Facebook
Edutopia on Facebook
Twitter
Edutopia on Twitter
Google+
Edutopia on Google+
Pinterest
Edutopia on Pinterest Follow Me on Pinterest
WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

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

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.

Jnunez's picture

I like the idea of creating a Google Doc for collaboration among colleagues. I support students from 3 different grade levels and work with six different teachers. It has become a challenge to meet and discuss; effective and non-effective strategies, accommodations that are working or need modificaiton and student progress. Google Doc will solve the lack of communication among members due to time restraints. Teachers can post recommendations about accommodations and other topics. Teachers can add on or ask for clarification. Student information will be left out as per FERPA. Does anyone have other ideas for using Google Doc as a collaboration forum? Thank Andrew for sharing.

Rusul's picture
Rusul
Professor of English composition and literature

Hi Jnunez, have you tried using Google Doc for peer review exercises? I think it would be very useful for paragraph writing or essay writing and student-peer feedback. Students can leave comments on each other's work, and the fact that you work with different grade levels might even work to your advantage. Students' feedback from different grades to each other can be very valuable and provides a different critical lens than just the teacher's.

Laura Thomas's picture
Laura Thomas
Director, Antioch University New England Center for School Renewal
Facilitator

I use it a lot for big, whole-class PBL. Sometimes the work to be done is BIG, so groups will set up (for example) one Google presentation and each subgroup will add a slide or two, or a spreadsheet that they use to keep track of the tasks to be done, who's responsible and when they've been completed. I've also used it for editing written documents together.

On Friday I had a teacher tell me that, in her math classes, she'll assign differentiated word problems for homework. Kids collaborate via the doc and document the process they used to solve the problem as well as they solution they came to. Pretty nifty stuff!

Sign in and Join the Discussion! Not a member? Register to join the discussion.