While researching my question – How can we collaborate with others to move from talking about exciting ideas to authentic implementation regularly and with efficiency during planning time? – I reflected on how collaboration has looked for me this last decade. I have been lucky to be at schools where there have been fellow educators who love to dream big with a desire to implement projects based on student interest. There has always been many ideas and conversation yet we would retreat back into our separate classrooms without a clear plan to achieve these ideas. Often, the lack of a formal structure when sharing ideas was the problem. We would share what was inspiring us but leave the conversation without a structured plan in place. In the video, Future Ready – Establishing a Professional Learning Ecosystem, there is a heavy emphasis on the idea having a Professional Learning Community (PLC) and the importance of learning how to best collaborate with others in a formalized way – using an agenda, having regular meetings, tapping into the skills of coaches or other content area teachers, co-teaching and so forth.
PLC’s are at the heart of how we can combine our ideas with best practices while blending the wisdom and knowledge of those around us and sharing our own expertise. When including digital education and tech within these PLC’s, the sky’s the limit for what educators can do, realistically, for students and school communities. Yet, there is still the lingering question, how do we regularly implement these ideas successfully after the PLC meeting. In addition, this led to a new dimension of my original question which is, How can we grow our collaboration to a local and global scale in order to broaden perspectives and meet the ISTE standards for students and educators around global collaboration?
There are two digital tools that can help with the implementation step after PLC’s meet and globally collaborate which would hit on ISTE Educator Standard 4a (Dedicate planning time to collaborate with colleagues to create authentic learning experiences that leverage technology) and 4c (Use collaborative tools to expand students’ authentic, real-world learning experiences by engaging virtually with experts, teams, and students, locally and globally). The first collaborative tool is a planning platform that enables educators to fulfill the requirements of standards-based planning while also being a living document that colleagues can use together to achieve collaboration. The tool is Planbook –
I was turned on to this digital tool by the librarian at my school. Three of us were collaborating (myself, another teacher and her) and we realized that through the process of planning together, it would be helpful to have a platform we could all use, change and share with each other which would cut down on our workload if we divided it up. This helps to move from talking about ideas into implementing ideas because we can get started together during our PLC but then work collaboratively online instead of having to sit together the whole time. The downside of this tool is that you do have to pay to use it – $15 a year. If it does save you time, especially when needing to turn in standards-based plans, etc to administrators, then it is very much worth it but it is a less equitable resource because of a financial cost. Click here to read about 10 Reasons to Love Planbook to see if it could help you.
Another digital tool that can turn collaboration into global collaboration is Empatico.
After meeting with educators in your PLC, you could use this tool to connect your classroom to classrooms around the world. Within the Empatico platform, you have access to pre-planned activities to help launch the collaboration and it is a free service to use. Also, it is crucial to have plans available that can lessen the time and confusion of planning out a global collaboration on this scale (especially for the first time) and Empatico provides well thought out lessons to choose from. After connecting with another classroom and educator, you could work through the lessons available from Empatico and from there be in spot where you and the other educator may notice opportunities to continue collaboration in a meaningful way. Since the initial lessons provide a structured start to the collaboration, there is a higher chance of the collaboration being successful. From there, a continuing collaborative relationship could develop throughout the years even when your initial students move up to the next grade level.
Overall, the ‘movement of ideas into implementation’ conundrum that happens in schools is multifaceted but with thoughtful PLC training and practice, a digital planning tool like Planbook to keep educators on track with planning expectations and a platform like Empatico that can help you navigate the complexities of global collaboration, the chance of implementing ideas more regularly and globally has a solid foundation to grow from. Having enough time to do all that we want to do will always be a struggle but having groundwork to grow from, it becomes less of a battle and instead, an innovative collaboration on a local and global scale.
Chalk and Apples: Engaging Ideas and Resources for Upper Elementary. 10 Reasons to Love Planbook. Retrieved from https://chalkandapples.com/10-reasons-to-love-planbookcom/
Empatico. (2019, April). Retrieved from https://empatico.org
ISTE Standards for Educators. Retrieved from www.iste.org/
Office of Educational Technology. Future Ready: Establishing a Professional Learning Ecosystem. (2016, April 05). Retrieved from https://youtu.be/TMbeqn7NlyI
Planbook. (2019, April). Retrieved from https://www.planbook.com