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K-12 Online Conference: A Week In The Classroom

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Listening to the Voices: Student Empowerment through Collaborative Learning Projects Beyond the School Walls

Video : Voices
Audio : Excerpt of audio interview with student about Friedman's Flat World and education today

By Sharon Peters


This presentation has been inspired by my students. For the past three years, my students have been expressing themselves through video, online learning environments such as Nicenet, moodles, and blogs, and lately, audio recordings. They have a lot to say.

In particular, they have been communicating with students from other countries around the world. It has been a privilege to open the classroom doors and invite international guests into our lives. My students have had the opportunity to teach and learn from their peers in other cultures.

Recently, I was asked to write a book review for The World is Flat, by Thomas Friedman for the second edition of the upcoming online publication, Coming of Age: The New World Wide Web. In order to augment that review, I thought it would be interesting to have a student perspective on the book, so I asked one of my students if I could audio record an interview with him. He agreed.

Some of the things he said in the interview really surprised me.

This is an audio interview excerpt between Sharon Peters, teacher at Lower Canada College and a student, Sonny, about the book, The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman. Sonny is a 16 year old senior student in grade 11 in the Canadian Quebec education system. In this excerpt, he articulates his frustration about the current state of education, and about how while he appreciated and was excited about this flattened world Friedman speaks of, he did not see Friedman offering a how-to manual on how he, as a student could take an active role in this rapidly flattened world. Sonny recognizes that becoming connected takes more than just being a passive recipient of information from Internet (which is really what web 1.0 – the first generation of the Internet was about) to becoming an active voice whose opinion counts. He desperately desires to have that personal involvement in the new connectedness of the Internet, but doesn’t see how.

Ironically, at the end of the interview, when I asked him where he was when he realized that the world was flat, he spoke about Facebook and how now was in touch with over 200 friends around the world. And certainly through this interview, now available to a global audience, Sonny’s voice can be heard. This is the power of web 2.0 – the next generation of the Internet which permits the ordinary user to upload his or her own content and participate in this worldwide conversation.

This presentation is about listening to the voices of our students and providing opportunities of empowerment through the tools of web 2.0.