Last night, I was privileged to take part in a remarkable meeting in which I joined a group of teachers from across England to help one teacher, Neal Watkin (@NealWatkin), with a project that he's designing. It's a history project in which students are writing stories that they are going to take to a local primary school (and read them to the kids) in a morning session. Then, in the afternoon, they are going to run activities for kids and parents that use the stories as a launchpad, but go much further into their historical context.
I don't know exactly where the impetus for this meeting first came from, but I found out about it from Cramlington teachers Darren Mead (@DKMead) and Martin Said (@SaidtheMac). I believe that they were at an event and spotted Neal walking around with a copy of Ron Berger's An Ethic of Excellence under his arm, and decided they had to talk to him (incidentally, I love the idea that Ethic of Excellence is becoming for innovative teachers what the I-Ching was for hippies - both a must-read, and a sort of international calling-card).
I'm hoping somebody will fill out this story in the comments - Martin? Darren? Nick? (Nick, incidentally, is @DrDennis on Twitter)
Anyway, back when Learning Futures went to High Tech High in April, Martin presented a project he was planning for 'tuning' - this is one of the protocols that's at the heart of High Tech High, and it works like this:
A teacher (or small group of teachers) presents a plan for a project, including essential questions, learning goals, process, final presentation, etc., and gives the group their 'burning questions' - that is, the things they most want answers for from this session.
The other participants then ask 'clarifying questions' for ten minutes (these should be simple enough to answer with a 'yes' or a very brief response).
Then they ask ten minutes of 'probing questions' to the presenter.
After that, the presenter 'steps out of the circle' and the rest of the group discusses the project. The presenter then responds to this, the rest of the group comments on the response, and (time permitting) you close with a debrief about the process itself.
On the face of it, I wouldn't have thought this would work online, but it did - brilliantly. What struck me most was how everybody brought a distinct worldview, and a distinct knowledge base, to the table - partly this was conditioned by their subject specialism, partly by their other interests and their preoccupations, but what it meant was that everybody had their eyes open to lots of different ways of looking at the same plan.
One final thing - we used Flashmeeting for the meeting, which meant everyone who had a webcam could see each other, and gave us an easy to use chat function so there was a constant backchannel (and therefore a written record of at least some of the ideas. As someone (possibly Martin?) said, it was like the subtext was being documented.