Task Force 2012: our plan for using collaborative tools

While our middle school has a 1:1 program in grades 6 and 7 our high school is planning to roll out a 1:1 program in August 2012. We have created a 27 member task force comprised of teachers, students, parents and administrators whose job it is to get out in front of the learning and to make recommendations for the 2011 school year.  The task force leadership group decided to structure the group, which has a December – June lifespan, around these ideas and goals.

“We will strive to keep the learning purposeful and the task force focused on creating recommendations (action plans) for the 2011 school year.”  

Goals

  • Develop recommendations/action steps for the high school for the 2011-12 school year. Recommendations will be based on the International Society for Technology in Education’s Essential Conditions.
  • Share information on 21st century education with the Graded community.

The group meets monthly for 4 hour chunks of time so we realize the importance of communicating and collaborating virtually. There are three tools that we are relying on heavily for communication and collaboration.

1. Ning – The 2012 Task Force Ning is our hub for communication. While there are 27 members of the task force, there are 56 members on the Ning. We have opened it up to our entire community. We started by posting notes from our initial meetings in the discussion forum and are encouraging video uploads, ongoing discussions and blog posts. We use it as a portal for discussions and an archive of our process. Recently, we asked our high school leadership team to review the Ning so that the members could gain a sense of what the task force is doing. While we’re never satisfied with the level of participation, the amount of information that has been generated after 3 months is fantastic.

2. Diigo – We have created a group called Graded 21st Century that members can use to share web resources. Members can also share highlights and notes with the rest of the group. We are finding that the long tale property  holds true with a very small number of members contributing multiple sources. It will be interesting to see how participation improves over time.

3. Google Docs – We use Google Education tools to collaborate and present information. These tools are available 24/7 for members to use and we have a rich archive of information.

So, what have we learned in rolling out these tools?

1. Building the Ning doesn’t mean that people will automatically start using the tool. We found that we had to provide support to help the teachers, students and parents to get started. Sending the information out via e-mail only worked for some of the participants.

2. Using the tools during the face to face meetings is a must. Aside from the obvious reasons, this allows the participants to discuss the tools and they can get help, if necessary.

3. We’re working with an outside consultant and she is able to track our progress and participate in the discussions. On a recent Skype call with her I asked her to guess which direction the group took in a recent meeting and she had already seen the work and was able to comment. It’s so efficient and effective to have her linked in with our work.

4. Making a monthly post an assigned task has had mixed results. Some were more comfortable with expounding on their ideas that related to specific online resources and others just shared resources on the Ning. We’re hoping that with feedback and discussion that posting will become a habit and that the quality of the posts will improve.

5. We’re constantly looking for ways to increase the chatter on the Ning. We are optimistic that we’ll develop a culture of online collaboration but it seems to be something that we can’t give up on.

We’re very excited about the work that this group is doing and it will be exciting to see how this online culture evolves. What suggestions do you have for us?

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