Creating A Flat Classroom

The concept of a flat world and classroom is gaining more acceptance due to the wild popularity of Thomas Friedman's Book, The World Is Flat. Friedman believes that we must be active participants in the rapidly advancing collaboration, communication, and specialization of our society. His work has had great implications for education, and many cutting edge teachers have been working on just how to apply his principles, most simply stated as CQ+PQ>IQ (Curiosity Quotient + Passion Quotient > Intelligence Quotient).

Vicki Davis is one such teacher. She is the creator of the Flat Classroom Project, in which her small Georgia school was able to collaborate on a educational multi-media webpage (a wiki) with an international school in Bangladesh. Even though the two schools are 13 hours apart, the students were able to discuss important topics asynchronously, meet in a virtual space, and collaborate on the creation of all kinds of texts.

The Academy of Discovery will be creating a flatter classroom and a flatter world with every collaboration, with every learning experience. Our students will have the opportunity to learn from students around the country and the world. From New York students engaged in creating their own writing community to students in Scotland finding their voices through podcasting, our students will have the ability to work through their curriculum with an authentic audience of peers from diverse environments, thus ensuring that they are capable of communicating in our increasingly connected world.

Inclusion: A Close to Home Example of Creating a Flat Classroom

The following movie, in which a girl with leukemia is able to attend school from home using video conferencing, illustrates just how vital a flat classroom can be for many students. Although this particular situation was born out of necessity, The Academy of Discovery believes that this type of inclusion is necessary at all times.

Creating a Constructivist Classroom

According to Jacqueline Grennon Brooks, a constructivist classroom displays the following:

  1. Becoming one of many resources available to a student--not the primary source of information.
  2. Engaging students in experiences that challenge their previous conceptions of their existing knowledge.
  3. Allowing student responses to drive lessons and seeking elaboration of students' initial responses.
  4. Encouraging questioning by asking open-ended questions to encourage thoughtful discussion.
  5. Using terminology such as "classify", "analyze", and "create."
  6. Encouraging and accepting student autonomy and initiative by relinquishing the role of "classroom cop."
  7. Using raw data and primary sources along with interactive physical materials.
  8. Insisting on clear expression in communication from students to ascertain they have truly learned.

Creating an Inquiry/Project-Based Classroom

We are born with a strong sense of exploration and a desire to discover. By the time children become three years old, the question that most often escapes their mouths is "why". Studies have shown that as students "go up" through grade levels, interest in finding out why and the level of enthusiasm for the learning process drop dramatically. Why is this? Why does exploration and inquiry sometimes become lifeless and uninspired?
With the advent of standardized testing, teachers feel "the crunch" to complete teaching modules that appropriately prepare students to take such assessments. Inquiry and project-based learning is displaced because of the concern for time-constraints and the necessity of "covering the material." With the right tools, though, teachers can incorporate just such a setting, re-ignite the passion in students for finding out "why", and prepare students adequately for encapsulated and focused standardized testing.

The following information is drawn from the online publication, Thirteen, Ed Online:
An old adage states: "Tell me and I forget, show me and I remember, involve me and I understand." The last part of this statement is the essence of inquiry-based learning, says our workshop author, Joe Exline.

Inquiry implies involvement that leads to understanding.

Furthermore, involvement in learning implies possessing skills and attitudes that permit you to seek resolutions to questions and issues while you construct new knowledge.

The Importance of Inquiry

Memorizing facts and information is not the most important skill in today's world. Facts change, and information is readily available -- what's needed is an understanding of how to get and make sense of the mass of data. Educators must understand that schools need to go beyond data and information accumulation and move toward the generation of useful and applicable knowledge . . . a process supported by inquiry learning. In the past, our country's success depended on our supply of natural resources. Today, it depends upon a workforce that "works smarter." Through the process of inquiry, individuals construct much of their understanding of the natural and human-designed worlds. Inquiry implies a "need or want to know" premise. Inquiry is not so much seeking the right answer -- because often there is none -- but rather seeking appropriate resolutions to questions and issues. For educators, inquiry implies emphasis on the development of inquiry skills and the nurturing of inquiring attitudes or habits of mind that will enable individuals to continue the quest for knowledge throughout life.

Content of disciplines is very important, but as a means to an end, not as an end in itself. The knowledge base for disciplines is constantly expanding and changing. No one can ever learn everything, but everyone can better develop their skills and nurture the inquiring attitudes necessary to continue the generation and examination of knowledge throughout their lives. For modern education, the skills and the ability to continue learning should be the most important outcomes. The rationale for why this is necessary is explained in the following diagrams.

(From "Concept to Classroom" by the Educational Broadcasting Corporation.)

The Academy of Discovery (ADM) is based on such a model. It is our belief that we have extremely fertile ground (minds) with which to work and the ADM finds a natural home or setting within this framework. All students benefit by becoming inquirers of knowledge and understanding. We also believe that the broad teaching styles of ADM teachers and learning styles of our students will allow for this paradigm to be exhibited in a powerful and compelling fashion.