The University of Michigan has some top notch simulations and activities that so mirror this “flattened” philosophy of thinking and have been doing it for quite some time. I teach Current Events (begged to) for the first time 2 years a go and now am up again for this. We have the students participate in the Arab-Israeli Conflict Simulation as they simulate world leaders with grad students from U Michigan in a beautiful mutually beneficial learning experiences.
But there are other simulations and activities that they do as well and as a small thank you to Jeff Stanzler and his team of crack-simulators and students, I'd like to share what else that they have going.
I love the description that they have on their site:
“ICS programs are not distance-learning courses in the traditional sense of the term. Rather, they are collaborative projects defined by extended interactions between students at different schools, thematic content in a variety of subject areas, opportunities for personal engagement through character-play, self-expression or social activism, and (often) involvement of university-level mentors under the supervision of the project directors. Each project involves meaningful, often intensive, communication among K-12 students, mentors, and facilitators. ICS activities use custom-built environments specific to each project's goals.”
This, my friends is what Flat Classroom(tm) type projects are all about.
U Michigan ICS Simulations
- Arab-Israeli Conflict/ Middle East Simulation – It is amazing the depth of knowledge my students had about the current politics AND history AND geography of the Middle East. Excellent simulation.
- Earth Odysseys They are heading to China This Year for this Middle/ High School simulation.
- International Poetry Guild – “a web-based language-arts program that develops students' writing abilities while encouraging them to become critical, appreciative readers of poetry” and this can be done in ANY language. So cool.
- Place Out of Time – “Place Out Of Time is a simulation of a trial, where students play guests who come from a range of places and times throughout history to discuss some of the great issues of humankind.” This is a fascinating idea.
- Michigan Student Caucus – For students in Michigan to discuss and share the interests of students in Michigan.
- Michigan Matters – For elementary students studying the history of Michigan.
This model of creating mutually beneficial learning environments is a powerful one and allows for rich Project Based learning at the college level AND at K12 level AT THE SAME TIME. This is what we should be doing more of as we provide authentic audience to one another and authentic, real learning experiences. We are talking with preservice teachers and their professors about incorporating Flat Classroomtm into their curriculum.
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As a graduate student, I was involved in both Place Out Of Time and Michigan Matters, and have been lucky enough to participate in Place Out Of Time with my students. I feel incredibly lucky to have been involved with them both–they offered my first glimpse into what’s possible through online collaboration. I am so glad you and your students are doing this, Vicki! Have a fantastic time.
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