In the 2012 Primary Sources Survey conducted by Scholastic and The Gates Foundation, teacher respondents claimed to spend only about 4% of each day collaborating with colleagues, while 44% of teachers surveyed responded that they would like that collaboration time to increase. Traditionally, the teaching profession has been an isolating one—if you’re not spending every minute at school teaching classes, tutoring during your breaks, or covering someone else’s class, then you’re likely spending that time disciplining, administrating testing, or scrambling to the microwave to reheat leftovers during your 15-minute lunch break. In addition, as state and district mandates swing from one end of the pendulum to the other, teachers are so completely overwhelmed with trying to follow all of the rules that they are left with no time to develop themselves and their practices. It’s not uncommon for teachers get to a point where they just want to close their doors and teach the way they know is best for their students.
Feeling isolated and crunched for time used to mean that teachers weren’t able to collaborate. Yet those factors mean that teacher collaboration and connectedness is more important than ever before. With new media, shifting standards, and evolving pedagogies, teachers need a community to lean on. They need a place to find and give support. They need to be able to exchange ideas. Luckily, some of these same emerging trends in technology and teaching can help teachers connect with each other and exchange ideas and resources. New teachers can find mentors online, people with tried and true experience to help get them through the tough dilemmas they face in the classroom. Veteran teachers can find research and new information about technology and ways to bring their practice to the next level. Nowadays, with online platforms, teacher collaboration can be done from the comfort of your couch.
5 Platforms Helping to Connect Teachers
- Staffrm: This relatively new site for educators launched in early 2015, is beautifully designed and easy to use—it’s part blog, part social media. You simply create your profile and share stories with others. You can follow other educators and engage in conversations via comments, and your blog entries can be organized by hashtags. The best part about Staffrm is that it is 100% about teaching and education. Think of it like the best and most active Facebook teacher’s group you’re a part of, but without the ads or other distractions. There are great posts to check out about wall decorations, lesson planning, and how to use Post-it notes in class. One interesting note to mention is that the site is UK based, meaning the majority of users are from the United Kingdom. For teachers based elsewhere, this could be a great opportunity to take your classroom global.
- Twitter: For time-pressed teachers, Twitter could be the best way to collaborate with others. At 140-characters per post, you can get in and out of Twitter in seconds flat. Unless, of course, you get sucked into the amazing resources available to connected educators. Edutopia put together this great list of education-related Twitter chats. To participate in one of these chats, you log into Twitter at a designated time and search for a specific hashtag. Moderators ask questions and you tweet your answers along with the hashtag. The Tweetchat tool can be added to your Twitter account to help you keep up with fast paced chats. You can also search for popular education hashtags to find other teachers, resources, and lesson ideas.
- Google+: It’s surprising that Google+ doesn’t make it on many lists of educational resources, especially since so many teachers have their private email accounts through Google. Google+ allows teachers to connect in communities. You can join a specific community, add posts, comment on others’ posts, and +1 the content. A couple of active educational communities to join are: The Educational Technology Community and the STEM Educators Community. After meeting other teachers and making connections, you can use your same Google+ account to meet via Google Hangouts. You can get together using the video hangout feature to discuss current topics face-to-face, or even arrange for members of the group to demonstrate best practices.
- Podcasts: Jessica and Brian Sztabnik started Talks with Teachers in order to share inspiring stories and ideas from teachers around the US. They designed the podcast interviews to be part-biography and part practical and easily applicable tips from great teachers. Each podcasts garners several comments that lead into wonderful discussions of teaching practice. Edreach is a site that features several education podcasts. Topics range in scope from creating a positive climate at school to determining the best Chrome apps for educators. And soon you’ll be able to add your own podcast to get involved and share your own tips and ideas.
- LinkedIn: If you’ve created your LinkedIn profile and haven’t yet started using the social component of the site, it’s time to start. There are several education-related groups. When you join a group, you’ll be able to find like-minded educators from all over the world and discuss issues that are important to you. A few groups to check out are the Professional Learning Board, Educators for Social Responsibility, and Teacher’s Lounge.
Crowded schedules and duties at school that go way beyond simply teaching lessons can make it difficult for teachers to collaborate. Yet most teachers consider themselves lifelong learners and are eager to develop their practice and grow their skills. Today social media and online platforms make it simple for educators across the world to connect and share ideas and experience. Check out one of the sites above to find meaningful, professional connections.
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