Getting Schools to Embrace Collaboration Tools


Getting Schools to Embrace Collaboration Tools

The Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) recently released a report titled Collaboration in K-12 Schools: Anywhere, Anytime, Any Way. I helped produce the report as a volunteer member of CoSN’s Emerging Technology Committee, and will use it as the basis for my column. Most of the tools discussed below have been around for a while, but, as with many other technologies, the education community has been slow on the uptake.

Portals & CMS
As we continue to see school districts embrace the use of technology to enhance curriculum initiatives and aid in data-driven decision-making, the use of portals and content management systems (CMS) is becoming more essential. Consider a curriculum project in a typical multi-building district that may involve several locations and 20 to 30 staff members. A portal or CMS that is used to house the relevant documents, enhance the communication of all members, and keep track of schedules and due dates is invaluable. Using these technologies can help make the teams involved much more organized.

Consider these efficiencies:

Teachers from different locations can store documents they are working on (with version tracking) in one place, allowing all of them to make additions and corrections at any time without having to be face to face.

  • All meeting dates and due dates can be posted in one place, avoiding lost e-mails that may lead to missed meetings and deadlines.
  • All relevant research, forms, and other data can be stored in one central location so everyone has all available resources at their disposal.
  • Examples of this technology include Basecamp and Microsoft’s ShairPoint.

Instant Messaging
My new favorite technology for educators is instant messaging—really not new by any means, but very new to the education field. My district uses this instant messaging for communication among technology staff. For example, it is very effective to get five to seven tech staff members on a group chat to discuss an emergency outage since information can be collected and dispensed very rapidly. Our students are also using this technology every day, and teachers really need to get up to speed with how it works and what it can be used for. Teachers could easily give online help sessions before a test or use it to communicate with students who can’t make it to the classroom. We have a student right now who is getting treatment out of state, but is still able to participate in group projects during class by using instant-messaging technology.

Blogs and Wikis
Two other online technologies that are starting to show up in schools are blogs and wikis. These tools allow for online collaboration in slightly different ways. Blogs allow users to post messages and modify their own content while only being able to comment on others’ posts; in a wiki, users can modify any information that is posted. Teachers are using these two tools in a variety of ways, including: blogs are being used for students to journal and discuss all kinds of academic information from books to artwork to lab experiments; and wikis are being used for group writing projects and for problems that have multiple solutions.

All of these collaboration tools have the potential to help students and teachers work more efficiently and learn more effectively. The CoSN report explains in detail how to start using these technologies in your schools.

For more information, click here.

Darrell Walery is the director of technology for Consolidated High School District 230 in Orland Park, IL.