Flat Connections

Transforming learning through global collaboration

Quad Blogging Assignment 

(Mark Grinder, Emily McCarren and Paula Cancro) 

Establishing good communication habits in schools is not just an important part of the school community, but also an essential part of flattening the classroom. From creating positive routines to managing workflows, good communication habits are the foundations in which a flat classroom rests on.

Most schools routinely use email as the main means of communication. However, do schools understand maximize the potential of this powerful tool? E-mail discussion groups can continually keep a conversation moving about a topic or collaboration between colleagues, who (because of the complexity of scheduling), might not otherwise have a chance to meet.

Recently, the United Nations International School in Hanoi hosted Mark Church author of, “Thinking Visibly: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding and Ind...” During the two day workshop the staff used a program called, ‘backchannel’ to extend learning through a continual discussion t

hat was moderated by one of the technology facilitators. A survey afterwards revealed that the teachers felt much more engaged during the workshop because they were constantly learning through their reflections.

At Punahou School in Honolulu, Hawaii, USA, staff have also played with how a back channel might support teachers in their work.  Several summers ago the faculty and staff in the high school summer program began using Yammer, which is something like Twitter but for internal groups.  People posted questions, what they were doing in their classes and sometimes, a call for help with computer issues.  It ended up being used most regularly by the information technology staff (the classic early adopters), but was a great tool for community building in a large school.

As schools consider the most efficient way to communicate, given the topic and audience, they might look at this infographic:

(Click on the image to enlarge it.)  

And what about how teachers connect with teachers and how teachers connect with students?  Teachers need to consider the purpose and frequency of their communications with students and also establish some expectations.  It would be foolhardy to believe that just because you do, students will be checking their email. Teachers might consider the use of a tool such as Remind101 to give students the option to receive text messages related to their coursework, without having to give their teachers their cell phone numbers.  

Teachers working together, teachers communicating with students, all working groups need to have shared and clear expectations about how they communicate and each individual's responsibilities to keeping the lines of communication open, clear and productive.  

Appendix:  Partial list of ways that people can communicate: 

email discussion groups
instant messaging group (back channel chats)
strong e-mail connection between teachers
appointment groups
on-line meeting spaces
shared calendars
project monitoring portal
RSS - Feeds about the project
Tag the work for teachers (pulling project info. for teachers)
Find times to meet (timebridge)
Effective teacher handshakes

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Comment by Julie Lindsay on January 13, 2013 at 2:35pm

Well done team! Interested to read your comments about backchannel use - I have yet to find a school where most teachers find this beneficial or in fact understand it yet. It certain;y is a way of being inclusive and of extending the conversations. Yammer is something that I have not used but the scenario described sounds like an excellent approach.

One suggestion for this post - it would be good to have hyperlinks to websites for the tools, and also to websites for the schools mentioned.


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