Case study: The Flat Classroom Project

by Kine Nordstokka on Mon, 2010-12-13 14:31
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Name: The Flat Classroom Project
Location: Global
Date Founded: 2006
Mission: Help young people to become globally minded and to equip them with new skills in an increasingly ICT dominated world

Background and aims

The first project was founded in 2006 by two classroom teachers, Julie Lindsay (Beijing (BISS) International School, China) and Vicki Davis (Westwood Schools, USA) and quickly received recognition for the innovative approach of knitting two classrooms together for common authentic research and production of meaningful, unique multimedia.

Since the original founding a grassroots movement of teachers has joined with the original pioneers to continue the original Flat Classroom Project. In addition other projects have emerged including Digiteen Project (digital citizenship), Eracism (global debating for cultural understanding) and NetGenEd (emerging technologies).

The Innovation

The Flat Classroom Project is a global collaborative project that connects young people around the world. It incorporates use of up-to-date technology (particularly web 2.0 technologies) with an approach to learning that ‘flattens’ the divides between pupils and teachers and between different classrooms. The initiative is being taken up across the world and aims to help students to become globally minded, and to equip them with the skills they need in an increasingly ICT-dominated world. The concept of the ‘flattened’ classroom operates by encouraging students to learn from one another, both from those within their class and in a virtual classroom (which connects students around the world via web tools such as Ning and wiki pages). Furthermore, the relationship between teacher and pupil is levelled out, as teachers are open to being educated by their pupils on the latest uses of new technologies.

In one of the projects, students formed groups with students from other schools around the world and were given the task of doing a project themed around the digital divide. Based on their own research, the group had to come up with solutions to the social problems caused by the digital divide – for example, generational divides, or divides between developed and developing countries. Through collaborating to achieve a shared goal, young participants address cultural and ideological differences in a constructive way.

Key elements

The latest flat classroom project was in 8-10 classrooms from around the world. Participating countries included USA, India, China, Qatar and Pakistan. The students worked in cross-country teams and created pitches using a wide range of ICTS and presented it to judges. They then had a global vote to find the winning project that would be taken up by the flat classroom project. The winning team’s project was eracism—erase racism, which will be a global debate using Ning, wiki and voice reading from students talking about the issue.

Face to face meetings are still very important so the Flat Classroom project also include conferences getting young people together to look at projects based on topics like the digital divide and other problems using ICTs. These conferences also have virtual participants.


Face- to- face is still the best form for interaction. After bringing students around the world together to solve issues at the Flat Classroom conferences, co-founder Julie Lindsay found that what would take four weeks online, takes two days in person. Even a great webcam can not provide body language and personal interaction. Also time differences make cross-continent learning more time consuming. For example, the week in the Middle East is Sunday to Thursday, USA to China time difference is 12 hours, so it can take 24-48 hours to get responses.

Recommendation and lessons from practice

Julie Lindsay recommends that schools stop blocking websites and social media sites which can be useful in an educational context. Websites such as Ning, Skype, Twitter and YouTube are often blocked even though they can be very useful in the classroom. Teachers are often making decisions about objectionable material rather than teaching students to be better digital citizens. Globally, teachers are still putting the lids down, thinking the internet is only good for using Google for searching the web. The internet should, however, be about enabling communication, collaboration and creation. Young people in the 21st century need to know how to access YouTube, upload podcasts, embed it in their blogs and create an appropriate avatar that they can share globally. They need to be instructed on how to use the web not just for fun, but for professional and educational development as well.


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