People often ask me what it’s like to work alone. Most say that they are envious about not commuting and being able to work in jeans and a sweatshirt. But they usually end up saying something like, “I don’t know if I could work alone.” My response is, “I can’t work alone and I don’t.” I have been reading lately about work and the economy (see my Editorial column in the October issue for example). One thing that has struck me is the phrase I used to say when I left my house in the morning: “I’m going to work.” Work was a place as well as what I did; that is not the case for me anymore. And, I don’t work alone. No one else is physically around me when I work, but I am collaborating via IM, e-mail, telephone, conference calls and webinars. When I “go to work,” I open my laptop or put on my headset rather than get in the car, but I still rely on others to get the work done. Technology provides a mechanism for this collaboration.

Technology has also helped school districts collaborate with others, as well as allowed them to reach out to the community like they never have before. There are thousands of ways districts use technology to do this - from partnering with libraries and making school resources available through them, to sharing technology resources in community centers with local groups, to having kids develop Web sites for businesses in the community. In these days of tight budgets, school districts are also working with each other to leverage the technology in order to serve parents and students in their districts. A prime example is our Applications story, which describes how seven school districts in Wisconsin partnered with a technology company to create Web sites and services for parents, teachers and students in their area. It wasn’t easy, and this honest documentation shows some of the pitfalls and benefits of the collaboration.

Another aspect of partnering and collaborating using technology is the growing connection between colleges, universities and K-12 entities. About a third of the districts that submitted proposals for the 2004 Sylvia Charp Award (sponsored by T.H.E. Journal and ISTE) talked about partnerships with institutions of higher education for research on effectiveness of their program, joint efforts to improve teaching at both places, or sharing facilities and resources such as a training lab full of technology. A simple yet effective partnership between K-12 and higher education is described between a San Diego State University campus and a local school district in the article titled A University-Public School 'Key-Pal' Partnership. It shows that even a simple program like exchanging e-mail between K-12 students and preservice teachers has potential sticking points, but perseverance pays off with benefits for both levels.

One of the joys of technology is the obliteration of location as a barrier to working together. The examples in this issue are simple but necessary first steps in using technology to collaborate for the ultimate benefit of students. Let’s keep pushing the concept.

This article originally appeared in the 12/01/2004 issue of THE Journal.