Friday, January 30, 2009


As you are aware by now (if you read my blog), this past week three of my Spring Woods High School students (Karla Nava, Steve Ramos, and Erika Bautista) attended the inaugural Flat Classroom Conference & Student Leadership Summit in Doha, Qatar. While the Conference achieved a number of objectives, one of the main goals was for international student teams to develop a Global Collaborative Project that addresses a pressing social need.

The students were placed in purely international teams; they worked with no one from their school—no one from their home country. These teams brainstormed and developed innovative projects to address needs such as AIDS awareness, discrimination/racism, education, and poverty. Then, the student teams pitched their ideas to a panel of judges (all of us educators in attendance). The top four teams are now competing via online voting. The winning project will be launched as a global collaborative project in 2009. I am proud to announce that two of our students (Karla Nava and Steve Ramos) are members of two of the top four teams.

I would like to invite all of you to vote as well. Please visit the Flat Classroom Ning to cast your vote. On the main page (in the middle section) you will see links to watch the ‘pitches’ (or commercials) the students created to sell others on their idea. In addition, there are links to visit their Wikispace so you can review their research. Once you have viewed the pitches, please cast your vote.

Once you have cast your vote, take some time to surf around the Flat Classroom Conference Ning. There you will find blog posts, videos, photos, and presentations that will give you a glimpse into just how incredible this opportunity was for our students. If you have any questions, or would like for one of these students (or me) to speak with your class, please email me to make arrangements…and please take a moment to congratulate these students on their successes in Doha.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Impressions from Oman

Attending the Flat Classroom Conference has provided the opportunity for those of us from Spring Woods High School to meet the students and teachers with which we have worked for the past semester and that's great. But more than that, the students are deepening their understanding of other peoples and cultures as they work toward planning a new Flat Classroom Project.

It was fun to connect on the Ning and the Wiki during the project; it's even more fun to collaborate face-to-face. I believe both are important. I had the chance to speak with one of the student groups from Oman as we toured Doha yesterday. Here are their impressions of the of Flat Classroom Project.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Dune Bashing in Qatar

Yesterday was absolutely incredible! Our group went on a desert excursion that included camel rides, dune bashing and a fabulous dinner.

We left from the hotel around 2pm Doha time for the desert. The ride was amazing. I took a lot of 'dune bashing' video. I'm working right now to upload to videos to YouTube and MyPage on the Flat Classroom Conference Ning. Here's a teaser.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Tigers Have Landed!

...Spring Woods High School Tigers that is...

Our group arrived in Doha, Qatar for the Flat Classroom Conference around 11pm local time last night. We are a little tired, but feel fine otherwise.

Today we will have breakfast together here at the Gloria Hotel and then Ray Jones from the Qatar Academy will pick us up and take us on a tour of both the Academy and Doha proper. I can hardly wait to meet everyone.

Then, this afternoon we will go Dune Bashing...will post photos and videos after the desert exursion...find our pictures here:

Friday, January 16, 2009

I Stand Corrected...Well, Sort Of...

All through the Winter Break I believed that we were not going to be able to make the trip. My blog post about our quandry reflected my mood. We hadn’t raised nearly enough money and felt certain that the students would want an ‘all or nothing’ scenario about attending the conference.

When the students returned to school on January 6, I proposed the question to them. They asked for a couple of days to think about it. They came back to me the next day (they had their own meeting about the situation) and said they felt that if they all couldn’t go at least some of them should since they all had worked so hard on the Flat Classroom Project. I reminded them that we had money for only 3 students to attend—and those students could attend only if: 1. Mr. Stallworth (our principal) supported this change in plans, and 2. Those three students would need to contribute roughly $500 each toward airfare and other expenses.

They agreed, so I proposed the change to Mr. Stallworth and he gave his approval. Now, we had to choose which three of the 9 would attend. Steve R and Karla N both won awards for their Project Multi-media artifact, so they were selected based on those awards. All that was left was to choose the third student out of the 7 remaining.

Admirably, the three juniors took themselves out of the running. They said that they would have an opportunity to participate and attend the Conference next year. That left 4 seniors…two of which said the $500 wasn’t possible for them to raise. Now we were down to two remaining seniors. I told them that I couldn’t choose…they would have to devise a plan. They decided on an essay contest. Each student wrote an essay on why they should be selected to attend/what the conference meant to them. When I read the essays, I wept. Both essays were wonderful and very touching. How could I choose?

Since I couldn’t choose, I turned the matter over to Julie Lindsey and Vicki Davis. They too were equally impressed with the essays and had difficulty trying to select a ‘winner.’ They decided to factor in the students’ Project Multi-media artifacts to help them make a decision. It worked…they felt that Erika B’s video was the more creative and informative of the two, so Erika was selected as our third participant.

Then…the rush to pay for tickets and to secure copies of passports, etc…all the while still planning for and teaching 100+ students! Wow!

Here's an update on our finances: Our airfare is paid for…what would just be superb would be to get in a few donations that would cover expenses for the students while we are there so that their families would be relieved of the burden of any more expenses. The ChipIn on our conference blog says $3,000…if we could raise $700-$1,000 I know that would cover the additional expenses.

So...if you can, if your are willing, please ChipIn for my students!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

7 "Things" About Me...

I was tagged by Ernie Easter, who was tagged by Mark Spahr, who was tagged by Richard Byrne...well, you get the idea.

I've been tagged to share seven things about me that my PLN may not know. Since I'm fairly new to the blogosphere, my fledgling PLN just may want to know a little bit more about this Texas, here goes...

1. I sang in a gospel rock band. That's right! Back in the early 80's I spent a couple of years singing both lead and backup vocals in a local gospel rock band. We did some of our own material as well as covers from bands like Petra, the Resurrection Band, Mylon LeFevre, and DeGarmo and Key.

2. I didn't start college until I was 25. When I graduated high school in '82, I was all set to attend Stephen F. Austin State University. Instead, I got married to my 'high school sweetheart.' By the age of 23, I was divorced with a 6-month old son and no education. Times were tough and it took awhile, but I now hold a BBA (graduated Summa Cum Laude) and an MBA. This is a story I share with my high school students in hopes of motivating them to graduate college before they get married and start a family.

3. Some of my dad's ancestors were highlanders. I've been told that my dad's ancestors were part of the Robertson clan...I would love to visit Scotland one day and see in person that beautiful country.

4. Incompetence drives me insane! I have a sticker on my home office computer that says, "I'm tired of stupid people." My impatience with the incompetent sometimes comes across to others as snobbishness or rudeness, but I don't mean for it to...honest...I'm working on this, but I have to tell you that I just feel there's no excuse for laziness or incompetence.

5. I have cheated death--twice. Once: when I was four--I almost choked to death on a piece of Halloween candy. It was blue...I was blue and passing out before my dad manage to dislodge it from my throat. Twice: when I was 20--I almost drown tubing down the Guadalupe River in Texas. My tube was pulled to the rough side of the rapids--civil service volunteers had to pull me from the water, very scary.

6. I wanted to play Tennis competitively when I was young. 'old school' parents felt that girls shouldn't play sports. I've followed the sport for years, but, I just picked up the game after my son started playing a few years ago. I would love to devote more time to the sport--to learn how to play more competitively--but my schedule with school and Junior Achievement just won't permit it. So, I play when I can...I have lots of fun playing with my son (who beats me regularly!)

7. I want to meet Tom Petty and Ted Nugent. I have never been one to become starry-eyed over celebrities; in fact, I don't read about them or watch shows about them because I just can't stand the hype. The only celebrities I've ever wanted to meet are Tom Petty and Ted Nugent. I love their music...have seen them both in concert multiple times...they just both seem like very interesting people. I think I'd like to talk politics with them...

People that I would like to see participate? I'm not sure who has been tagged, but I would like to see these people participate (or send me their link if they already have)