6 quick, easy, creative ways to collaborate

6 ideas for collaboration

Flickr: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

I get stuck in my classroom very easily.

This past school year, I taught five classes in a row before getting a break. That break, including lunch, tutorial/homeroom/resource and my prep hour, was two hours.

Two full hours.

It was wonderful and trying, all at the same time.

Often, I locked myself in my room and did grading and lesson planning. By myself. Never saw another soul.

It was great for getting things done.

It was awful for connecting with other teachers.

Teachers’ schedules are horrible for collaboration. Even school-scheduled collaboration time falls on its face.

Here are some ideas for connecting with colleagues despite complicated schedules. They range from the more common and obvious (at least to me) to the more creative. They work school-wide, but they might be more powerful with a core group of motivated teachers who want to connect.

1. Lunch. We get 30 free minutes and we need some time with other adults. What better time to get some shop talk in?

Depends on if you’re a “let’s trade some ideas before I go back to class” type or an “I need a break from the world of education” type. If you’re the latter, go on to step 2.

If you’re the former, choosing your location and companions is critical. Opting for a comrade’s classroom instead of the teacher’s lounge may be best.

2. Twitter. Cast a wide net to keep from getting in a rut:

  • Follow the big-name education celebs (i.e. @coolcatteacher, @shellterrell).
  • Follow consultants (i.e. @RickWormeli) and research gurus (i.e. @robertjmarzano).
  • Follow @Edudemic and @TeachThought for quality articles.
  • Follow Dean Shareski (@shareski) because he’s hilarious.
  • Follow others from your content area.
  • Follow others from your state.
  • Follow people that don’t think like you.
  • Follow EVERY COLLEAGUE from your school or district (just my suggestion).

[RELATED: How to be a rockstar Twitter chat moderator]

3. Idea swaps. Have everyone bring their best idea for essay grading/bellringer activities/end-of-chapter projects/collaborative activities.

Gather them together and distribute. Idea swaps could happen at staff meetings or at any other pre-appointed time.

Hard paper copies could be created, or distribution could be digital (i.e. shared Google Docs, wikis, etc.)

4. Graffiti. Pick a spot in the teacher’s lounge – a white board, a bulletin board, a blank wall. Then find a way for people to post ideas to it (Post-It notes, thumbtacks, butcher paper, etc.).

Post an intriguing question and see where your colleagues go with it. (Kind of like a discussion board for the less-than-tech-savvy.)

It’s asynchronous, so anyone can post at any time. Follow-ups to other people’s posts would make it fun.

5. Photos or short videos. Smart phones (or cell phones in general) make this so easy. Take a photo of something cool your students do or have created. Record a six-second video (like Vine). Then send it to a pre-appointed collection point. Share from a central location or at a meeting.

6. Digital backchannel. Set up a monitor in the teacher’s lounge to display a backchannel like Today’s Meet, Backchannel Chat or a Twitter hashtag. Post a question or a topic and let ‘em fly!

Worried about participation? Incentivize the collaboration. Most comments/interesting comments/creative comments get chocolate or entries in a drawing for something bigger. Once the culture has shifted, hopefully the collaboration will flow freely!

What are some other ways for busy teachers to collaborate with each other? What is necessary for good collaboration? Post your ideas in a comment!

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