This past school year, my mother retired after 25 years teaching in a K-8 school in New Hampshire. At her retirement party I found myself surrounded by her friends, most of them teachers who I’ve known for years. Several use Wikispaces, and one explained that a 2007 YouTube video called “Wikis in Plain English” was her first introduction into what a wiki could be used for. This four-minute video shows how a group of four friends prepare for a camping trip by collaborating on a wiki page. By listing the items they already have, and creating a list of what they still need to bring, they are able to decide who will bring what.
The same teacher recalled: “When I watched that short video in 2007, it quickly made sense what a wiki was useful for: quick and easy collaboration!” She then recounted how she used Wikispaces to create an exercise for her students, and how (again, in 2007) she was advised by her school’s administration to cease using wikis altogether. As she put it, wikis at that time were considered “a low-class teaching tool.” Over the past decade wikis have become powerful and commonplace tools, especially inside the classroom, so we all had a good laugh at that.
But her story brought up a good point: what does the future hold for wikis and teachers? Even more than currently takes place, the near future will see teachers collaborating with teachers to become better teachers.
The dictionary defines collaboration as: the action of working with someone to produce or create something. By definition, collaboration creates something. On the near horizon, there are at least three parts that will come together:
When teachers collaborate on these platforms, what exactly is created? If you watched the 4-minute “Wikis in Plain English” video, you saw a very basic collaboration take place between four friends, and it was easy to see what was created: the camping group discussed the needs of the trip and created a list of needed items, then decided who would bring what. The discussions and lists eventually informed them: ‘we have everything we need; we’ll have a great trip.’
Similarly, teachers can collaborate to become informed about what content is the most relevant and effective. The syllabus provides teachers with a structure that helps them plan and execute their creative vision of education. Teachers from all over the world will share relevant content, rate the quality of content, and integrate new ideas into their classrooms. This collaboration, and the content being discussed, will help them build a story within the structure of their syllabus.
The specific value that is created lies in the quality of content and the number of choices provided to the teacher to ‘create their story’ with. That is the real creation of teachers collaborating. What we’re seeing now and will see more of in the future is teachers collaborating, in a way, with the content itself. Teachers will only continue to have even better resources and methods to teach those resources.
In the next post, we’ll look at teaching content that exists as a living document, continually edited and updated, and why this can be so valuable to students.
What is your school currently doing to facilitate teacher collaboration? Teachers, how have you collaborated with other teachers in the past? Please share your insights below.