It's the new catch phrase of the 21st Century, and for sure of this decade, and no wonder. Everyone is talking about Collaboration.
School districts and jurisdictions are promoting it through Professional Learning Communities, teachers are clamouring for it to lessen the load of prep time and teaching demands, and IT and ET are so short staffed and over-whelmed, they too need to share resources and knowledge.
And then there's the provincial level (Alberta) that is looking for ways to improve the Technology Platform for Learning (TPL), which includes everything from student owned devices, to band width and collaboration through the School Technology Sector.
But what does this all mean? I have often, mistakenly, considered that collaboration means to share and retrieve. To have a common site, or activity, where those who are like minded post and receive. But this is far from the truth. At a recent meeting of the TPL, I was challenged to think of collaboration as a combined effort, not merely people moving along parallel paths. It consists of individuals getting together to develop a communal outcome. 'More brains are better than one' is definitely the control feature when collaboration is working at its best. And, needless to say, collaboration takes time.
We all struggle with time, and since I am back in the classroom this year, I can definitely say that I understand what it is like to attempt to integrate technology into my instruction, pursue and obtain professional development on all aspects of curriculum and technology, and still have a life outside of my vocation. But just like we need to think about our retirement (financial, not leisure), we need to consider collaboration an investment of time and resources for a exponential dividend down the road. And selflessly, too. Collaboration that involves us will provide a payment, of sorts, but that payment might be more beneficial for future generations of teachers than for myself.
There is a movement afoot. As mentioned, the TPL is looking at this issue. The Alberta Technology Leaders in Education (ATLE) is examining means and ways to facilitate collaboration (more on this to come in a future post), and the Moodle users in Alberta are getting together soon to discuss how they can share information, and I'd like to see it go beyond this to 'collaborate' on producing synchronous and asynchronous courses that could be shared province wide.
There are conferences and professional development opportunities as well. The Capital Region Society for Technology in Education is holding a FREE conference Oct. 16 - 24, 2010, to promote collaboration.
So what's it going to take? You. Me. And, a handful of others willing to put our own initiatives aside for the common good. In the end, I expect I'll be richer for the experience, and ultimately, so will my students.