Wednesday, January 28, 2009

That's How We Roll Video

I shot this on the last day of the conference. I wasn't able to get every student on camera because things were so hectic, but at every break in the action I searched for a couple of new faces to get on film. If anyone who was left out would like to get edited into it, just contact me and we can get it done!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Student Projects and "The Souk"

The learning never stops at this conference. I have never been so busy. I learned about the Chinese New Year and Russian Orthodox churches from a teacher from Beijing on the bus.

During lunch I learned a math technique called "double division" from a math teacher here in Qatar. It is a technique where you can do long division without knowing anything about multiplication. Very cool (if you are into math!)

On the bus ride back to the hotel I learned what to say to a Muslim when they sneeze: alḥamdu lillah (الحمد لله)
It basically means the same thing that we mean when we say "God bless you".

That was just between some great workshops at the actual conference. The students who came here got to present their ideas for a Flat Classroom project to us in groups. The teachers were supposed to listen and give feedback to help them improve their presentations and tighten up their ideas.

Later in the day, they presented in front of all of us using multimedia tools. Some of the ideas were terrific and the presentations were awesome. It can't be easy for 15 or 16 year olds to stand up in a foreign country and pitch a big, world-changing idea to complete strangers; for some, in their second or third language.

We had to vote on our favorites and it was tough because they were all so good. It was heartbreaking to see some of the students who weren't selected afterwards, but by the evening I think they had already gotten over it.

After our workday we went to the Souk. Here are the pictures from the evening:

Museum of Islamic Art

Here is a short slideshow with pics from the museum trip yesterday:

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Yaqzan is My Hero

I am sitting in the auditorium in the Qatar Academy enjoying the debate about web 2.0 technology. Yaqsan (one of my brothers from another country) just got up and challenged the teachers in the room to spread the message of the conference virally.

He said if we go back home and teach other teachers, this message will spread. That is a powerful thought and a bold statement for a 16 year old student from Oman to make in a room full of strangers.

Yaqsan is a rockstar.

Here's another challenge to SSPJ students (8th grade you should know this):

What is the definition of "Viral Marketing"?

Conference Begins!

We just arrived at the Qatar Academy, our conference host, after a great morning of sight-seeing. (I will post more pics and video about that later).

I didn't realize this, but the Qatar Academy is IN Education City. Everything in Doha is apparently under construction (I will blog about that later as well) and it is amazing how new and shiny everything is around here.

The Qatar Academy is a truly beautiful school. Here are some pics:

I also got to have lunch with 2 students from a school in Ethiopia. Neither of them is Ethiopian, though. One student is from South Africa, the other from Kenya. I asked Edgar (the Kenyan) if he ever heard of the VIST school because our 5th grade just finished their blog ( about our used textbook sharing project with VIST. He has not heard of the VIST school, but we had a great conversation about Facebook and privacy in the Web 2.0 world.

I asked these two African students why they were here and this is what they had to say:

They are from the capital of Ethiopia.
Here's a trivia question for the SSPJ students- can anyone tell me what the capital of Ethiopia is?

The 6th Omani

On our bus tour, to the waterfront (known as 'The Corniche') I chatted with a teacher from Oman and his 4 students. We hit it off right away and I have to say I am super impressed with those kids. They are some of the most polite high school kids I ever met.

We exchanged information and I have spent the better part of the morning talking with them, learning from them, sharing with them. We took a tour of the new museum (which I will write about later) and because of our instant bond I began calling myself the "6th Omani". Here is a pic of us at the Corniche:

If you are wondering why we seem to be 2 Omanis short, it is because one was taking the picture and one wandered off!

Listen to what Salim Al Busaidi, the Omani teacher, had to say about his experience with the Flat Classroom Project:


Ok, the flight was not as bad as I thought. I actually had 3 seats all to myself so I was able to get some sleep on the plane.
I thought we would be flying over Africa, but we actually went way up north and then came down over Europe.

Here is the flight map from the inflight monitor:

Flying over Saudi Arabia was interesting- I have never seen so many miles and miles of endless sand.

Finally there! First sign I ever saw in English & Arabic. I found Coke and Pepsi cans in Arabic as well- that was interesting to see!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Pre-Conference Reading

The trip to Doha is going to be a long one.

I was lucky enough to get a direct flight (there and back) which saved me from potentially going insane from the sleep depriving jet-lag/stop-over combo, but no matter how fast that plane goes, Qatar is still pretty far from JFK airport. Due to the fact that I have 30 hours of flying to do in the next week, I have been spending an inordinate amount of time planning my in-flight reading selections.

I have been debating whether or not to go the immersion route, i.e. books about technology and global themes, or the escape route, i.e. anything that doesn't fit one of those categories.

Thanks to Allegra Stratton's book "Mujahababes" the decision was easy. Mujahababes is about modern youth culture in the Middle East and if the first two chapters are any indicator, I made a good choice. She never specifically writes about Qatar, but she did visit Kuwait, which should be comparable. My goal is to learn enough to be able to ask intelligent questions once I touchdown in the gulf.

Now I just have to pack everything else!