As I sit here on this gorgeous spring day I have been thinking about and exploring the ISTE Educator standards. As part of the Seattle Pacific University, Digital Education Leadership program this quarters class has us looking at and learning more about the ISTE Educator standards and how we can incorporate them into our work. The first standard that we are exploring is the fourth standard which is about collaborating, not just with colleagues but with students as well.
As I was reading through the different components of the standard I began to think about how this connects with the situation we are currently living in because of COVID-19. More so than ever it is important for us to collaborate and work together in order to share ideas, resources, and to solve problems because only by doing this together will we get through this. So I decided to focus on how educators can better collaborate with their students. ISTE Educator standard 4b says, “Collaborate and co-learn with students to discover and use new digital resources and diagnose and troubleshoot technology issues” (2017). I wanted to focus on this part of the standard because I think sometimes this can be an area of struggle. What does it mean to co-learn with our students and how can I do this when as a teacher I am expected to be the “expert”. Well that’s just it we are all experts in something but none of us is an expert in everything which is why we need each other.
So what does this mean?
As I’ve been working from home it has made it more clear how hard this can sometimes be. Educators around the globe have been working tirelessly to support their students remotely and this means stepping out of our comfort zones and trying new things which can be scary. So many teachers that want to try new resources with their students but are afraid to because they are afraid something might go wrong. This seems like the perfect opportunity to reach out to our students and collaborate together when issues arise. Students so often have the solutions but teachers don’t always ask. However if we build a community and a support system in which we as educators and students learn from each other then trying something new and asking for help becomes less scary because we know we have the support of others. Some of the stories that I have heard from my colleagues and have witnessed that support this idea have been so encouraging. Two specific examples come to mind, I had a teacher use Zoom with her students for the first time and she had students using the annotation tools to write all over the shared screen. She didn’t know how to stop it, but how great it would have been if as a class they had all worked together to try and figure it out in the moment. Another example is from a colleague who was on a zoom with one school and a conference call with another school at the same time. My colleague had students on one call posing solutions to problems that the school on the other call were having. How great is it that the teachers all stepped out of the way and allowed this to happen so that they could all learn from each other.
What resources are out there to support?
While these specific examples are both connected to video conferencing I also wanted to look at different resources that could be used to open up communication and support collaboration and co-learning. The following are just some of the resources that I have been exploring and how they might be used in support of ISTE Educator standard 4.
- Padlet: This is a website and app that works like a virtual bulletin board. There are different formats or styles that can be set when creating the board. Teachers and students could then post their questions to the board for others to respond to. With the voting feature if others had the same question they could up vote that question letting others know that they too are wondering the same thing. Then as a class they could come together to try and answer the questions pulling from each other’s strengths. Students could post their solutions directly to the question that they are responding to. The fact that posts can be in a variety of forms (pictures, video, text, documents, etc.) is also very appealing. Figure 1 is just one example of how Padlet could potentially be used.
- Piazza: So I am going to be really transparent, I just discovered this resource and have not yet been able to use it with students. However I discovered the resource while I was searching the Common Sense Education website. According to commonsense.org, “Piazza is an advanced classroom-communication tool.” The tool has a Q&A section and looks like it could be used for students to post questions and then respond to each other with potential solutions. From my initial exploration this does seem like a tool that would be best suited for high school students and seems to take a little getting used to when first exploring. The website does offer support for getting started so that is a bonus. If you have used this resource before I would love to hear your thoughts on it.
- Microsoft Whiteboard: I am not sure how long this resource has been around but I just recently stumbled upon it while looking for something else. When first looking at it the tool seems to just be a virtual whiteboard. However after exploring the tool further it appears that it could be used in a similar way as Padlet. Since the resource is part of Office 365 users have the ability to share their whiteboard with other users. This means that classmates could all have access and could add to the board. There are sticky notes very similar to Padlet. Something that intrigued me about this resource though and made me think this could be useful is the template feature, which looks new since the app is calling it “template (preview)”. There are different templates and the user might need to explore to find the one right for them. I appreciate how the template divides the board into different sections so that users can focus and respond to the appropriate field. Figure 2 is a screenshot of the problem solving template in the Microsoft Whiteboard app.
- Classroom wiki: Ok so this one is not a resource but more of an idea that was actually posed by one of my classmates. There are many different resources out there that could help someone get started with this. If you are anything like me then you may not know what a wiki is, I had to look it up. According to dictionary.com, a wiki is “a website that allows anyone to add, delete, or revise content by using a web browser”. Even though I wasn’t sure about what a wiki was at first I now think that this idea could be useful. I can imagine a space for students to create together and share their learning with their classmates and teacher. There could also be a place for questions to be posted and for everyone to contribute to finding solutions to the questions. One particular resource that my classmate suggested looking into in order to support this is called PBworks. I like the idea of having a space for the classroom community to work together and collaborate, a place where everyone has ownership and responsibility in each other’s learning.
So now what?
These are just a few of the ideas that have been rattling around in my head lately when it comes to creating a collaborative classroom environment. I think the biggest thing in all of this is how important it is that we first build a community where it is safe to take risks and ask questions. One of the first steps in doing this is to model risk taking for students. As educators we need to show our students that we can be vulnerable and that we need help sometimes too. Ask your students questions, share what you are thinking and don’t be afraid to tell your students that you don’t know the answer. When we are open and honest it breaks down walls and helps our students to be more willing to take risks as well. So how are you building this community with your students? What risks are you willing to make and what questions are you going to start asking? Get out there, take a chance and see what happens.
Butler, L. (2019, February 10). SPOLIER ALERT: Teachers Don’t Know Everything…Here’s Why They Shouldn’t Be Expected To. Medium. https://firstname.lastname@example.org/spolier-alert-teachers-dont-know-everything-here-s-why-they-shouldn-t-be-expected-to-4a7d519cdffb
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Krueger, N. (2014, April 21). Is it OK for teachers to not know the answer? | ISTE. https://www.iste.org/explore/ISTE-blog/Is-it-OK-for-teachers-to-not-know-the-answer%3F
Padlet is the easiest way to create and collaborate in the world. (n.d.). Padlet. Retrieved April 12, 2020, from https://padlet.com/
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