Schools, by their very nature, are busy places. The best classrooms and institutions hum with the sound of students, teachers and administrators sharing ideas and co-constructing learning.
Teachers are particularly busy managing the traffic that crosses their desk be it real or virtual.
At our school we use technology to facilitate so much of our learning. Not only for students, but also for collaboration between educators.
Whether its the use of email, twitter, wordpress, google docs or wikis, we, as educators, share an incredible amount of knowledge. The unprecedented about of wisdom available can lead to a feeling akin to that of a hamster on a wheel.
It’s not surprising that when teachers come to meetings they find it hard to tune out all the digital noise. It seems, in today’s meetings, technology is omni-present. You would be hard pressed to go to a meeting where there wasn’t at least a digital projector.
As we sit here ourselves, co-constructing this article, we fight the urge to respond to the most recent email notifications or SMS alerts. So how can we collaborate if we aren’t present with those we are trying to collaborate with?
This year as I, Nathaniel, have transitioned to the role of Grade Level leader we have migrated a lot of our administrative documents and meeting agendas to Google Drive. Having agendas on Google Docs has been incredibly powerful but we have certainly encountered drawbacks:
- If one person is assigned the role of taking minutes, then why are seven people typing?
- Is everyone engaged in the discussion?
- What’s the purpose of the meeting: housekeeping or collaboration?
- Is this collaboration?
Groups of teachers staring at projector screens while one person types is not the best way to collaborate!
— Sam Sherratt (@sherrattsam) November 21, 2013
Here at WAB we have two types of team or grade level meetings: housekeeping and collaborative planning and reflection meetings. We have found that the use of laptops and online resources like Google Docs have been invaluable for housekeeping meetings.
However, recently we have questioned whether laptops or devices are hindering collaboration.
Straight away, when we all sat down there was an incredible sense of connection between the team. You could actually see everyone rather than just their eyes peaking over their laptop lids. The meeting was not all roses but some really deep discussion about the unit took place. People came in with some apprehension and were clearly out of their comfort zone.This did lead to some pauses. It seems today the default, whenever people are uncomfortable, is to plug in. Hopefully, without being able to reach for a device people used the time to think and reflect.
In a world full of digital connections, how can we make sure we maintain personal connections? We hope to reflect upon and refine this process for our collaborative planning meetings; exploring our various roles and employing the seven norms of collaboration.