If Columbus only knew …

In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue and proved to a world of skeptics that the world was round.

 This trip was made possible by UNI's Study Abroad program, Continuing and Distance Education, the College of Education, the Provost's Office, the Graduate College, the Intercollegiate Academics Fund, University Book & Supply and the Northern Iowa Student Government.

In 2005, Thomas Friedman's book The World is Flat was released, asserting that technology has now bridged chasms of communication and commerce that Columbus could have only dreamed about. His book provides insight on the idea of a "flat" world in terms of technology.

UNI is capitalizing on Friedman's ideas by flattening its own classrooms and creating a global curriculum that allows for collaboration anywhere and everywhere in the world.

Tienanmen Sqaure

Educators from UNI and all around the world traveled to Beijing to participate in the Flat Classroom Conference. During their time at the conference, attendees visited three international schools, Tienenman Square and the Great Wall of China.

Leigh Zeitz, associate professor of curriculum & instruction; Kathy Klink-Zeitz, professor of curriculum & instruction and applied instructional design professor; and several instructional technology graduate students traveled to Beijing to participate in the Flat Classroom Conference. The conference brought together more than 200 K through 12 teachers and students from around the world.

Zeitz, Klink-Zeitz and their graduate students not only attended the conference but also were active participants by presenting sessions on instructional design and working as facilitators in the curriculum development group. Zeitz presented workshops on digital portfolios and using online collaborative tools in the classroom.

The conference was set up into two sectors: the student summit strand and the leadership workshop strand. The student strand allowed students to develop a Flat Classroom-style multimedia project. The leadership strand was a combination of educators who also created a Flat Classroom-style project, but one they would use in their own classrooms.

This three-day conference provided an opportunity for teachers to bring back a more dynamic experience to their students. The attendees connected, collaborated and developed international learning projects that they will soon put into practice in their classrooms.

Great Wall of China
The Flat Classroom Conference attendees took time to visit China's historical landmarks, including the Great Wall of China.

Cathy Olson, a UNI alumna and high school English teacher in Boone, is already putting her project from the Flat Classroom Conference in motion. "Our presentation for the Flat Classroom Conference is moving along well," said Olson. "We spend many hours on Skype and Adobe Connect collaborating from all around the state on our one Google Doc. It is always amazing to me that tools such as Skype and Google Doc can make such collaboration possible."

To Zeitz, "flattening" a classroom means teachers and students get together and collaborate to create global curriculum projects. Limitless students and teachers from around the world can use and benefit from these projects."

"The essence of the Flat Classroom Conference is collaboration," said Zeitz. "This means people working together to develop online experiences that cause learners to develop a new understanding of each other and the global experience.

"These educators and students are bringing experiences to Iowa, and they will never look at the world the same way."

All attendees in front of hotel
The University of Northern Iowa Flat Classroom Conference attendees connected, collaborated and developed international learning projects that they will soon complete in their classrooms back in the U.S.