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Stop Meeting and Start Connecting and Sharing

| Andrew Marcinek

Do you ever wonder why we still have faculty meetings? Do you ever walk away from a meeting feeling refreshed and energized about what you just heard? Do you approach these meetings with excitement and genuine wonderment?

To me, a meeting is a very basic transfer of information. It usually involves a speaker or speakers distributing information to an audience of consumers who sit and passively take notes. What's missing? Audience engagement, processing, conversation, interaction, and collaboration -- all the valuable elements of learning.

And there's another downside of meetings: many speakers discourage the use of technology during a meeting because it is "distracting." So, as a result, notes are taken but are rarely shared, and the information that is being disseminated is really only given to the people in attendance. In short, traditional meetings limit the scope of learning and understanding to a very small group of people.

The Solution...

Schools must stop simply meeting and start connecting and sharing, and encourage transparent learning. One way to rethink the faculty meeting is to use a Google Doc for planned or impromptu collaborations.

A few weeks ago I came up with a blend of two learning forums. Using Google Doc and the edcamp model, I designed edcamp impromptu. The core principle of edcamp impromptu is learning, collaborating, and sharing on demand -- when you want it. The setup is simple. Open a Google Doc and share it. You can share it globally or with a small cohort. The Google Doc can have an agenda with clear objectives, or it can simply start as a blank slate. Either way, everyone can participate and take away usable information.

This type of meeting also allows the participants to work more productively under a deadline, and revisit points of interest along a timeline -- the document has a revision history option that allows users to look back through every revision made on the document. Finally, a shared document like this, that is open and transparent, allows all parties to continue sharing, growing, and reflecting. The Google Doc will not go away unless you place it in the trash, and the information is wherever you need it to be -- it can be accessed from any computer and allows meetings to evolve over time.

How It Can Work for You

Imagine this scenario: Your principal sends each department a Google Doc in the morning. On each document he or she has laid out an agenda for each department to accomplish for that day. Since a few members of the math department also coach, and will not be able to make the scheduled department meeting, they take some time during their prep and start adding to the document. While these key members of the math department cannot physically be at the meeting, they can still contribute and check in after to see what was discussed on the document.

Later, at the end of the year, say the math department head wants to revise the AP Calculus course; he or she can look back over the document and glean ideas that were suggested and presented throughout the year. The department head can even take those ideas, create a new Google Doc, and send it out on Twitter, asking others to add to the suggestions and ideas presented for the AP Calculus course that they will be revising. By the end of the day the document has been shared with many, and the math department can access new ideas and resources for AP Calculus.

Another example uses a similar scenario like the one above, but imagine it happening over the summer. A team can create a Google Doc with a timeline for task completions and objectives for a project. The document can also be shared with relevant experts and they can contribute their tips and feedback. By the end of the summer, the document is chock-full of ideas, suggestions, resources, etc. As a result, the students in this course will get a rich learning experience because their administration and teachers were open to the idea of transparent, collaborative learning.

I am not trying to start any kind of major revolutionary trend in how we meet and connect, but we must move beyond the old standby meeting (that may or may not involve a handout in Comic Sans) and start using the technologies and infrastructures we have in place. If we simply disregard these simple innovations, we are limiting our learning as educators and only giving our students a small sample of what they could be learning if we just opened our doors a little wider.

I would like to practice what I preach and begin discussing this post on this global Google Doc. Simply click the link and share your ideas. Thank you for sharing.

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Comments (27)

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special education

I am not familiar with google

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I am not familiar with google doc but will visit and research it. You made me laugh a bit when I read your post. You described many early morning faculty meetings which could have been used for planning. Yes, information needs to be disseminated but we can be be more efficient. The lack of "engagement, conversation, interaction, and collaboration" and other elements as you put it, make us passive learners/listeners. Interestingly, meetings are more of lecture format. It was refreshing to hear that I am not alone out there!

Fourth Grade Teacher

I agree completely. I think

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I agree completely. I think this is a good idea and a step towards forming a learning community instead of just having staff meetings that relay information that can be read. Don't get me wrong, there is a time and place for staff meetings, however, this seems to be a great tool to help teachers collaborate.

Spanish

As you said Andrew, faculty

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As you said Andrew, faculty meeting are just good for transferring information. I usually look at the clock to leave, just as my students would do when they are not stimulated! I love the idea of using this piece of technology such as google Docs; I did not know it exists and I will take a look at it! I intend to explore and share the idea in my Foreign Language department. We are not reluctant to sharing, and this will be a good tool to start a profession learning community. Merci!!

special education teacher, high school

I agree with your article too

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I agree with your article too many times, very dominate personalities can take over in staff meetings. I do think that google doc idea woudl be great use of time and equalize the sharing of information by all staff

I agree with the fact that

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I agree with the fact that faculty meetings can become unproductive. At my school we have faculty meetings 1-2 times a month. At most of these meetings we are presented with information that could have been sent to us in an e-mail. These meetings have become so mundane, that there is even a group of teachers that bet on when our faculty meetings are going to end. I believe using Google Doc could provide a better guideline for our meetings and make them more meaningful since we will have a focus in mind.

Art teacher Middle and High School from western suburbs of Chicago.

I don't know about anyone

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I don't know about anyone else but the same multiple intelligiences we deal with in the classroom do present themselves in our teachers as well. A great deal of good can be accomplished through collaborative work using such things as Google docs, but I see it as an excellent tool to begin facilitation of an idea prior faculty meetings which could make those meetings more productive when we do meet after school.

I couldn't agree more that we

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I couldn't agree more that we need to stop meeting essentially for the sake of meeting. When information is simply being transferred it would be much more efficient to use something like that google doc. However, I think it is important that teachers meet regularly in order to have open dialogue about current issues within the classroom.

Second Grade Teacher, Port Lavaca, TX

I really enjoyed reading your

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I really enjoyed reading your post. I teach at a mid-sized elementary school in a small town in Texas. We have faculty meetings every other week (or at least they are scheduled) on Friday afternoons. Often I have seen memebers of our faculty become upset because of the time that is being wasted by sitting in the meeting, when other tasks could be accomplished. I am not familiar with Google docs, but I plan to become very familiar very soon. I think this would solve many of the problems that our school faces by finding the time to meet as a collective group, AND finding the time to meet in our small committee groups throughout the campus. It seems to me that with Google docs, everyone can be on the same page with ideas and training, without all of the hoopla it takes to break away from the classroom for the bi-weekly faculty meetings. I do believe that group collaboration is important, and that faculty meetings should not be abolished on our campus, but with the innovative technology of Google docs, we can stay informed, contribute our own ideas, and work together without having to have the mundane Friday afternoon meetings.
Thanks for sharing this information.

Second Grade Teacher, Port Lavaca, TX

I really enjoyed reading your

Was this helpful?
0

I really enjoyed reading your post. I teach at a mid-sized elementary school in a small town in Texas. We have faculty meetings every other week (or at least they are scheduled) on Friday afternoons. Often I have seen memebers of our faculty become upset because of the time that is being wasted by sitting in the meeting, when other tasks could be accomplished. I am not familiar with Google docs, but I plan to become very familiar very soon. I think this would solve many of the problems that our school faces by finding the time to meet as a collective group, AND finding the time to meet in our small committee groups throughout the campus. It seems to me that with Google docs, everyone can be on the same page with ideas and training, without all of the hoopla it takes to break away from the classroom for the bi-weekly faculty meetings. I do believe that group collaboration is important, and that faculty meetings should not be abolished on our campus, but with the innovative technology of Google docs, we can stay informed, contribute our own ideas, and work together without having to have the mundane Friday afternoon meetings.
Thanks for sharing this information.

Technology Integrator

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I like Google docs, & use them a lot. They're great for asynchronous working groups; I've used chat with Google docs very successfully when I need to touch base at 10 pm when still working on a shared document. But I've also needed to look at somebody's face, or a dept or grade-level team, to say "We cannot buy that," or "You cannot keep doing that, and here's why."

I am very uncomfortable to read that schools "simply must" stop having meetings. Sensible solutions between the extremes do exist, and can be found, but not if we close the door to compromise. I don't mean "compromise" as holding only half of the meaningless meetings people describe-- I do mean being aware when the personal touch should be used. Online communication cannot convey tone of voice, irony (that onscreen may sound dismissive or disrespectful). Why would we not want both?

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