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Using & Teaching Educational Technology


The Horizon Project
By Terry Freedman
Created on Wed, 16 May 2007, 10:17

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Vicki Davis
Julie Lindsay and Vicki Davis, flush with the success of the Flat Classrooms project  decided to widen their horizons (ouch! sorry about that!) and start a project involving even wider collaboration, based on the Horizon Report . I asked a few questions.
Julie Lindsay

This is yet another example of some really interesting work: an international collaborative project on an ambitious scale, organised by two of the foremost pioneers of our times, and supported by enthusiastic students and educators from around the world.

1. Please describe in a sentence or two what the project is all about.
The Horizon Project is a global collaborative project for senior students. It is based on the Horizon Report 2007 Edition from the New Media Consortium and Educause Learning Initiative. The report outlines six trends in emerging technologies that will likely impact on upper secondary and tertiary education in the next 5 years. This project is a trip to the future where we envision, discuss and create what this future will look like based on research into the trends. Students, by researching, interacting and collaborating have been asked to share their findings and ideas for a technology-rich future.

2. How does it differ from the Flat Classrooms project?

For a start this project involves five classrooms, not two. There are extra challenges now with organisation and communication. Since reviewing and evaluating the Flat Classroom we have put effort into re-defining the structure of the actual project in terms of what the students are expected to do and how they will be assessed. Essential differences for the students include organisation where as well as creating a personal video, students are expected to contribute to an area of impact wiki as well as a central wiki for their trend. Each of the six trends has a student Program manager (PM) who is responsible for taking a leadership role and coordinating the development of the project for that area.

After an intense writing and editing process by international educators, a set of task specific rubrics focussing on wiki page development, multimedia artifact creation as well as collaboration, evaluation and reflection have been defined.

We are so lucky to also have joining us an experienced collection of educators from around the world who have come in to be expert reviewers, sounding board facilitators for peer review, advisors, judges, researchers and journalists. On top of this we have a keynote speaker, 2020 Vision video creator Karl Fisch, who is also interacting with the students and answering their questions about project development and futuristic possibilities.

To facilitate communication between participating educators we have set up a Ning community where blog posts, forum discussions, photos and videos are shared. In addition we are culminating the project with a 4-day Student Summit and an Awards Ceremony where all participants are invited to meet online using software from our sponsors, Elluminate.

3. What are you hoping to achieve?
Essentially we are hoping to continue to flatten our classroom walls and to provide situations that engage students and support learning. We hope to show that classrooms working in different parts of the world can in fact work as one and that curriculum can be adapted and moulded to suit diverse schools and systems. We want to show that by using Web 2.0 tools for connectivity and communication a deeper understanding of differences between people around the world will happen and lifelong friendships will be forged.

4. This project is involving journalists from the outset. So, is this merely an exercise in self-publicity?
NO, this is an exercise in communication and sharing. We are both single minded about this. We believe in fostering best-practice educational approaches through inclusion and publication. We are not afraid to put ourselves out there, to share our mistakes and achievements.

5. What do you say to the teacher who might be interested in this, but is concerned about SATS, No Child Left Behind and other such considerations?
Take a holistic approach to education and convince those around you that this is the way of the future. The walls of the classroom have been removed. Students and teachers have opportunities now that allow for enhanced communication and understanding. There is no excuse for not getting your feet wet. The benefits include an enhanced relationship with your students and a wider global perspective, not to mention an appreciation of cultural diversity and an improved learning environment within your own domain. Be creative in your approach and inclusive in understand that improved learning through this type of working will ultimately mean improved outcomes in other areas.

6. What skills will the students learn from participating?
They learn strategies for how to link with others and share resources through RSS and social bookmarking. They learn how to use a wiki for self publication and interaction. They learn how to transfer files around the world and how time zone differences are a fact of life but not insurmountable. They also learn to how important it is to take a leadership role and to communicate often in order to solve problems and work through issues.

7. How can people keep abreast of developments in the project?
All aspects of the project can be found on or linked from the wiki at http://horizonproject.wikispaces.com, and there is a Ning community at http://horizonproject.ning.com/

8. What advice would you give to anyone thinking about running a similar project?
Get started early with the planning and try to get all participants communicating early and often. Remember that not everyone is familiar with the demands of online learning and interaction and that in fact it can be a shock just how intense it can be. It is important to set up areas on the wiki for effective communication of goals and to give regular reminders of where everyone should be up to in the project. Also, spend time and effort bringing the teachers involved on board with the Web 2.0 tools to be used before the project starts.

9. Why? In other words, why are you doing this?
The real reason sometimes gets overlooked in the blur and intensity of the day-to-day requirements of getting from the beginning to the end of this type of project. However, let me try and enunciate it here. The REAL reason we are doing this is for the students. If the results are enhanced motivation, better productivity, engagement and excitement ...not to mention skill development and awareness of technology tools and life skills for collaboration and communication.....then we must be doing something right.


What do you think? Please leave a comment.