One of the ways school leaders can model 21st century teaching and learning is by engaging with their staff in the use of 21st century tools. One category of tools that is quite easy for administrators to implement is communication and collaboration tools. There are quite a few communication and collaboration tools available, but here’s two that I have used with the staff and my school and some ideas on how to use them.
Google Docs: Google Docs gives users the ability to share and modify word-processing documents, spreadsheet documents, presentations, and forms. Users can also upload documents to Google Docs for sharing as well. In my role as principal, here’s some of the ways I’ve used this tool collaboratively:
1. School Improvement Planning: I uploaded our school improvement template to Google Docs and shared it out to staff. We used the same document in our planning meetings too. It made our school improvement planning even more collaborative. Any collaborative project works with Google Docs.
2. Scheduling Observations: I sent a Google Docs invite to staff to a document indicating the times I was available for their observations. Teachers signed up in blocks of available time for both their observation and post conference. Made scheduling much easier without having multiple people accessing my calendar which sometimes has confidential items on it.
3. Meeting Agendas: Instead of using copies, I have created the meeting agendas and placed them on Google Docs. Another way to go paperless.
Skype: Skype is one of those tools we find quite useful at our school. We have no intercom system, so this is an excellent way for staff to communicate during the school day when it is needed. It also has other interesting uses as well.
1. Impromptu Snow Day Faculty Meeting: During inclement weather last year, we all found ourselves snowed-in at our respective homes. Because we have all connected through Skype, we suddenly found ourselves discussing some school issues from the comfort and safety of our homes. We shared our thoughts and even arrived at a decision without the need for a meeting later that week.
2. Discussion Forum: On more than one occasion, one of our staff members have thrown out a discussion topic on Skype during the day that prompted some major discussion. Teachers could just comment and add to the discussion as the opportunity to do so arose. It is common practice for someone to also throw an idea out there for feedback too. Skype is a natural forum for that too.
There’s nothing fancy about our use of these tools for collaboration. It is so easy to implement simple uses for these tools. Leaders who want their teachers engaging in 21st century collaborative tools must be engaged in their use too.
What are your favorite 21st century collaborative tools? How are you using them to engage staff collaboratively? Please share.