I really enjoyed watching the interview with Vicki Davis and Julie Lindsay, because reading about a Flat Classroom versus just reading about it online made a tremendous difference in my understanding of how it truly works. The idea is incredibly exciting to me, and I love that students are broadening their horizons, connecting with others, and reaching out to places in the world they might have never even thought of. So many of the things that they discussed connected directly to Gardner’s respectful and ethical minds. Using the Flat Classroom model, students aren’t learning to just not just tolerate others, but truly understand, connect, create, communicate, and respect them.
An idea that I recently implemented in my classroom that helps foster collaborating and helps develop students’ respectful and ethical minds was a project using Google Apps. Over the course of two plus months, my students worked in groups to create documents and slideshows using Google Drive. I teach third grade, so the process took a lot of time to first teach my students how to use the Gmail addresses, how to open a document, how to create a slide, etc. Teaching them to use the tools was important to me though, since I knew they were going to need them in the future. The next step was breaking down our social studies chapter, and having students each complete a fact sheet they shared and added to, and then they created their slideshow. When all of the projects were completed, they presented to the class. Each student needed to talk to others via email, on the documents, and in person. They did a great job in the end (but it took a really long time). The talk regarding Flat Classrooms really made me feel more confident about my collaborative classroom project. Vicki Davis said, “you don’t eat watermelon whole, you eat it in bites” (2013). I very quickly learned students at my grade level could only take so many steps at once, and teaching them to use Google Apps took a lot of time and dedication. They mentioned having a flexible schedule and not being afraid of lengthy projects was something we need to not be afraid of as teachers in order to really connect and collaborate. I was happy to hear this, because it can be discouraging when something takes so much time. I just have to remind myself of it’s importance and keep working toward what I think is best for my students.
The project we completed in my classroom really helped my students connect and learn to work together effectively. The groups I chose were purposeful, so students had to understand how to overcome differences between learners, both academic and personal. I also taught the implications of not doing your own work, copying out of our textbook, or not participating and letting the rest of the group do your part. They understood how to use their respectful mind better than their ethical mind during the project. Doing the right thing, and working hard for the greater good is a hard concept, because some students just don’t “get” that yet. Some never do, which is why I think it is important to try and teach. In addition, certain leaders in groups would move forward without considering how much or what type of participation all members of the group gave. The ethical mind is harder for me to teach, it is something I recognize now I should be working on. Creating more respectful minds is something I feel that I have concentrated more on. Gardner mentions that as teachers we are the most important models for students seeing and understanding respect; the way we treat other teachers, support personnel, students, and parents is all being soaked up by our students (2008). We need to be conscious of the way we talk to and treat others, because that is what our students will learn as acceptable forms of behavior. Gardner also makes the point that respect isn’t just “tolerating” others, it’s a deep and genuine understanding reflected in our language and behaviors (2008). We can’t just “deal” with those that are different than us, we need to teach our children what genuine respect looks like. The project we worked on taught my students how to respect and understand each other on a very small scale. In regards to fosterings the development of their ethical minds, there were reminders to compliment each other, work honestly, and “fill others’ buckets”. Doing the “good work” and making decisions based on not just your own good, but for others as well, is much harder for elementary schoolers. Developing their ethical minds, and the intrinsic motivation to do the “good works” is an ongoing, constant lesson we are trying to teach them as people. Gardner explains that respect is a little bit more tangible, and that it can be practiced easily in elementary school, but the ethical mind I think is more of a challenge for me (2008).