Two Ways to Connect: Cambodia and Flat Classroom

In the month of February, I have traveled 27,324 kilometers with students. I have spent 16 days with students in places far from my classrooms on two separate trips*. I have eaten every meal, survived lay-overs, and joked around with people who call me Ms. Madrid.  And I have been lucky enough to watch my students develop their spark.

Trip 1 was a hands-on service trip to Cambodia with 23 grade eleven students. Trip 2 was a Flat Classroom workshop in Mumbai, part of ASB Unplugged, with six grade 9 girls. On the surface these two trips were very different.


  • Dirty, hot, hands on service
  • Staying in places way off the tourist trail**
  • Physical labor, where at the end of the day you see a foundation you help lay or concrete you helped mix
  • Computers OFF

Flat Classroom Workshop, Mumbai

  • Workshop in a air-conditioned swank hotel with beautiful food
  • Abstract thinking about what “Open Education” means***
  • Computers (and iPhones and iPads and all devices) ON

However, in reality these two wildly different experiences have much in common.

  • Project based. Both groups were creating something. Mumbai it was a multimedia presentation about open education. In Cambodia, it was a cement apron for a well. But there was a goal and the students knew what it was and how to reach it.
  • Connections to a world far different from Japan
  • Thinking about how important education is for the development of countries such as Cambodia and India
  • Student centered. Both trips, the students were in charge of completing their projects. Teachers didn’t nag. Students didn’t complain. They just got it done despite the heat (Cambodia) or time restrictions (Mumbai)

Connected Learning

Connected Learning

In a recent article in Spotlight on Digital Media described a new model of connected learning as defined by The Connected Teacher Learner Network. There is a change coming in education and connected learning is part of that. Connected learning is:

Interest-powered…Research has repeatedly shown that when a subject is personally interesting and relevant, learners achieve much higher-order learning outcomes.     

Peer-supported…In their everyday exchanges with peers and friends, young people are fluidly contributing, sharing and giving feedback in web-powered experiences that are highly engaging.

Academically oriented…When academic studies and institutions draw from and connect to young people’s interest-driven pursuits, learners flourish and realize their true potential.

…and the embrace of three key design principles:

Production-centered…Connected learning prioritizes the learning that comes from actively producing, creating, experimenting and designing, because it promotes skills and dispositions for lifelong learning, and for making meaningful contributions to today’s rapidly changing work- and social conditions.

Open networks…Today’s online platforms and digital tools can make learning resources abundant, accessible, and visible across all learner settings****.

Shared purpose…Today’s social media and web-based communities provide unprecedented opportunities for cross-generational and cross-cultural learning and connection to unfold and thrive around common goals and interests.

In many ways, both the Cambodia service trip and Flat Classroom show what connected learning should be about. And though different, both have huge value to our students. Both experiences allowed for students to do more that what they think the are capable of and to see what the world outside the classroom looks like. I’m not sure what they will do with this knowledge, but I imagine it will be great things. Because based on my experiences, I can tell you, students shine when given the chance to connect.


* I owe a huge thank you to everyone who helped me do both of these trips..from the other chaperones on the Cambodia trip, to the people who substituted for me, to Kim who kept me sane at various points of Flat Classroom, and to my incredible administration that supported me doing both trips.

**We did go to Angkor Wat at the end of our time in Pursat. You just have to when you are in Cambodia.

*** Go to the Flat Classroom Wiki to see what students thought about open education. Some interesting ideas from the students.

****The Cambodia trip was obviously not about “open networks”. But one way that kids can use what they learned on this service trip is to share their experiences using open networks. That is really the next step of service learning and I hope to explore more in the future.

Cambodia Photos:
by ndbekah on flickr 
Flat Classroom Photos: 
By Flatclassroom on flickr
Cultural Connections at #flatclass #asbunplugged by superkimbo

About Rebekah Madrid

MYP Humanities Instructor. International School Teacher in Japan. Google Certified Teacher. Apple Distinguished Educator. National Board Certified Teacher. Traveler & TV Watcher. This is where I write my thoughts about all of the above.
This entry was posted in COETAIL @YIS, Technology, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Two Ways to Connect: Cambodia and Flat Classroom

  1. Pingback: Presentation Zen in Middle School | Rebekah Madrid

  2. Whenever I have experiences like this I wonder why our regular school days (or at least some of them) are not the same? Why is school so different from these engaging experiences that allow students to shine and lead and problem solve? I love the Flat Classroom Workshop and Conference particularly because I think they provide such a great model for what school could/should be.

  3. Pingback: Then and now: Global Collaboration | Rebekah Madrid

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