We should always aim to open up our perspectives: in the workplace, collaboration is a great way to achieve that. In Keeping the Door Open to Collaboration, Minero explains how “intentional teacher collaboration creates a strong professional culture and spreads good ideas room to room”, which will be beneficial not only for the teachers but also for their students.
I find a lot of truth in Robert John Meehan‘s above quote, and this Course 3 Collaborative Final Project made it all become real.
The first step was to contact my co-COETAIL-ers to form a group. After talking to different people, we created a team of four members working with teenagers.
While my first idea was to go for option 1 and create a 2-4 hour professional development program, once we started brainstorming it became clear, including to me, that offering extra professional development in a pandemic situation was not wise: in the past months, teachers already had to get used to a lot of new online tools to navigate distance learning, and their days (and evenings) became busier than ever.
Therefore we decided to create a unit planner based on the understandings of this course with the objective to support students in becoming Creative Communicators and Global Collaborators.
Our first challenge was to set up an efficient communication channel: while using Twitter’s group messages seemed a good idea, it took a while to realize that one of us didn’t receive the notifications. Once it got solved, we also created a shared Google Doc where we could suggest some unit plan ideas and comment on each other’s.
As there is nothing better than meeting in person at some point during a collaborative project, we also organized a couple of video calls. Picking a time was not easy because of the different time zones: between Panama, Belgium, Russia, and Cambodia the common decent time window is quite narrow. I discovered a new tool along the way: timeanddate.com and we eventually found a time that worked for us, thanks to our colleague in Panama who is a (very) early riser!
We started the conversation by looking over the shared sample lesson plans and finally decided to revise the unit of one of our colleagues on Migration as he was going to teach it to his school’s grade 9 students We agreed that it would give us all an authentic experience. Besides, I was personally interested in the topic as I used to collaborate with grade 7 Social Studies teachers on a unit on the same topic, facilitating the research component in my Teacher-Librarian role.
Here is the Updated Migration Unit Plan that was produced
This type of task still remains a challenge for me, as writing unit plans is not my area of expertise: I usually collaborate with classroom teachers, and the content I deliver is incorporated in their lesson plans. The standards for what I teach independently, like Academic Honesty, are regularly revised but do not require the same type of process.
Obviously, the unit on Migration already included content standards, and our colleague updated them to reflect the newer version. Then we decided together which ISTE standards would be most meaningful, and which activities could be offered in order to improve student collaboration, with the relevant technology tools.
Here are the selected ISTE Standards:
- 6.c. Students communicate complex ideas clearly and effectively by creating or using various digital objects such as visualizations, models, or simulations.
- 7.b. Students use collaborative technologies to work with others, including peers, experts, or community members, to examine issues and problems from multiple viewpoints.
For the technology tools, there were some constraints linked to what the students had already been exposed to: for example, one of our first ideas was for students to create infographics in groups [as it was part of one of our recent COETAIL course content], but that was dismissed as already included in the previous assignment.
After looking at different options, the chosen tool for the final activity is Parlay Ideas, a comprehensive discussion platform that allows students to interact with each other and their teacher, both virtually and in person. I didn’t know this tool before, but it seemed promising, and fitting the ISTE Standards we were aiming for, and to the unit that will be taught.
One issue though: the teachers of the Anglo-American School of Moscow had not used the live version yet. The two tech-savvy members of our group spontaneously offered to run a PD session for them, going beyond our own course requirements and extending the collaboration spirit. Although I wasn’t able to join the training session, I received its recording and I would now be able to suggest this tool to my own colleagues.
This process was enlightening both from a personal and professional point of view as it showed the richness of our interactions and the power of collaboration. As international educators, with diverse backgrounds and skills, it reminded us that sharing our experiences can only broaden our perspectives and knowledge, especially at a time when we all have to face a pandemic and the consequences that it brought to our teaching jobs.
Finally, I am hopeful that the updates made to the Migration lesson thanks to our collaboration were helpful and will bring added values for the students and their teachers.