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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.

Comments (27)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

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
Julia
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

Andy Schwen's picture

We've been doing this with our math department meetings for about a year now. It has been great in getting feedback prior to a meeting and directing our discussions and giving each person a voice with the ability to comment and add to the discussion electronically. It has also been great to reference past meeting notes and also know that all staff members have access to the same information. Thanks Google!

Nate Merrill's picture
Nate Merrill
Middle School Social Studies Teacher in Vermont

We have also been using the many types of Google Apps and Docs for a little over a year. It gets people thinking prior to the meetings and allows for the posting of outside resources, documents that people can read before they interact with each other in a meeting. It is nice for those of us who need more time to digest new ideas.
Also, those people who are not as vocal as others in a live meeting, are sometimes more likely to make a statement when writing. There is less pressure. I like the ability to work on something over time, making it possible to edit and reflect.
We use the spreadsheets for making observations and comments about students. Rather than listening to everyone's "war stories" at the meeting, we are able to get the examples out of the way so that in the meeting we are able to quickly get to the solution and action plan stage.
We use the forms to make surveys to teachers and students about different things. I have also made homework assignments as a form. That way I do not get 65 different emails or google docs shared with me each night, but can easily look at the spreadsheet of answers to assess their work.
Forms can also be used for grading projects using a rubric. If you give each student a code instead of using their name, you can then publish the results online and everyone can see their grades.
One more thing is to use the template function of docs to create worksheets that each student can edit and use, but not share with others. It becomes their own that they share back to you when done.
Oh, sorry, this was about meetings...
Anyway, I love Google Docs in our school.

Tiffany Della Vedova's picture

Yes, we love Google Apps at Grandview. This year, we used it in the class to help students collaborate and also to enable collaboration and productivity beyond time & space with our teachers. We built up new curriculum guides within Google Docs and creates shared files for all the stuff which used to reside in dusty binders. We also completed our self study for our accreditation through docs. The integration of Apps has been a remarkable journey for us and helped us save money because we were able to bury rather than replace our dying server. Love, love life in the cloud and love Apps. Can't wait for a Google+ invite! (Sadly, didn't get one last week!)

Stephen's picture
Stephen
Secondary Mathematics Teacher, International School Teacher

I agree completely. Too often meetings involve the same people's input whilst others just sit and listen without contributing, waiting for the opportunity to leave. Allowing a resource like google doc to be used can only lead to a broader and more informative discussion. We were introduced to a similar resource called 'type with me' last academic year. This also promotes a wider range of voices to be heard and would therefore offer a refreshing alternative to the usual meetings. Unfortunately, this is a resource predominantly used with our students. However, if it is productive for them then why not for the teachers? Google doc is certainly a recommendation I will making at my present school.

Stephen's picture
Stephen
Secondary Mathematics Teacher, International School Teacher

I agree completely. Too often meetings involve the same people's input whilst others just sit and listen without contributing, waiting for the opportunity to leave. Allowing a resource like google doc to be used can only lead to a broader and more informative discussion. We were introduced to a similar resource called 'type with me' last academic year. This also promotes a wider range of voices to be heard and would therefore offer a refreshing alternative to the usual meetings. Unfortunately, this is a resource predominantly used with our students. However, if it is productive for them then why not for the teachers? Google doc is certainly a recommendation I will making at my present school.

Justin Banitt's picture
Justin Banitt
High School Math Teacher from Minneapolis, MN

I love Google Docs and I haven't even considered using it that way yet! I'm excited to try it out with my department members at school in place of a department meeting. Everyone loves to have their computers open during meetings anyway, maybe now we will be able to get something done. I love the fact that everyone has automatic access to all the recent posts and updates without having to email attachments. Your post gave me some great ideas that I can use at my school. Thanks!

Fabio's picture

This is a great discussion. Collaboration is key in staff meetings. We really do not need to sit around and listen to information that could be sent in an email. I was reading on another website that a principal is now using screencasts to provide their staff with various information.

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