Think about some of the recent movie blockbusters like The Avengers, Justice League, and X-Men. Yes, these are fictional characters, but what do they have in common? They are all stories of individuals combining their talents to achieve a common goal. Collaboration produces victory in the world of blockbuster movies and can help you do the same in education.
Unlike professionals who work in the private sector, educators spend most of the day with children in classrooms. How can school leaders find ways for educators to work together when it’s hard for them to find even a few minutes to use the bathroom, let alone collaborate with their peers? Technology has given us new and exciting ways to connect! Whether it is a live virtual meeting, Twitter chat, recorded webinars, or simply a series of emails, technology has given us ways to connect like never before.
Think about what we tell our students to do when they have a question: “Ask three before me” or “Work with a partner.” As leaders, we need to empower and encourage our staff to do the same. Our professional experiences have allowed us to collaborate with a variety of our colleagues, which has transformed both of our own practices. From the Tech and Learning Leadership Summits to MassCUE and other regional and national conferences, presenting at and attending these events has helped us expand our PLNs to include colleagues from around the country.
With this reach, our PLN is always there for us to connect, learn, ask a question, or just send a funny Gif for a laugh. Forming these professional relationships can encourage more risk taking. You can present together, write articles/blogs/newsletters (case in point with this article), or visit schools to collaborate.
These collaborations are incredibly valuable, but where do you begin? Here are some of the best ways to start growing your PLNs:
- Twitter Chats: Twitter Chats are an amazing way to meet others in your similar role who are outside of your classroom, building, state, or country. Follow a hashtag of interest to you to see past chats and information for future chats that highlight your area of interest. Use tools like TweetDeck to help you launch your own hashtag and get a conversation started.
- Events: Attending conferences gives you an opportunity to broaden your PLN by meeting tons of new people. Attending conferences, EdCamps, or meetups allows you to you find (or expand) your passion and purpose while increasing your opportunity to meet professionals who share that passion.
Be strategic as you channel your purpose and passion during the events to maximize collaboration. Challenge yourself to meet new professionals--you’ll be motivated to share learning as your PLC grows. After the event, keep the learning going by connecting with your new PLN members though emails, tweets, voxer, or in person.
- Organizations: Organizations that include your colleagues can be extremely advantageous in collaboration. Special Interest Groups (SIGs) often meet virtually via Google Hangout, Skype, or videoconferencing services like Zoom. Create and add to Google Docs to keep the ideas and collaboration flowing.
When working together, it’s easy to look at what needs to be “fixed” rather than what is going well. It’s important to recognize and encourage the good work we do collaboratively and build upon it. Tweet it out, shout it out, or put it in a blog or article! As the new school year begins, think of new ways you can collaborate to get outside of your own walls.
Matthew X. Joseph, EdD (@MatthewXJoseph) is the director of digital learning and innovation at Milford (MA) Public Schools. Erin Fisher, MEd (@MrsErinFisher) is the tech integration specialist at East Bridgewater (MA) Public Schools.