Teacher Education Students Take Part in Global Conference in Japan

Flat Clasroom 2013

Front Row: Jennifer Kasprick, Janis Ollson, Maddie Tokar-Wolff
Back Row: Eva Brown (instructor), Anita Lesage, Sarah Brown, Sheldon Hamp

Students from Red River College’s Business/Technology Teacher Education program extended their reach clear across the globe last month, while taking part in an international conference on emerging classroom technologies.

The students, all pre-service teachers in Eva Brown’s second-year Teacher Ed. ICT and Multimedia classes, were participants in the 2013 Flat Classroom Conference, held March 8-10 at Yokohama International School in Japan.

Only Brown was actually present in Japan, invited to the conference as a presenter; the pre-service teachers participated via Google Hangout sessions and as online presenters during one of the conference’s three keynote addresses. Prior to the conference, all six students worked as a group to produce a video on the topic of “How We Can Help Others”. (Click here
to watch.)

Their project — showcasing humanitarian initiatives on a local, national and international scale — was presented alongside 14 others, and representatives from Brown’s class were given the opportunity to speak to the 200-plus students and educators in Japan as well as many other virtual participants.

“It was amazing to see the work they did here presented on the other side of the world … so that other people could see their work, and they could connect with other students and educators,” says Brown.

“Now when they go into the classroom (as teachers), they’ll have personal experience in how they can connect their students, so that collaborations like this one become real for them, too.”

Having completed the project and taken part in the conference, Brown’s students agree that emerging technology tools — such as wikis, blogs, social networking, and digital storytelling — have had a drastic impact on the educational landscape.

“It’s a pretty surreal experience … just the fact that we can connect with people on the other side of the world, and show them what we can bring to the table,” says pre-service teacher Anita Lesage.

“If you bring that to the classroom with your students, it gives them the same experience. It’s saying, ‘Look what you can do. This isn’t just going to be seen by your classmates, it’s going all the way around the world.’ And that might motivate them to do a better job, because it’s not just their friends anymore, it’s a grander audience.”

In addition to providing instant connections between teachers and students in all corners of the world, the new technology helps students put a human face on what they’re learning — in a way that textbooks and other traditional resources can’t.

“It opens (students’) eyes to their possibilities and their futures,” says pre-service teacher Janis Ollson.

“It makes the world a little smaller and gives our students more cultural awareness,” adds classmate Sheldon Hamp, “and an excellent memory of the learning experience to look back on.”

“Really, it opens students’ eyes to global opportunties and the future— and levels the playing field, in that respect. They realize that a student sitting beside them (in Manitoba) can be exactly the same as a student in Japan. They know they have that access, and they have that ability to collaborate. They can do projects with them, learn from them, share with them and teach them.”

Click here for more information on the Flat Classroom Project.