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Professional Opinion

Collaboration and communication: More important than ever in schools

A look at global educational tools that empower us to connect
Allison Stephens is a high school assistant principal near Philadelphia.
Allison Stephens is a high school assistant principal near Philadelphia.

Teachers and administrators face tough challenges in education. Politicians are constantly trying to micromanage our practices, while accountability measures are abundant and budgets are tight.

Coming to work isn’t always pleasant when it feels like the odds are stacked against us. Improved collaboration and communication across district teams, and across school districts, can allow us to prevail as educators. By leveraging free digital curricular resources, individuals and teams can better share ideas that will allow for true global innovation.

Most school districts carry out mundane administrative staff meetings. Typically, the building administrators come together to discuss the procedures, processes and protocols that those in attendance are to follow and carry out in each of their respective buildings.

Rarely in those meetings do we hear colleagues ask, “What resources work best in your school and classrooms?” or “How do our peers across the state and nation approach this same problem?”

The focus of these meetings must shift toward thoughts, ideas and professional growth. Let’s ask these questions, permit ourselves to have lively discussions, and use tools and resources that allow these conversations to continue outside of the conference room.

Share and collaborate

Here are the some of the most useful online tools educators can use to share and collaborate with professionals around the world:

  • Schoology. This learning management system allows subscribers to create courses or use groups to collaborate with fellow educators in their own schools as well as those all over the world. Schoology is very user-friendly and the interface functions much like social media websites. Connecting popular apps such as Google Drive, Dropbox, YouTube and Khan Academy, Schoology provides a seamless workflow for students, parents and teachers. Users can access teacher-made materials through the group functionality, or can create a resource, share it with colleagues and copy it into their own courses so students can access it.
  • Participate Learning. Educators can create personalized collections specific to a focus area. You can upload your own online resource or website, upload files, photos or videos, or search their website for books, apps and materials reviewed by other educators. The service also allows you to invite team members to collaborate on your collection or subscribe to others collections to keep in touch with updates. Participate Learning just added a new feature that streamlines the resources found in many of the most popular education-focused Twitter chats. You can now quickly and easily search and access web content shared on Twitter all in one place.
  • Gooru. As a website, Gooru’s mission is to honor the basic human right to education and to provide a high-quality education to students throughout the world. It offers collaborative solutions for students, teachers, school districts and community partners. Teachers can create courses in Gooru and customize content from a library of teacher vetted digital collections and assessments. Students navigate through individualized or whole group activities assigned by the teacher. Feedback is immediate as students progress through assessments. Teachers can monitor the progress of students and drill down to analyze strengths and weaknesses. Gooru connects with world-renowned libraries and offers curricular resources aligned to college and career readiness standards. If you don’t feel like taking a deep dive, educators can also quickly find and save resources through searching by grade level, content area and standard.

Innovative practices in one school district may be common in another. Educators across the world are sharing resources and ideas at an extraordinary rate. In 2014, some 4.2 million tweets about education were posted every day.

To hone our craft and expand learning opportunities for students, we need to be transparent about the great successes and failures we are all encountering in our schools and learn from peers who are doing it better or differently. DA

Allison Stephens is a high school assistant principal near Philadelphia. Follow her on Twitter @AllisonStephen1. The views expressed here are her own.