Who: Donna Roman’s fifth grade class at Mill Creek Elementary School
What: Flat Earth Program
When: Fall 2010-February 2011
Where: Geneva, IL
Why: To learn about the world through interactions with peers
The Flat Earth Program is an off-shoot of the Flat Classroom Project for middle and high school students that began four years ago. This original project adopts the framework and concepts that Tom Friedman laid out in his book, “The World is Flat.” As the name implies, the idea behind the project is to “flatten” classrooms by connecting students across distances and cultures to provide a “multi-modal learning environment.” Students and teachers from around the world can learn, share ideas, and achieve goals using multi-media technology and other tools. In case you aren’t convinced yet, here are five reasons your school should join the Flat Earth Program.
Communication is a key component of the Flat Earth Program. Students talk to each other in real-time using Skype in addition to corresponding via blog messages. Skype chatting is just like instant messaging, except there is an added visual component–students can see and hear each other speak. It is the next best thing to being with one another in person.
The project began last fall and just ended in February. Students from
all of the participating schools had several months, not just a few
days, to get to know each other. They had the chance to communicate
with each other multiple times and find out the types of characteristics
that make people more than just acquaintances–favorite foods,
after-school activities, even the color of each other’s earrings.
Projects such as this one yield life-long friendships. Students get to
make their own discoveries about how their worlds differ–and what they
share in common.
The Flat Earth Program consisted of eight schools from five different
countries including the United States, India, the United Kingdom, Czech
Republic, and China. How often do fifth-graders get to interact with
people living half-way around the world?
4. Fun learning
The world is a big place. Reading about the topography of China in a
textbook is sometimes hard to relate to, but talking to a Chinese
student your own age about the river that runs through their city or the
mountains they visit every summer is like getting to take a field trip
half-way around the world with your own personal guide.
The Flat Earth Program enables teachers to build a bridge from their
classroom in Suburbia, America to an International school in Prague and
truly connect with other people and places. Often if it is difficult to
fully explain subjects to students without providing them real-world
examples. The experience students gain from this project will ensure
that they have this real-world, person-to-person connection with people
that are geographically isolated.
Want to flatten your world and make connections that will last a
lifetime? Check out the Flat Classroom Project website and the other
projects associated with it for more information on how to get involved.
Becky for My Wonderful World
Photos courtesy of My Shot Your Shot:
Girl with Globe–Debashish Bhattacharya
Outside of AT&T Building in Los Angeles–Kien Lai