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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Stop Meeting and Start Connecting and Sharing

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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Thomy's picture

I really like the idea of google doc. This would give everyone a chance to participate and be informed. As a coach I do miss a lot of faculty meetings and sometimes some valuable information. With Google Doc I can see what is expected of me and what I need to be doing. I can respond and feel like I am contributing.

Patti Smith's picture
Patti Smith
Kindergarten Teacher from Baltimore, Maryland

I have to agree that faculty meetings are no longer productive; they are a time when someone spouts information out at us and we (sometimes) write it down. Generally they occur after school and by then, I am exhausted. I am certainly not at my best and ready to engage in meaningful discussion with my colleagues. If the purpose of the faculty meetings is for us to engage in professional development then we need to rework the system. The idea of Google Doc appeals to me on many levels. It will work better with my busy schedule, allowing me to give input and read what others have to say when I am refreshed and ready. It also allows for a more open conversation since people are usually more likely to share ideas and offer suggestions or praise when it is through a written format. Plus we are always encouraged to use more technology in our teaching so maybe it is time for us to do so in our learning as well! I don't think that we can completely let go of face-to-face meetings but this idea would be a great starting point for ideas and a way to focus objectives for professional development that may occur at a later date.

Alicia L's picture

The Google Doc concept is really a great idea.
Not very often is a great idea, made simple and user friendly-great job!
I am presently doing a course about Professional Learning Communities and this concept could be a useful tool.The Google doc could be useful for collaboration, in the event teachers cannot meet[due to an unexpected event] or a team member is absent,this would help them stay connected and informed.
I intend to share this idea with colleagues to get their feedback.

Lisa's picture

I love the Google Doc idea. At my school we have a lot of meetings, but we are also suppose to put all of the information from our meetings on Microsoft OneNote, and to be honest...I hardly looked at it this past year...Just didn't have the time. I think using the Google Doc idea would be great, then everyone will have a chance to share their ideas in an unintimidating situation. I will definitely have to share this with my principal. Thanks!

Andrew T. Garcia's picture
Andrew T. Garcia
Professional Development Coordinator and Instrumental Music Teacher

Face to face meetings have value...with smaller groups particularly. However, if we examine the agendas of most full faculty meetings-that information could be delivered in the manner suggested--a Google Doc or other cloud-based sharing system. Typically, even with the best of leaders, meetings get co-opted by trivia and those that wish to hear themselves speak. The best ideas go unsaid and the best minds remain stifled and silenced in a large meeting format because the meeting actual becomes a place that is hostile to new ideas and meaningful conversation.

I have used Google Docs in my music tech classes for several years now. It is remarkable the quality of work that gets done by students--not to mention the resource gathering that takes place when ALL students are engaged and collaborating on the same topic....same can be true for the "Adult Learners" in the building. Or should be...

Laura D.'s picture
Laura D.
Middle School Math and Science Teacher in Georgia

I completely agree with you about faculty meetings. Too many times at these meetings teachers sit their like zoombies, looking at the clock, thinking "I have WAY too much to do...when is this going to be over". They completely lack collaboration, interaction, and all the other "valuable elements of learning" that you mentioned.

I absolutely LOVE the idea of implementing Google Docs into schools. Many times I have been in meetings, curriculum or grade level, where people were not there and could not give their input. Google Docs would change all that. It would also provide people, like myself, who sometimes feel like they do not have a voice at these meetings, an opportunity to share.

Overall, I feel your perspective is fantastic and I enjoyed reading your post!!!

Mary Davis's picture
Mary Davis
7th grade math teacher

I really like your idea of using google docs also. It would give a choice of what time we look at the documents and respond. A deadline could be imposed as to when all reviews/comments would have to be made. This would really help in our school, since we all have differing planning times. If everyone also has to input feedback, then the administration has a hard copy of evidence of when we reviewed the material too.

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