Building Intercultural Understanding – Flat Connections Conference 2014

This guest post comes to us courtesy of Julie Lindsay (@julielindsay) from Flat Connections.

As many of our original teachers know, The Global Classroom Project was originally inspired by Flat Connections projects, and we are delighted to be sponsoring their upcoming conference in Sydney, Australia.

I will be attending the conference in Sydney (in person for a change!), so if you’ve been looking for an excuse to visit Australia, please come on over 🙂 – Michael Graffin @mgraffin / @gcporganisers

Australian teachers and education leaders, if you are looking for new and exciting ways to integrate the Australian Curriculum ‘Intercultural understanding‘ objectives  into your learning environment, the Flat Connections Conference is the place you should be! (June 18-20, 2014. Sydney).

It is with much anticipation that I am exploring the Australian National Curriculum (ANC) documents and becoming absorbed in the ‘Intercultural Understanding’ sections. As an IB (International Baccalaureate) teacher for 10 years, and a global educator, having taught across six different countries, I may have had more access to conversations and documents to do with intercultural understanding, cultural awareness, third culture kids, international mindedness, and cultural awareness than perhaps the average Australian teacher to date. It is certainly heartening to see a focus and emphasis on exploring how to recognise different cultures and develop respect now embedded into the relatively new national curriculum guidelines.

In terms of organising elements, the ‘Intercultural understanding learning continuum’ is organised into three interrelated organising elements, as shown by this diagram:

The website provides further details including the following three areas. Some key statements and examples are selectively shared here to show clear alignment and empathy with the aims and objectives of Flat Connections.

Recognising culture and developing respect:

  • investigate culture and cultural identity
    • share ideas about self and belonging with peers For example: identifying the language(s) they speak, describing something special about themselves or their families

  • explore and compare cultural knowledge, beliefs and practices
    • describe and compare a range of cultural stories, events and artefacts For example: comparing media, texts, dance and music from diverse cultural groups including their own, exploring connection to place

  • develop respect for cultural diversity.
    • understand the importance of mutual respect in promoting cultural exchange and collaboration in an interconnected world For example: upholding the dignity and rights of others when participating in international online networks

Interacting and empathising with others:

  • communicate across cultures
    • recognise there are similarities and differences in the ways people communicate, both within and across cultural groups For example: identifying various ways that people communicate depending on their relationship

  • consider and develop multiple perspectives
    • assess diverse perspectives and the assumptions on which they are based For example: exploring the factors that cause people to hold different perspectives

  • empathise with others
    • imagine and describe the situations of others in local, national and global contexts For example: presenting another person’s story as seen through their eyes or as if ‘walking in their shoes’

Reflecting on intercultural experiences and taking responsibility:

  • reflect on intercultural experiences
    • reflect critically on the effect of intercultural experiences on their own attitudes and beliefs and those of others For example:  describing how exposure to a diversity of views, ideas or experiences has or has not changed their thinking on an issue

  • challenge stereotypes and prejudices
    • critique the use of stereotypes and prejudices in texts and issues concerning specific cultural groups at national, regional and global levels For example:  assessing the use of stereotypes in the portrayal of cultural minorities in national conflicts

  • mediate cultural difference
    • identify and address challenging issues in ways that respect cultural diversity and the right of all to be heard For example: engaging with views they know to be different from their own to challenge their own thinking

Read the full Intercultural Understanding Learning Continuum as provided in the Australian National Curriculum.

The Flat Connections Conference, (and Flat Connections global projects) is a unique opportunity for teachers, students and education leaders to become immersed in a process whereby participants are teamed with others they have not met or worked with before, including different nationalities and cultures. It is a chance to break through stereotypical attitudes and prejudices and learn how to create something meaningful with others who are similar but not the same, and who may have different backgrounds and perspectives.

The ANC ‘Intercultural Understanding’ goal is for students learn more about their own culture and the variable nature of culture (languages, beliefs, customs) and thereby develop intercultural understanding, as the introduction tells us:

“The capability involves students in learning about and engaging with diverse cultures in ways that recognise commonalities and differences, create connections with others and cultivate mutual respect.”

“Intercultural understanding is an essential part of living with others in the diverse world of the twenty first century. It assists young people to become responsible local and global citizens, equipped through their education for living and working together in an interconnected world.”

The Flat Connections Conference, to be held in Sydney, June 18-20 provides an opportunity for teachers to learn more about how to embed ‘Intercultural understanding’ into their curriculum at all age levels through new pedagogy and curriculum design that focuses on global collaboration supported by emerging technologies. In the words of Anne Mirtschin, award winning Australian government school teacher who will be a lead facilitator at the conference, ‘The world is my classroom, and my classroom is the world’. That is how ‘flat’ and ‘connected’ learning takes place.

Technology makes connections and collaborations, and potentially intercultural understanding possible however for many teachers and students it is not clear HOW to harness the new tools and HOW to effectively harness 21st century learning objectives so that new conversations and meaning can be created. The Flat Connections Conference provides a pathway, the beginning of a journey into better understanding of this and aligns very nicely with the ANU Intercultural Understanding requirements.  How does it do this? Let’s take a closer look.

  • Students work in cross-school teams, teachers work in cross-school teams on a common goal. Already the walls of learning are flattened through the need to communicate and create something together by bringing skills, experience and understandings to the table to share with others
  • Both student and teacher teams produce a product that is showcased in a celebration on the last day. The process of pitching to other teams for feedback provides an energised design cycle of designing, planning, creating and evaluating. The product (an action plan, a unit of work, a new curriculum design) is designed to join classrooms and/or teachers together globally and can be implemented after the conference
  • The theme for the Sydney conference ‘What’s the other story?’ aligns once again with AC Intercultural Understanding goals. This theme emphasises the importance of all humanity’s stories and the way they have been defined by the historical context of culture, migration and identity.  ‘Grand Narratives’ are no longer viewed as a satisfactory way of understanding the complexities and interconnectedness of the world we inhabit.
  • Participants will be asked “What are the stories we want to tell to break through stereotypes and emphasise common humanity?” Discovering new stories, in conjunction with the design process of the conference, the aim is to open eyes to a more enlightened future of interaction and collaboration across the globe.
  • The Flat Connections Conference Program provides time for interaction, consolidation, ideation, and skill development with multimedia and Web 2.0 tools for both students and teachers.
  • The conference is about ideas – merging and melding cultures to create the best new projects and curriculum designs to join the world. It is about empathy with others, learning how to work with others, learning how to create a final product/proposal from set of initial ideas, learning how to flatten and connect using technology……and much more!

If you have any questions about the Flat Connections Conference in Sydney, June 2014, please email Conference Chair, Julie Lindsay:

Originally posted on E-Learning Journeys and written by Julie Lindsay, @julielindsay.


#GlobalEd13 Sessions You May Have Missed

Over the course of the Global Education Conference 2013, I was lucky enough to attend several fascinating sessions and keynotes which helped me better understand the work I do … As a global educator, I learn within, from, and with a wider community, and I am a passionate believer in the power of story as a means of sharing best practice in education.

This selection of presentations is a personal one, but I think the ideas and stories they present are worth exploring, and worth sharing with a wider audience.  And if you think I missed something brilliant, please let me know in the comments! I’m happy to add to the list 🙂

Julie Lindsay – “Live, Learn, League”

“Going Global is a mindset, not a plane ticket”

As someone contemplating doing a future research project in the field of online communities and global collaboration, I particularly enjoyed Julie’s exploration of “teacherpreneur”, which is a helpful way of describing my work with #globalclassroom.

Tatyana Chernaya – A glimpse into the life of a connected EFL Teacher

I have been chatting with Tatyana for some years in Hello Little World Skypers, and her students participated in my World Water Day side project earlier this year. I knew she was an English as a Foreign Language teacher, and that she worked with children with special needs; however, I had NO idea just what a truly AMAZING job she has been doing for all of these years.

This session was a revelation – please take a few moments to watch the recording. You won’t regret it.

Heidi Hutchinson – The #Malala Project: An Attempt at a Global PBL

Heidi came to us a year or so ago with an idea. Little did we know that she was about to create an extraordinary global action project, empowering students around the world to come together to support Malala and girls’ right to an education. A somewhat controversial issue in some parts of the world, this project made quite an impact on the students and teachers involved, and we are proud to have supported it.

Stories from Hello Little World Skypers

I am indebted to Stefan Nielsen for introducing me to HLW Skypers some years ago, because this little Skype community has completely transformed my personal and professional life.

Through the conversations I’ve had with this group, I have developed very close friendships with teachers literally spread out across the globe. Signing into Skype each morning / evening, there’s usually upwards of 100 messages to scroll through, and there’s almost always someone online to chat / Skype with, or to (literally) help you teach your class. These are our stories …

Flat Classroom @ ISTE 2013

Flat Classroom Projects

If you’re interested in global education, and you’re attending the ISTE conference in San Antonio, Texas … you’d be mad to pass up the opportunity to attend a session run by our friends at Flat Classroom. Thanks to @julielindsay for passing on the details.

1) Learning Station: ‘Flat Classroom Projects: Transforming Learning Through Global Collaboration’

Time: Sunday 7:00-8:30pm

Description: Join global learners of all grade levels in authentic, real-world projects using emerging technologies. When you go flat, you never go back!

More info: This presentation will share images, videos and documentation to do with Flat Classroom projects with a view to encouraging others to join the global collaborative projects. Current Flat Classroom global educators will be available to talk to teachers about their experiences.

2) Birds of a Feather Session 

Monday 5:30-6:45pm

3) Spotlight Session: “Do you co-create at the Elementary Level? Flat Classrooms Do!”

Tuesday 10:30-11:30