3 ways to increase teacher collaboration with technology!

Teachers are not known for having a lot of free time, and finding time to collaborate with colleagues can be even more challenging than finding time to plan alone! So how can teachers collaborate effectively with limited time? Here are a few tips:

1. Set measurable, actionable goals

It is very easy to get caught up in business or housekeeping in collaboration meetings, but when you come together to collaborate about curriculum, it’s a good idea to start with some goals. What would you like to see your students improve in? What unit would you like to plan? Your goals should be measurable, so if you decide your students need to improve in a certain area, you should start with how you are going to assess where they are, and where they are going. Be as specific as possible, don’t just say you want your students to improve their writing, pick a specific trait to focus on, and assess only that trait.

2. Start small

By choosing a specific area to focus on, you are not biting off more than you can chew. It may seem like a waste of time to spend all of your collaboration meetings talking about one thing, but by doing this for one trait, you will refine and improve your practice overall. Just look at this Japanese model of lesson study, they spend months, sometimes years refining the same lesson, and it pays off.

3. Use collaboration tools like Mindmeister and Google Docs

When you can’t meet in person, use asynchronous collaboration tools. I love MindMeister, but Google Docs works really well too. You can add thoughts and ideas as they arise, even if you don’t have time to meet.

So why should teachers collaborate when time is so limited? It may end up saving you time down the road. Why reinvent the wheel all the time, when someone has probably been where you are before? At the very least, you will have double the brain power to work on an issue, and at best it will improve student learning in your class, and improve your practice.


Safe and reliable tools for student research projects!

As an fifth grade ELA teacher, one of the major assignments in my class each year is a research project. Research projects are a great way to introduce students to the discussion of reliable sources and primary versus secondary resources. One of my greatest concerns with any research project is the autonomy I am providing my fifth graders as they search the Internet for sources, images, and facts. Even with the strongest of filters, things can slip through the hands of an educator quickly. However, I have found technology that helps manage such searches, creating a much safer environment.

Here’s a small list of safe and effective tools for your upcoming research projects.

1. Turn on the Safe Search in Chrome.All bias thoughts aside, Chrome is my preferred browser. All the computers in my classroom have Chrome as the default browser. Chrome enables me to use a Safe Search feature with a simple on/off option. To lock your Safe Search, you simply log into your Google account and lock.

2. Provide students with reliable search engines. Since I strive to provide technology-rich projects, I want to provide students with the proper tools. One of those tools are reliable and safe search engines. There are several out there on the Internet, but my favorites are Kidtopia and KidRex. Both of these search engines are Google driven and loved by my fifth graders!

3. Use Pinterest as a research hub. To use Pinterest in my classroom, I set up a gmail and Pinterest account just for student use. Students can browse the selected pieces and collaborate on a group board. With the use of these accounts, students are provided with a mini-lesson on digital ethics. They are forewarned of the loss of internet privileges which are spelled out in their Computer Users Contract provided by our district. I have never had an incident where major consequences had to be enforced. In my opinion, my students are choosing to respect the integrity of their work environment because I am giving them the tools they love to use outside of the classroom.

There are many websites and teaching techniques that will ensure safety and reliability when it comes to using technology in the classroom. As technology continues to be a part of my students’ lives, I am forever researching better ways to use these tools in the classroom!