Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Digital Tools To Support Collaboration

Something that may be difficult for many people to do well, is to work with others in a truly collaborative way.  Too often we end up working in a group that is inefficient and detracts from our intended goal.  This is true for teachers and students alike.  There are some ways that we can improve how we work together as a team in a collaborative way using technology.  The following are just some suggestions and if you have any others, please let me know.

  • Shared Google Drive Folder - Make it easy to share files back and forth by having folder that is shared with everyone in the team.  This will make it easier than having to email it back and forth, and you will be able to share things by just moving them to the folder.  The sharing permissions for the folder are carried over to any file that is placed into the folder, although you could still modify the sharing settings of the individual files as needed.  Just make sure that everyone with editing rights to that folder knows that if you remove it from the folder, the others will not be able to see it or access it unless they were the owner.  (You could always make a copy if you needed that file elsewhere but then the others would not be able to see any edits or make their own edits in the copy.)
  • Shared Google Calendar - Make it easier to keep track of important dates by simply creating a Google Calendar and adding the other people as editors of the Calendar.  Just create the calendar by clicking the down arrow next to "My calendars" and selecting "Create new calendar".  Add the other team members in the "Share with specific people" section and make sure they can "Make changes AND manage sharing" so they can add to the calendar, edit entries, and share it out with other people.  Remember that you can also access your Google Calendars on any smarthphone or tablet, meaning you always have access to it.

  • Shared Curation Tool - Often times teams will be sharing resources back and forth using email or some other way that is just not quick or efficient.  You should not have to search through an email chain to find that resource that was shared with you.  Instead, use a curation tool and share that with the team so each person can add to it.  Some great options would be Padlet, Flipboard, Scoop-it, an Evernote notebook, or Pocket.  Padlet is an easy one to use since, like others, it has a Chrome extension so you can quickly add to the Padlet with the click of a button.  Make sure that whatever tool that you use is easily shared with each person and allows for quick addition of future resources.  You could even create a separate Padlet wall for each of the main units or topics.
  • Google+ Community - You can easily create a closed Google+ Community and only have the members of your team as people who can see or post in the community.  This means you can easily share resources, carry out conversations, or ask questions in a safe and easy to use space.  Since it is part of the Google Apps, you can easily share files from your Google Drive or images that are in your Google+ space (or Drive when that changes).  This is another tool that is easy to use and can be quickly accessed using a smartphone so you can always be able to collaborate.
  • Voxer - If you want to be able to communicate quickly with your team members, Voxer can allow you to do this easily.  It is a free app that can be installed on Android or iOS phones and allows you to leave voice or text messages for the others to hear/read.  You can have a conversation happen over a period of time and easily go back to what was said/shared.  This could be a really useful tool when you are dealing with something where you need to quickly explain something or share something with your group, where text would not be the easiest way.
While those are the main ideas that you can easily implement, there are some other ideas that may not work for everyone, but can make some aspect of collaborating together easier.
  • Use Google Classroom to share resources and carry out digital conversations.
  • Use a hashtag on social media to share resources and ideas with other members.
  • Use Movenote to share ideas and explain resources or documents.
  • Use Google Hangouts to have a video chat with other members if you can't be at the same place at the same time, you could even record these for later use.
  • Add team members as editors on Google Forms you use in your classroom so they can see the student data to make conversations more focused on students.
What other ways can we use technology to better help our teams work more effectively and efficiently.  Remember though, that if the team does not work in a collaborative way, technology will not improve things one bit.  You need to make sure that your team has a clear focus and understands what it takes to work as a team instead of just a group of people.