34 Replies Latest reply on Apr 27, 2010 2:22 PM by azneil

    The future of collaboration

    julesfischy

      The attached article appeared in Intel's Digital Edge on February 2, 2010, and although this article is clearly about the business world. I think that the main idea on where collaboration has been and where it is going is the same for both education and the work place. Do you agree?  Where do you see collaborative tools taking education in the future?

        • Re: The future of collaboration
          Bonnie Feather

          I heard a piece on NPR this morning regarding telecommuting.  In it, a representative of the business being featured said he tries to screen out potential problem telecommuters with an electronic instrument.  One potential problem, he said, would be employees who are "too needy."  Neediness in this case included wanting "camaraderie, meetings and structured hierarchy of a traditional office job."

           

          I wonder how collaboration fits into his view?

           

          In any case, for workers to be able to collaborate online, they will need to learn the requisite skills- and what better way to learn than to practice collaboration in their school projects?

           

          Does collaboration preclude becoming a worker drone in a hive of individuals?  How does the ability to work in collaboration fit with workers who do their jobs in physical isolation?

          • Re: The future of collaboration
            glen_w

            Julia,

             

            I've noticed more teachers are now collaborating. Many teachers are willing to share documents and lesson ideas. The result of this collaboration is seen in activities that more actively engage students in the learning process. I was invited to help my school's math department discuss collaboration today. They knew I was using Dropbox and wanted to know if or how this tool could benefit them. Within about 30 minutes, the entire department (YES - everyone) was actively creating folders and adding files. They were quickly sharing their folders and the enthusiasm was higher than I've seen at anything in a LONG time! I can see how students in each of these classes will benefit from this collaboration.

            • Re: The future of collaboration

              Back in September 2009, one of the districts I work with started Peer Coaching training.  Even though many of the teachers were fairly "tech savvy", most had never use a wiki.  I set up the wiki, did a short training on how to post, etc and before long, the wiki was growing right before my eyes.  Teachers were posting resources, and commenting on the posts of the other teachers.  Several of the teachers have started their own wiki's that are used for collaboration in their PLC's.  It's a great tool.  And even better, they didn't have to have a meeting!

                • Re: The future of collaboration

                  What site do you recommend for starting a wiki?

                    • Re: Wiki sites
                      Bonnie Feather

                      There are so many sites for wikis these days, I know we will learn of some new ones from colleagues here!  I have settled on wikispaces lately- and like google, a school district may obtain a sequestered area there apart from the greater wikispaces site.

                       

                      I like wikis for their discussion areas- in addition to the main pages.

                        • Re: Wiki sites

                          Wikispaces is a great wiki site. I still have free access to my wiki and have expanded it for others. I MUST say though that Google Groups is a great tool, one which you should explore if you haven't tried it out.

                        • Re: The future of collaboration

                          Bonnie's suggestion to use Wikispaces is great and I also use PB Works quite a bit for professional development collaboration and the teacher seem to catch on fairly quickly. I like how teachers can set up accounts for students without the need for email addresses.

                            • Re: The future of collaboration
                              glen_w

                              I agree with Bonnie and Stephanie that Wikispaces is an excellent location for adult learners. PB Works is a much better free site for student wikis. (This is unless you have access to Moodle in your school or district.) I like Moodle because there are so many options in how you may use it. We've used Moodle module wikis in my school. My district has a very strict policy on what web 2.0 sites may be used by students. Our Moodle wiki has worked very well. It has an advantage in that it can reside "within the firewall" and keep district tech administrators pleased.

                                • Re: The future of collaboration

                                  Thank you all for sharing. I started a wiki for a collaborative project on braille games. And I wasn't sure which site to use.

                                   

                                  Thanks again for the suggestions. Many of the teachers in the class had never heard of wikis, and I was glad that I could share this tool with them.

                              • Re: The future of collaboration
                                holmesg

                                I used pbworks and wikispaces.  I am sharing my sites so that you can see how I use them.

                                • Re: The future of collaboration

                                  Hi Eva,

                                   

                                  I use PBWorks for my wiki pages.  Most of my districts allow this one and it is very easy to create.  I also like Google Sites especially if you are using google docs.  Then all of your documents are located in one place.

                                  • Re: The future of collaboration
                                    dgoodman_1958

                                    Eva, like many others here, I have used both Wikispaces and PBWorks with students, staff and for trainings I've done around the state.  Both are very easy to use and if you pay for the classroom edition in PBWorks, you are able to hide or lock down pages.  This has worked well for my school wiki where each learning team keeps notes on their meetings.  Our insturctional leadership team that meets every other week has a page as well.  We often discuss staff members to make sure we are providing just in time help to them.  This page is hidden from anyone who is not an adminstrator of the wiki.  Only this team is given those rights. We keep a google spreadsheet of all staff, including who needs help with what and how we are providing that help.  This keeps us from allowing anyone to fall between the cracks

                                     

                                    Collaboration is something we have focused on very strongly the last few yeas.  We are making every effort possible to make sure we are collaborating with all staff.  Last year we focused on scheduling time for this to happen, identifying lead facilitators, and creating agendas that would assure time on task.  We evaluate each meeting to identify strengths and weaknesses of the collaboration.  This year our focus has been on using and analyzing data to change teaching practices and to provide differentiated instruction to meet the needs of all students.  Our collaborative meetings always include our teachers, instructional coach, media coordinator and myself (technology facilitator).  As we analyze the data, we look at lessons and units of instruction to detemine changes that need to be made.  We take units of instruction that are not of high quality and look at how we can make them "Intel" quality. 

                                     

                                    As we have strengthened our collaboration within our school, it has impacted how we reach out to the larger community to do the same.  We have hosted several webinars and professional development opportunities and invited districts in our region as well as other schools in our own district to participate.  We have found our discussions lead into more collaborative ventures across districts.  We have used skype, wikis and google docs to facilitate this.

                                     

                                    To me, collaboration is key to success in the world in which we live in.  It is a life long skill.

                                      • Re: The future of collaboration

                                        As my colleague and I (who are just now taking the MT course) take what we learn back to school, I plan to take your comment here with all the very useful ideas to our administrators. It specifically addresses areas that are now required by the state of NC's new teacher evaluation process and it addresses the idea of PLC's that our district is trying to implement. I hope you don't mind! What you have in written form here pulls together a number of good ideas I've seen in different places and puts them all together in a single, short document. I think it would be a good place to start!

                                          • Re: The future of collaboration
                                            tlmaves

                                            Kristi, I am so glad that something as simple as a few high-quality educators conversing and sharing ideas can help you with a local need. That is what this community is about. Thank you for participating!

                                             

                                            Also, does everyone know that you can turn a discussion thread into a PDF document? Look in the actions box and you will see, "Convert thread to document" or "View as PDF".

                                        • Re: The future of collaboration

                                          Eva:

                                           

                                          I use Google Sites for most of my wikis. I use Google Docs a lot.  It is easier to embed those Docs into Sites and I have everything in one location.   In those instances where the district does not allow anything "Google", I have had success with wikispaces.  The one feature that wikispaces has that Google Sites does not, is the ability to have a discussion board on any particular page.  PBWiki is also another very good wiki.

                                           

                                          Neil

                                            • Re: The future of collaboration
                                              glen_w

                                              Neil,

                                               

                                              I've not experienced a district that does not allow anything "Google" before. Thanks for pointing out that possibility!

                                               

                                              I have not tried using a Google Site as a wiki before - now my mind is spinning around the possibilities!

                                               

                                              I like how easily it is to embed so much on a Google Site. I've used quite a few "Google Forms" this year and it is so easy to embed them right onto the webpage. It is too bad that Google Sites do not allow discussions.

                                               

                                              If you could create discussions in Google Sites and did not have any "blocking issues" would it be your favorite collaboration tool?

                                                • Re: The future of collaboration

                                                  Glen, absolutely Google Sites would be my favorite if it didn't have the issues you mentioned.  I really like it, but in Arizona, too many times the IT department is making the decisions as to what to allow or not allow.  I believe that should be the function of the Governing Board, Superintendent or Curriculum Director.

                                                   

                                                  Neil

                                                    • Re: The future of collaboration
                                                      glen_w

                                                      Neil,

                                                       

                                                      Bingo! Some schools/districts have a committee that determines what should be blocked/unblocked. A few determine this by district leadership. I, however, have seen other schools/districts where this decision is made by either the entire IT department ... or in many cases a single person.

                                                       

                                                      How can we as individuals wanting change for student learning encourage that such decisions be made by a governing board?

                                              • Re: The future of collaboration

                                                "The wiki is a far more powerful tool than most people realize; its functionality can really be exploited for any course or individual instructional need, so I shared its uses with colleagues." This is a reaction I give as an example of how a collaboration can have a snowball effect. Education without collaboration loses so much of what can be achieved with it. When PD can be achieved without long faculty meetings before or after, then teachers are more open to realistically seeing the benefits of any tech tool and then actually pursuing its and then other tools' usefulness.

                                                  • Re: The future of collaboration

                                                    David, I absolutely agree with your statement "Education without collaboration loses so much of what can be achieved with it."  When I was teaching in Indiana, the campus I was on had the policy of having a three hours collaboration once a month.  We would bring in parents and aids and they would watch the kids while we collaborated.  Even now, collaboration is a major part of the job, and in my mind at least, the wiki is one of the tools that allows us to be more productive as we share ideas and materials!

                                                     

                                                    Neil

                                                      • Re: The future of collaboration
                                                        glen_w

                                                        Neil,

                                                         

                                                        My district also sees the importance of collaboration. Every Monday afternoon the entire district dismisses students early. There are NO events going on during this scheduled hour. (No practices, competitions, or athletic events.) Collaboration may happen at a school, via skype, and some teachers drive to another school to collaborate with those teaching the same subject. This has been a very valuable opportunity for me.

                                                         

                                                        Once in a while, my department will meet with the math department to see how we can collaborate on material we both cover. The most recent efforts involved discussing graphs and data. the math teachers were impressed at how science collects data and what we already were teaching students about graphing.

                                                         

                                                        I'd love to have longer collaboration periods as well as the opportunity to "meet" more with those who teach my subject. I, however, am very happy with the time we have been given.

                                                         

                                                        What other methods are schools and districts using to increase time for teachers to collaborate?

                                                          • Re: The future of collaboration

                                                            Glen, in Arizona, we have the PLC, Professional Learning Committee.  During the half days that are used for Professional Development, many of those groups meet and collaborate, at least here in Cottonwood.  The ones that I am aware of also use Google Docs to prepare, in advance, for those days they do meet.

                                                             

                                                            Neil

                                                              • Re: The future of collaboration
                                                                glen_w

                                                                Neil,

                                                                 

                                                                I think it is great for these Professional Learning Communities to use Google Docs in the planning process. When my school has a Professional Development day, several of the teachers also use Google Docs for collaboration.

                                                                 

                                                                What format do your Professional Development half-days take?

                                                            • Re: The future of collaboration

                                                              Hi Neil:

                                                               

                                                              I have found that SO many teachers AND administrators benefit from collaboration that it should be a requirement in every school district on at least a weekly basis with teachers AND administrators required to participate, not just pay lip service to the idea, which often happens especially busy administrators: it's like a baseball game where only one team shows up.

                                                                • Re: The future of collaboration
                                                                  glen_w

                                                                  David,

                                                                   

                                                                  You bring up an excellent point. Administrators often "drop in" and participate with our weekly collaboration discussions. Due to the number of departments they visit, it is rare to have a visit last more than 15 minutes of a 60 minute collaboration period.

                                                                   

                                                                  How should administrators participate in collaboration so they are a "Part" rather than just "Observers?" What can administrators do to encourage the collaboration instead of just listening and watching? How can teachers encourage administrators to actively participate and be a part of the collaboration effort?

                                                                    • Re: The future of collaboration

                                                                      Glen,

                                                                       

                                                                      I have been working with a principal who is trying to get involved and incorporate technology. He said that as part of a foundation who was a member of, one of the requirements was to show ways they were collaborating for things other than discipline. It is sad to think that the only time some teachers get to collaborate is at team meetings when they are handling discipline problems. Since he is new to technology, I suggested that he set up (okay well I set it up) a blog. This would serve several purposes: 1. It would get teachers involved. 2. It would take the place of the dreaded faculty meetings. I felt like with a blog, he would be able to discuss a variety of issues. Once he determined what area he wanted to focus on, he could have a book talk or post articles for the teachers to read. Of course, making the teachers accountable for participation is the only way it would work.

                                                                      I also encouraged him to set up a wiki for each grade level or department so that teachers could share resources. Yeah I set that up too, but he has not really bought into that idea yet. I am not giving up though

                                                                        • Re: The future of collaboration
                                                                          glen_w

                                                                          My principal asked me to develop several wikis for school use. He had an idea of how collaboration could happen in that manner, but did not really understand the power of a wiki. I designed the wikis as per his instructions. He was so impressed. He did not realize that more pages could be added, or that a wiki allowed for more than just a discussion. When we last spoke, he was trying to decide how and when to explain his vision of this wiki use to the faculty. I look forward to being his back-up man and helping his vision come to pass.

                                                              • Re: The future of collaboration
                                                                holmesg

                                                                I see collaboration taking us from the classroom into the business world with students collaborating with professional business people to improve advertising and or creating a more marketable product.  This will easily be done through tools like facebook, ning and hardware that will allow students to work on an idea or product and upload a response to a website or send it through some type of hardware device to another.  The problem will be with the resistance of school systems to unblock portals/sites and other necessary resources.

                                                                  • Re: The future of collaboration

                                                                    Gail:

                                                                     

                                                                    I absolutely agree.  If school districts around the country would truly embrace 21st Century Skills, then it becomes imperative that we allow our students to use the available online collaborative tools.  While facilitating an Intel Essentials training last weekend, the head IT person told me that his philosophy is "Monitor, don't block".  I couldn't have said it better.

                                                                     

                                                                    Neil

                                                                    • Re: The future of collaboration

                                                                      Hi Gail:

                                                                      I sure see and appreciate your point! My experience has made me believe that a different unblocked tool can be just as useful as the blocked tool; however, the learning environment allowed by administration's, teacher's, AND students' philosophy will have a far greater impact in any classroom: foster the nurturing environment and you upgrade the learning taking place.   

                                                                    • Re: The future of collaboration

                                                                      I feel this resource may be beneficial on this thread. I came across Tonido today and thought it could be a great collaboration tool. It allows you to run your own personal web cloud.

                                                                      Tonido allows you to access and share your content directly through a web browser without uploading or worrying about storage limits. Share files, music, photos and calendar, download torrents and even manage your finances straight from your desktop. Free.

                                                                       

                                                                      http://tonido.com/   

                                                                      • Re: The future of collaboration

                                                                        Julia, I keep getting drawn back to this discussion.  What strikes me about the article, is that it keeps talking about "with a click of the mouse" we can contact or at least leave a message with a colleague.  While I agree that collaboration is absolutely necessary in today's world for us to be successful, I wonder if having to "be available" or "on" all the time is really a good thing  All things in moderation!

                                                                         

                                                                        What would you consider to be an appropriate amount of time that one should spend during the "off hours" to still be connected? Just curious.

                                                                         

                                                                        Neil