and overpriced artwork for the foyer. I also see a lot of deadly bored students, and I have spent the time pushing myself through material that is absolutely dull beyond belief.

One thing you can say about modern electronic media is that people get into it. You look at video games, and interactive fiction and online chat and the motivation is there, so we are moving into a medium where what was always difficult is now easy (but only if you do it right). Moving lecture notes onto a website is easy enough, it makes for a convenient way to pickup the notes, it’s a positive step, but boring notes are still boring. Go and read some of the discussion groups about game design and you find a bunch of people who have trained themselves in ways to get people interested and keep them interested. That’s where it’s at.

Feb 25, 2009 10:57

Wow. For 1,5 month now I’ve been scourging blogs, tech & business sites on a daily basis, looking for information regarding ‘Web 2.0′-applications. This website and also this post in particular are in my opinion very close to the true essence of Web 2.0. I was personally only marginally aware of the phenomenon up until begin this year, but now I believe in it and I’m convinced that we have only scratched the surface.

Web 2.0 is internet business lingo. Translated in terms of economic theory, it means harnessing the power of human capital (im an economy student).
In our society many people have highly specialized skills, and our economy doesn’t seem to be able to tap into its power yet. But since it concerns valuable skills, there must be demand for it -somewhere-. The problem is that demand and supply of those skills are having trouble finding each other.

With the advent of internet technologies, this is slowly changing however. Internet lifts restrictions in space and location. People with similar interests meet on the internet in specific places. Facebook, Wikipedia, Twitter,… through crowdsourcing, what at an individual level seems only a minor transaction (friend request, wiki article, tweed), becomes something amazing. Facebook has basically created a map of human social relations, Wikipedia is one giant free encyclopedia, and Twitter has the potential to become a service for real-time news.

By tapping into human capital that is currently abundantly available in our knowledge society, ‘super applications’ are being developed. In terms of Information Technology are we starting to use human brain power as computing power. The websites can then be seen as complex logical gates (AND, NOT, OR, …). We are essentially creating ‘human machines’ with super applications as output.

The coming years will be very interesting. I hope my very own project will take off as well.

Feb 26, 2009 18:20

Chinmi… What’s your project about?

Feb 27, 2009 3:50

I’ve tried to analyze what makes web 2.o so powerful. My conclusion is that it’s about finding ‘sleeping markets’, that can finally be jump-started through the use of the internet.
So actually it’s about concentrating currently latent demand and supply for a particular type of good into one point, which can be done by promising profits to the website users.

Profit can be money, but the problem with that is that it’s a community corrupter. Money can buy you many things, things that have nothing to do with the community good. So it attracts people to the community that have less interest in the community good than in external goods, compromising the quality of the common good.

This is why Facebook, Wikipedia and Twitter are so powerful. It gathers people with common interests working towards the community objectives, and it leaves people not interested in it outside the circle.

The difference between Wikipedia and Facebook then, is that Facebook is far more economically efficient. Every user of Facebook brings something to the table, something that drives the community forward. The core transaction of Facebook is a powerful win-win situation at the individual level. With Wikipedia this is not so, there is not much individual reward to contributing an article. Only at the macro level does wikipedia result in an impressive product. That it has gotten where it is, despite a severe flaw in efficiency, speaks for the power of uncorrupted community.

My project is about finding ways to combine the power of community with economic efficiency, forming an ‘econunity’. The social network of which there are now plenty was the first of its kind.

I don’t want to share with anyone our core business yet, as the basic idea behind is pretty simple, ready to be copied by anyone, just like the concept of a social network is. Sorry :)

It is definitely not a niche product. However it remains to be seen how strong the demand for our product really will be at the individual level (for me personally it is substantial). If it takes off, a new super application will be born. We hope to go live by the end of the year and will let you know here :)

Apr 15, 2009 17:01

hm. strange..

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