Tech Tools for Teacher Collaboration

by Scott Sterling

A few weeks ago, I wrote about teacher collaboration changing the education game. The article focused on improving your professional learning communities and conducting faculty meetings for maximum effectiveness and efficiency. I highly recommend it (but I’m biased).

Let’s be honest: teachers are busy people. Although faculty meetings are often valuable and worth the time, there likely has been more than one occasion in which that meeting reminder popped up on your Outlook and you groaned. You simply had too many papers to grade or parent emails to send at the time. We’ve all done it. It’s a fact of the profession.

But what if there were ways to accomplish your teacher collaboration goals without meetings that will inevitably run long? Thankfully, we live in 2014 and have many tools at our disposal to guide us in this task!

Google Drive and apps

The first one might be obvious, but Google Drive needs to be mentioned because it’s so simple and can really change the practice of an entire department, grade-level team, or school. Simply:

  • Share your lesson plans on Google Drive.
  • Invite other teachers to build multidisciplinary units around your plans.
  • Use another document to build unit plans around these lessons.
  • After the unit is complete, have everyone go back for reflection and refinement.

Perhaps the best part would be that when it comes time to share your lesson plans with your administration, it’s a simple click of a button. Depending on your school’s policies, you can set the plans as “look but don’t touch” or allow administrators to make suggestions. Another benefit? Your copy budget doesn’t get hit.

ThinkBinder facilitates sharing/stealing online

Another nugget of honesty about the profession: teachers steal whatever they think will help them in the classroom. No other profession shares as much knowledge among its practitioners. There are schools where certain worksheets or even whole lessons have been making the rounds for generations.

ThinkBinder facilitates sharing/stealing online. It’s built for study groups, but don’t let that stop you. Simply set up a group, and then your people can discuss their work, share files and documents for offline use, collaborate using an online whiteboard, and manage calendars and other organizational tools. With a bit of building, teachers years from now can find the video or presentation you used during your famous Trojan War lecture of 2014.

iObservation helps everyone stay on the same page

Collaboration with and among administrators might even be more difficult to schedule. They’re never in one place for very long! And organizing the data needed to have an effective session takes a lot of paper. iObservation sorts this out.

First, the program bases your organizational goals on Dr. Robert Marzano’s Art & Science of Teaching Observation and Feedback Protocol, then uses walkthrough, observation, and assessment data to form actionable plans that teachers and administrators can use together to improve the teacher’s practice. Administrators benefit from the Leadership Performance Matrix of Dr. Douglas Reeves at the same time.

With iObservation, everyone knows the plan moving forward, and there are no surprises during walkthroughs, appraisals, and professional development opportunities.

Next week: Best Practices in Formative Assessment

Do you use any other tech tools to collaborate with teachers and administrators? Share your thoughts with your colleagues in the Comments section.

For more information about the Marzano Center’s new Essentials for Achieving Rigor initiative and how it can improve your instructional practice, visit this new page and download Teaching for Rigor: A Call for a Critical Instructional Shift by Robert J. Marzano and Michael D. Toth.