So, does "virtual attendance" mean anything to students?

This year, we took four students to the Flat Classroom conference. I've been asked, “so, what about the other students?”

They participated virtually and then gave their reflections on the Conference. We are working to improve the virtual participants for next year's conference, but for now, here are the blog posts that resonate with me the most:

Kayla says:

“While I was participating in the Flat Classroom Conference virtually, I began to realize that this project has more meaning than just a classroom assignment, or busy work for the students. Several people have taught me that there is hope in this world. Watching Jeff discuss issues around the world i realized just how advanced the world is and how much in control we are…

hearing about the camels, seeing the videos, blogs; one by Emily, was really motivational to me, and pictures made me see the middle east in a whole new light. Before, i was slightly frightened thinking about being around the people with the turbans on their heads, thinking they were a threat to North America and our society. But i now realize they are people just like us, and they want to make the world a better place as well.”

Kathryn says:

 “I think that this conference helped change my view of the Middle East. At first, I didn't think I wanted to attend because it was so far away, but the people who did go had an awesome time. It has changed how I view the Middle East because I have seen pictures from the conference and Qatar looks like a beautiful city. Overall, I think it was a great project and conference, and I think that it definitely helped students realize everything that we can change in the world just by working together.”

Joy says:

My views of the Middle East have changed somewhat. I didn't go so I didn't get to interact with the people from the Middle East, but the people who did go were very complimentary. I think Americans make the common misperception that all Middle Easterners are terrorists, but that is wrong. This has opened our eyes to their culture.”


Jake K says:

“My view on the middle east has changed a little bit. I used to think when I heard middle east the first thing that came to my mind was the the War in Iraq. But now after talking to John who went over to the conference in Qatar my view has changed. Now I do not think terrorists because the middle east is just like all the other places in the world, it has good and bad people just like everyone else. From talking to John I have realized that the middle east is no more dangerous than anywhere else in the world.”

So, the point to take away here is that:

  1. Connect students FIRST to build trust so that you can eventually meet face to face.
  2. Face to face meetings always force students (and adults) to face their stereotypes and either change them or reinforce them.
  3. Good experiences can change long-held stereotypes that are reinforced by a nation's media.
  4. The media does not always tell the truth.  (We know this but do we REALLY know this!)
  5. Student views can be changed when only a few of them go somewhere.  Virtual participation should be a part of any “class fieldtrip” for those who cannot attend in person.
  6. Never underestimate the power of connection.

We are building the bridges today that the society of tomorrow will walk across. Unfortunately, some schools are building walls.

So, really – there are two choices for schools.

  • To build the BRIDGES today that the society of tomorrow will WALK across.
  • To build the WALLS today that the society of tomorrow will have to BRIDGE in order to advance.

How will the future remember your school?

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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1 comment

iryna March 12, 2009 - 7:32 pm


As I was reading some of the students’ blogs that you posted, I thought that it was rather ironic – this amazing technology brings people from different parts of the world so much closer together, and yet, we are worlds apart. I am a Ukrainian immigrant who has lived in the United States for the past ten years. I taught high school Spanish for four out of those ten years. From the very beginning of my teaching career, I was amazed at how little American students know about other cultures. When I came to this country, I knew a lot about it already, before I arrived. But I doubt that many Americans know anything about my part of the world. I find that even those who do know about my country have many misconceptions.

And it’s not entirely their fault either – the geographical isolation of the Northern American continent has a lot to do with it, but also the fact that, being so powerful and self-sufficient, the U.S. does not have to depend on any other countries. I wonder if technological advances are able to overcome physical distances and cultural differences…

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