One of the most impactful systems we established at JFK that led to greater use of technology within the instructional program was to collaborate via the Thinkfinity Community. This was beneficial for us because we felt this was an efficient and easy to learn strategy that all of our staff could use. I created a private, school community group for our teachers/staff. Once signed on I encouraged them to write, share, and respond to posts. I used the Grade Level Facilitators to promote these ideas in the early going. Once everyone was comfortable with the idea of sharing via the community, everything flowed nicely.
It was critical that this approach be well structured, right from the beginning, as it was not the norm to connect to the online community every couple days to share on a group page. Once I set up the group, I had to make sure all teachers/staff signed on/remembered their username and passwords. This was the most difficult part because it was the most time consuming. As soon as teachers/staff joined I prompted them to share anything and everything that they deemed valuable.
One result of this process is that we are now able to stay in constant contact with content experts who are active within the larger Thinkfinity Community. Many ideas came to fruition on the Thinkfinity Community Page. Our second grade team was able to talk extensively with experts from Wonderopolis. One teacher posted a homework Idea that utilized Wonderopolis, then the representatives from Wonderopolis jumped in and responded making it one of our most successful ideas to date.
There have been countless ideas, interactives, and resources shared through the community, not only between our teachers, but from content experts as well.
Another benefit from this strategy is how fast our teachers receive responses and help when they post a question on the Community page. Teachers are constantly looking for new ideas, and interactives. I have to say, almost as soon as one of our teachers posted a question or inquiry on the community page, someone came through almost immediately and either answered the question, or pointed us in the right direction.
If there was something that I had to change it would be how we approach our teachers in the beginning of the year. The only issue we seemed to have with the Community was what our teachers thought could be shared on the page. At first teachers thought anything shared on the Community page had to be related to Thinkfinity. We had to clarify that the page was set up to collaborate anything and everything related to education.
The reason this strategy works is because it consistently impacts our entire school. This model allows for everyone to be heard and have a chance to be involved.
- Be clear about what the Community is about
-Get to all the teachers early, and model how the Community page can be used
-Keep moving conversations forward. If a question has been asked on the Community page and is not answered within a few days it will usually get lost (especially if there is a lot of activity). Try to keep things moving
-Questions about how to make this work at your school? Please ask me here via the community.
-How would you introduce an online community to your faculty?
-What is the biggest challenge about this strategy?
Picture of Grade Level Facilitator Meeting with the Educational Technology Facilitator to discuss strategies for collaboration through the community!:
Mark Silviotti is the Educational Technology Facilitator at John F. Kennedy Magnet School in Port Chester, NY.