Using Collaborative Communities To Improve Professional Teaching Development

International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Standard 5

5. Engage in professional growth and leadership – Teachers continuously improve their professional practice, model lifelong learning, and exhibit leadership in their school and professional community by promoting and demonstrating the effective use of digital tools and resources.

a. Participate in local and global learning communities to explore creative applications of technology to improve student learning.

Program Standard 8

8. Professional Practice – The teacher participates collaboratively in the educational community to improve instruction, advance the knowledge and practice of teaching as a profession, and ultimately impact student learning.

8.1 Element – Participating in a Professional Community

8.1 Example of Proficient – Relationships with colleagues are characterized by mutual support and cooperation.

Teachers are by nature communicators. They spend most of each day conveying ideas to their students. They are inherently a part of a community within their own classroom, yet, many teachers find themselves secluded. The educational system is set up so that teachers are separated from their peers for most of the day only interacting with their students. Donnelly and Boniface (2013) argued, “One of the most salient issues for practicing teachers is isolation” (p. 9). They continued to elaborate that this reality is caused by the fact that teachers do not have many chances during the day to work with their colleagues. However, an integral part of professional development for educators is collaboration with others in the field. Technology has created ways for teachers to virtually connect with each other whether they are from within the same school or located across the globe. For EDTC 6433 (Teaching with Technology) I explored how to use online communities and tools to help improve my professional practice and model lifelong learning skills that will aid my students in becoming proactive learners.

The act of teaching can be transformed through joint effort and strong teacher cooperation whether it is found within schools or through online communities. Another student in EDTC 6433 shared an article extolling the benefits of peer partnerships for educators and how collaboration helped to create more dynamic lesson plans for their students. The administrators in this article took great care to foster a culture of community within their school. Although these teachers were located in the same school, they still found it difficult to find time to physically meet up so they made use of technology to communicate. They enhanced their communication by using Google Drive to create and share files (Edutopia, 2015). These teachers made excellent use of technology to collaborate more easily and effectively with peers within their school.

While the Internet is a wonderful tool to connect busy teachers within schools or districts it can also be used to connect educators across the globe. Scragg (2013) compiled a list of websites used to host educational communities. Web sites like Twitter have been used to create teacher communities where educators can talk about current issues and follow one another as well as host virtual “meet ups.” Other websites like We Are Teachers, Teachers Teaching Teachers, Share My Lesson, and Classroom 2.0 were all specifically designed to allow teachers from across the country and around the globe to connect and share resources (Scragg, 2013). These communities allow individuals to develop their practice by posing questions or providing advice to fellow educators. These online groups allow teachers to share open educational resources with one another and enrich their own experiences by exposing themselves to ideas they might not have otherwise discovered. This type of open sharing allows teachers access to innovative material which will benefit their professional practice. When teachers are able to constantly better themselves their students will model that proactive behavior and benefit as well. Online resources like these will play a large role in my teaching practice and I will use technology to make sure that I remain connected to my colleagues.

References
Donnelly, D.F. & Boniface, S. (2013). Consuming and creating: Early-adopting science teachers’ perceptions and use of a wiki to support professional development. Computers & Education, 68, 9-20. doi: 10.1016/j.compedu.2013.04.023
Edutopia. (2015). Teacher Collaboration: Matching Complementary Strengths. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/practice/teacher-collaboration-matching-complementary-strengths
Scragg, S. (2013) Online teacher communities. United Federation of Teachers. Retrieved from http://www.uft.org/linking-learning/online-teacher-communities
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