Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Get out there, connect, listen, share and learn!

Please excuse my absence. I missed tweeting and blogging over the last two weeks. I was home with my wife and our newborn daughter!

Today's Twitter #EdChat (Tuesdays at 11 am CST) was all about educators collaborating. Tom Whitby posted the question "What specific forms of collaboration do you use & specifically how does collaboration impact your profession?". It was a great discussion today.

One idea that I added to the discussion is that before was can begin collaborating, we must have a culture that will support this type of learning. I received some positive feedback from this tweet and the idea further evolved. We discussed how teachers and administrators must work together in the learning process and fore go the idea that one person has to have all of the answers. Of course, this is a challenge for teachers in the classroom as well, especially in high school.

High school teachers have been trained to be content experts that impart knowledge to their students. The game has changed though, and teacher need to stop asking questions that can be googled and start students asking and exploring their own questions. When this happens, there is no way that the teacher can be prepared with every answer. If teachers can give up that sense of full control in the classroom, more learning and less teaching can happen. When we see this in our classrooms, then we might begin to see this is our adult interactions.

One of the biggest killers of collaboration is the required tolds that happen after school, once a month. You know these things, all of the faculty gets together in the auditorium or the library, they bring papers to grade or text their neighbors so they will not interrupt the administrator running the told. Questions may be asked of the faculty, but this only reinforces the idea the when it comes to the decision making for educational practices, teachers will have input, but not impact. The worst example illustrated today during the chat was a two hour meeting where teachers met and discuss some ideas and develop something for the school and at the end they were all handed a pre-Xeroxed, pre-formatted handout. (You see, a told is when we get together to be told things that could have been covered in a memo or an email. A meeting would imply that there is going to be some idea development, goal setting, and objective defining to revisit at the next meeting.)

So, how do you get started building this collaborative culture? Some ideas presented were:
  • Open your doors and step out of your classroom (especially high school) and go into a different one.
  • Make sure there is dedicated time for everyone to meet and discuss with the understanding that somethings may be messy and mistakes will be made.
  • People must be willing to secede control to other (Thanks @John_DAdamo)
  • When designing meetings (as opposed to tolds), sometimes we need to start at the very beginning by defining what each person's role will be in the discussion group. We would do no less for students in our classroom...
  • Understand that collaboration must begin with reflective practitioners. Encourage blogging as a form of reflection and sharing.
  • If you don't Skype someone into your class now and then, you're missing a collaborative opportunity (Thanks +Douglas Green )
  • Administrators need training in how to do this!

Really, a culture of collaboration can happen when all of the participants within your community of learners love to hear the sound of other peopls' voices over their own.

Get out there, connect, listen, share and learn!

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