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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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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.

Comments (30)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Ms. Hill's picture

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.

Cyndi Scheib's picture
Cyndi Scheib
Art teacher - High School from western suburbs of Chicago.

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.

Kerri Blessitt's picture

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.

Mary Luce's picture
Mary Luce
special education teacher, high school

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

Lori Maria Son's picture

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!!

Tracie's picture
Fourth Grade Teacher

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.

eric's picture
special education

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!

Caylin's picture

Ah, I dread faculty meetings in the mornings because it almost feels like a waste of time. All of the teachers bring work with them because its "information" that can get communicated through Google Doc. Google Doc sounds like an efficiant communcation tool which would allow all members to share and I think it would be a step towards building that professional learning community. But, I also thinks there is a time and place to hold staff meetings but I do agree that primarly at my school, staff meetings are just a quick "relay" of messages when that can be done through Google Doc. I also find it very important for the staff to collaborate and interact with one another in person because at times I feel like I don't even know some teachers because we feel so isolated within our classroom.

Julia's picture
Pre-Kindergarten Teacher in North GA

I work in at a private Pre-Kindergarten and there is two other classes at my center. We do have times that we meet and share ideas with each other to see how things are going with the lesson for that week. We all teach the same thing at the same time, and it is helpful for us to see how it went in each other's classes. When we meet with our director (which is not as often as we would like), we discuss any problems occurred since the last meeting with her. I used the google doc during one of my Graduate classes, and I enjoyed it. At first it was different and took some time getting use to, but once I got the hang of it I really enjoyed it. I introduced it to my other colleagues, and they liked the idea so now we are going to start using it this coming up school year. I am excited to get this ball rolling, so we all can share and not only wait until our meetings.

Tara Bahmiller's picture
Tara Bahmiller
6th Grade Teacher, Great Falls, MT

I totally agree that having a meeting just to pass along information is no longer the most effective method. It uses valuable planning time, creates an environment where teachers are stressed and not attentive listeners, and teachers don't have anything to reflect back on once they leave the meeting to make sure they have information/dates correct. I love the idea of using a format where teachers could view and keep information that is needed, and also prepare for the meeting to make it more productive. The district I currently teach in does use meetings for sharing ideas, working collaboratively, and presenting new information, but it would be extremely helpful to be able to view the information beforehand so that we could come prepared with questions and/or concerns we have about implementation. Using google doc also would help in saving paper, which is a huge concern in our district due to budget cuts

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