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Fostering Teacher Collaboration in a Digital World

I began teaching on January 2, 2002, after leaving active duty in the United States Army. At that time, there was little to no collaboration with other teachers about pedagogy, effective lessons, or what was happening in other classrooms. You simply closed the door and taught content. Your growth as an educator was limited to professional conferences that you personally sought out, or articles and books that you read on your own. There wasn’t a big push by either my school or district level administration for teacher collaboration.

Why collaborate?

Today, highly effective educators and schools push collaboration so that it has become a norm.  The internet has revolutionized education by changing the question from why should we collaborate to how can we foster professional collaboration in a digital world? Classrooms today are open to, not only fellow colleagues within a school, but also teachers around the world. Teachers are able to “talk” about a myriad of things with a few keystrokes and the click of a mouse.  

There are many articles about the benefits of collaboration. In “The Benefits of Teacher Collaboration”, Carla McClure writes about conclusions that Susan Kardos and Susan Moore Johnson made through studies they conducted. They found that you can “improve teacher retention and teacher satisfaction…that new teachers seem more likely to stay in schools that have an ‘integrated professional culture’ in which new teachers’ needs are recognized and all teachers share responsibility for student success.” (McClure, Carla)

Digital connections make teacher collaboration easy

Within the last year, my professional growth has been aided by two things; Twitter and the Hāpara Champion program. Both have allowed me to collaborate with educators around the world, and to engage in pedagogical discussions that I otherwise would not have had. I have taken part in Twitter chats and book chats, and have learned how to create professional development videos.

I began in the Educator cadre of the Hāpara Champion program and progressed through the Scholar and Trainer levels as well. Many educational platforms offer teachers the ability to become certified in advanced implementation, but Hāpara takes it to a new level. During the Educator cadre I learned how the platform works and how to use it successfully. In the Scholar course, the focus was on student-centered pedagogy and why the platform is set up the way it is. The Hāpara Champion Trainer course continued to focus on pedagogy, but was more aligned to adult learning and how to teach fellow colleagues.

What I liked most about these programs was that students were encouraged to engage with fellow cadre members both during and after the course. It was during these discussions that I was introduced to the benefits of a professional learning network (PLN) centered around social media. I can stay connected with other Hāpara Champions via a Google+ group, as well as on Twitter using the hashtag #HāparaChampion.

Twitter is a unique platform in that it allows users to succinctly state an observation, share an opinion, or present facts. However, it’s primary power is the ability to quickly grow a differentiated professional learning network that spans the globe. Global connections and differentiation are what draw me to this platform daily.  

Continuing to grow

In early December, I spoke at the annual conference for the Virginia Society for Technology in Education (VSTE) about creating a PLN using Twitter. I made the analogy that Twitter is like a mirror, window, and professional sounding board. It allows me to take a glimpse into not only my own classroom, but to classrooms around the world.  It also gives me the opportunity to easily connect with other educators and talk about the profession in ways that weren’t previously possible.

If you would like to talk more about pedagogy and the benefits of a Twitter based PLN, follow me @MHSLewisHistory.

Want to learn more about how to use digital tools for teacher collaboration? Join Scott’s webinar on April 25th.

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