Collaboration Tools

Collaboration

Every innovative educator knows the importance of communication and collaboration. Communication is needed when convincing administration that you are, in fact, not insane, your new project idea is backed up by research, and results will be reflected upon using data. It is also necessary when trying to convince your students to follow you on a new journey. We all know how much those kiddos need to know the “so what” of everything they are being asked to do.

Collaboration is needed before, during, and after the innovation. Educators should not have to be islands! I have worked in more than one school where I felt like innovation was shunned. Trying something new was treated as though it would be a detriment to students, the school, and the entire educational system alike. I had to get creative. If you are lucky enough to have a group of collaborators close by, enjoy every second and feel blessed. If you feel like a character on the Island of Misfit Toys, read on.

The Tools

There are many ways to collaborate online with colleagues from across the district, country, and world. I’m going to pick a handful of them here. I’ve had personal success using them, and I hope they get you started on the path to genuine collaboration with like-minded, innovative educators.

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I know! Stay with me. Twitter can be overwhelming. That said, it is hands down my favorite place to ask questions of fellow educators. The trick is to curate your feed by following educators you admire, and keeping the profile professional. Want to enjoy the silly on Twitter too? I have two Twitter accounts- one for work and one for play.

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Padlet acts as on online bulletin board. Invite fellow educators and everyone can collaborate on one page. It’s possible to house everything from pictures to articles, as well as personal notes. All participant are able to see everyone’s work. There are also templates in case you have particular projects that need specialized categories of information.

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Need to meet from across town or another state? Zoom is your friend. It allows you to have “face to face” meetings on your computer. Think FaceTime for business. The best part is the first 40 minutes are completely free! Zoom also allows for multiple meeting participants, so you can collaborate with as many people as you need to from the comfort of wherever.

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If you have a single question for a group, AnswerGarden is the tool you’re looking for. Ask the question, provide the page link, and watch the answers flow in. Use it for real time feedback and online brainstorming.

Tech. Tool #2 – Insert Learning

I too have played with this tech tool and think the options are fantastic. I can’t wait to try things out with students next year. Melissa has already been able to test the tool out with students, so she offers a great intro and review!

Melissa Blake ~ Education & Technology

In my quest for formative assessment tools that allow for more student involvement, I came across Insert Learning (https://insertlearning.com/).  As I am about to embark on a unit that focuses on reading informational texts in preparation for a persuasive research paper and extension project, I thought the timing was perfect to implement this tool in class.  Basically, Insert Learning allows a teacher to take any webpage and add sticky notes, discussion questions, quiz questions, and highlights. Additional resources can be added to help supplement comprehension or differentiate, such as videos or links to other websites.  For those who are a bit more technologically inclined, a list of 60+ tools to embed (Flipgrid, Quizizz, memes, and Quizlet, for example) is available on the website, some with tutorials and most with explanations of how the tools benefit students.

All data and responses are sent to the…

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new blogger!

I’m so excited to announce that my friend Traci Espeland is going to start blogging here with me. In her final year of graduate school, Traci started her teaching career with me, as my student intern. This was seven years ago and, even early on, she brought with her a solid training in pedagogical methods and English/language arts, along with great energy and enthusiasm. Traci brings exciting new ideas to life; I’m confident that she will continue this momentum as she seeks out new challenges and opportunities in this blog.

Traci impresses me with her commitment to lifelong learning. She successfully collaborates with other educators in the school, and takes advantage of professional development opportunities offered in the district. She was the 2017 PBS Digital Innovator, representing the needs and talents of teachers throughout all of Alaska with PBS. This year she has been an integral part of the Innovations Team here in the Anchorage School District, supporting educators in technology integrations and innovations. It’s this commitment to growth and the well-being of her students that makes Traci an outstanding educator who empowers her pupils and those around her.

You can follow Traci on Twitter @TraciEspeland

Best-in-Class Resources–You Decide — Ask a Tech Teacher

Every year, I review a large number of websites, apps, and resources that help educators blend technology into their classrooms. I get lots of feedback from readers sharing their experiences, asking questions, and clicking through to see if a particular tool will serve their needs. But, I often don’t hear how the product worked in…

via Best-in-Class Resources–You Decide — Ask a Tech Teacher

Flip the parent teacher conference

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For the last few years our parent teacher conferences have been held during the week of President’s Day. This means there is no school Monday, no school Friday, and two half days. Not surprisingly, a lot of families travel that week and skip conferences all together.  Teachers still have a long week of conferences though.

There are a number of alternatives to parent conferences that schools could try and, after chatting with a friend this afternoon when I swung by my old school, I decided to put together and publish a list of ideas I’ve been accumulating for the last few years – especially since I used to have a lot of time on my hands during the night of conferences.

The other thing I noticed, at least from my teacher perspective, is that the families who attended conferences were usually the ones whose children were successful in school while the struggling students didn’t have anyone attend.

From Alternative Models for Traditional Parent Teacher Conferences, Tammy Jackson’s idea to use the evening as time for student credit recovery is great. “Our attempts to develop non-traditional uses of contractual PTC time were not meant to diminish the importance of communicating with parents. Positive relationships with parents are the single most important aspect of a healthy school culture. Working directly with students is what we do best and should always be our number one priority.”

I love the idea of showcasing some student talent in the auditorium and in the hallways – kind of like a gallery walk or showcase of work from classes. Some of it could be digital or recorded so it will continue to live online.

Invite parents in for a showing of a film like Screenagers or Most Likely to Succeed in order to continue the conversations about school.

But here’s my idea. Last spring I brainstormed a few ways to let parents be more involved in my classroom. I’d already had success flipping back to school night so parents could come in and talk to me instead of just listen to me. In a typical PTC there is very little depth of conversation or of understanding the learning that is taking place. So…

Flip the conference. Parents check grades online with relative frequency and have easy access to teachers through e-mail. Some teachers have websites or learning management systems that parents can check out to view the assignments, or send out regular newsletters with updates on the overall learning that is taking place in classrooms. So why not take it a step further? We may have plenty of rigor and relevance in our classrooms, but we need to develop our relationships with parents and families, not just students.

A week or so before conferences send parents a brief reflective survey on their child’s learning and collect it via a conversation at parent conferences. For parents who can’t attend, or for the purpose of collecting qualitative data, you could collect information electronically via a Google Form. Make sure there is a way to include questions, to make the flipped PTC inquiry-based rather than just an assignment parents complete. If you collect digital work from your students, have them accumulate it into a simple folder in Google Drive or a fancy Google Site as a digital portfolio for parents to check out ahead of time.

You could take it a little further and build in time for students to reflect on their learning (standards, college and career readiness, mindset, etc. would all be great places to start) and then share those reflections with parents so the conversation can center around metacognitive learning.

In my opinion, as both an educator and a parent, this would be more fun and thought-provoking than our traditional high school conferences. Since parents and students are coming off the more dynamic model of student-led conferences at middle school, it could be a great opportunity to build on that collaborative, student centered culture.