I recently received the following comment about the Intrepid Classroom project. I hope to use this post to address some of the questions raised:
I came across your Intrepid Classroom blog just by chance last spring and now I found out who the mysterious Intrepid Teacher actually is through the CCK08 course. Fascinating how these connections work, isn’t it?
I am very interested in the way you have set up the Intrepid Classroom, but I would like to ask you for some advice. Just some background first. I am planning a new school project (high school kids, 14-17-year-olds) in a network of European and Asian schools. I have coordinated a few projects before, but keep modifying the process and trying out new tools to make it work more smoothly. Last year I tried to use a combination of Ning and Wikispaces, but it wasn’t a great success, partly due to a very limited time frame and many of the participants across the continents simply being unavailable to collaborate at the same times. Ideally, I would like to develop a platform/online environment/forum/classroom that could exist and keep developing and reshaping from year to year.
Have I understood correctly that your Intrepid Classroom is a truly open global classroom, ie. any student anywhere at all can join?
Yes this is true. I have taught some of the participants face-to-face in the past, but there are several other members who I have never met in real life.
Do many of your own students participate?
I am currently working at the K-5 level, so no, none of my students participate. I began this project as a way to connect with as many students from around the world as I could. I felt that being free from curricular restraints would help me do things I couldn’t do while in a regular classroom. I am using this medium as a way to build a community of young people around the world who are interested in change. Using as many different online tools as possible, I hope that we can help create and foster a supportive and engaged group of people working toward similar goals.
Do you encourage some of your students to participate, or is it solely down to each individual student to take an interest?
I am looking for bright, passionate, dedicated students. This is not a place for everyone. I do not see something like this working as a “class” assignment. Out of a group of 30 students there are usually only about one or two who have the fire and self-direction to participate in something that is not graded and will offer them no immediate rewards. I am looking for kids who are passionate about the planet and their role in it. I hope they see something like Intrepid Classroom as fun as well as relevant.
Do participating students get some credit for it in their school work, or is it purely self-directed study for their own personal learning?
As of now, they receive no credit, but I would love to work with schools about possibly being able to give students credit for work the do at Intrepid Classroom. Perhaps IB CAS hours or independent study credits could be an option for some schools.
You use many different forums and tools. Do you think this may be distracting to participating students?
I hope not. I want them to see that this project is about building community, not about the tools. I want them to use whichever tools feel the most natural for the task at hand.
Do you feel that having a structured network with given groups in different schools defeats the underlying principles of connectivism?
In a way- yes. Just as you said, “Just that in regular school life, schedules, curriculum etc. etc. don’t easily allow fully open learning environments.”
How about participation in the Interepid Classroom – is it regular enough for students to stay motivated? From my experience young people soon lose interest if participation in an online environment is too sporadic.
This has been a major problem. While the Ning shows that over thirty students have signed up we only really see steady participation by about ten students at most, and their level of commitment ebbs and flows with their real school load. We have several projects that have been started, but not one to date has been completed. This is a major concern. Because intrepid Classroom is a side project for all of us, I feel it is not a high priority for any of the participants. But you are absolutely right the sporadic nature of the environment, leaves much to be desired.
I hope you don’t mind me asking such straight-forward questions. I’d love to hear your ideas if you have the time some time. I am hoping to find colleagues to share these ideas with, as I believe very much that this type of learning, at least some of the time, is the future of education. I also like your passion for promoting peace in the world. In my Asia-Europe connections we did a Peace project (somewhat naive, but sweet) for some years until we lost touch with the Japanese teacher involved, and the momentum sadly faded. Here is the URL for a compilation wiki of this project, if you are interested to have a peek (I don’t know how to make a link in this field!).
Hoping to connect with you somewhere!
So there you have it folks. Anything I missed. Would you like to add anything to her list of questions and concerns?