Modeling Collaboration and Communication Global Competencies as Administrators
The opportunities afforded by digital technologies to increase communication, collaboration, and productivity are limitless. Allowing yourself to push past the anxiety of new technologies, diving into uncharted waters will be well worth the effort! In fact, it is a necessary step if we wish to realize the potential of our staffs and students. Our efforts to model new apps and platforms and to show vulnerability will allow for a growth mindset for our teams.
In the Ministry’s foundation document “Towards Defining 21st Century Competencies for Ontario” (2016) It is preferred that: “ Digital tools and resources represent a new realm of communications interaction in which the ability to navigate successfully is essential for success in the 21st century” (p. 12). On Collaboration: “New skills and knowledge are necessary to enable team members to collaborate digitally and contribute to the collective knowledge base” (p 13). This is supported globally through the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) that, at the very least, students should be able to “…communicate clearly and express themselves creatively for a variety of purposes using the platforms, tools, styles, formats and digital media appropriate to their goals.” As well, students ought to be able to “…use digital tools to broaden their perspectives and enrich their learning by collaborating with others and working effectively in teams locally and globally.” If this is what we believe is going to prepare students across all pathways when they leave us, then modeling these digital technologies ought to be part of our workflow.
Here are a few ideas for which I challenge you to try and implement. First, stop working so hard on your newsletter. Instead, turn it into a collaborative document. Invite staff and students to input articles and photos directly onto a shared google doc. Ask yourself who the newsletter is for? Is it simply adults writing the newsletter for adults or is it for the students as well. If it is the entire community, then invite all stakeholders to contribute. As a bonus, they will be impressed that you valued and noticed their work! Share the newsletter via your board communication vehicles but also, tweet the link to the document. Add a google form link to your newsletter asking for input regarding the newsletter or other school issues. (Hint: use the notification settings to alert your email each time there is a response.)
Second, turn your school into a Twitter team. Are you the only one tweeting? If so, take some time in a staff meeting to ask your staff to sign up and follow the school account. Follow them back and retweet the good news! Our student council also tweets and often their tweets are the most interesting! The Twitter pics are a great source of images to clip for your newsletter. Any snipping tool app will work. If you are inviting input, don’t forget to create a #hashtag. Re-read your last year’s Tweets. Does it tell your story?
Another good is idea is to make all of your agendas collaborative docs. Staff, Leadership team , School Council, or committee meetings should all invite collaboration. This will give a voice to stakeholders and will save you time. There are some great google doc agenda templates out there that will simplify this for you.
When creating your school improvement plan, try using collaborative docs. I have used Google slides where I have given school data, student voice, questions to consider, and the previous year SIP on the first slides and then included blank slides for the staff to populate on literacy, numeracy, community partnerships, staff and student wellness, and faith action. In the end, the School Improvement Plan is a truly agreed upon and co-constructed covenant.
In staff meetings and community events, set up a Padlet or Todays Meet in order to capture the more quiet voices on staff. Whether they provide rich input or not, they will appreciate that you care to hear their voice. Finally, don’t disregard email with your students. In my previous school, we had a new student from Syria. She had no English or written Arabic skills and no knowledge of the cultural norms of Canadian students. I sent a direct email to all of our students asking if “anyone out there spoke Arabic and was willing to help out a new student.” Within five minutes I had over ten students answer offering help. Some even indicated they didn’t speak Arabic but offered to help anyway!
So what is next? For us, Instagram. Students will tell you that their parents use Facebook, Twitter, and email, but students use Instagram. Using an aggregator app like Hootsuite will allow you to take one message and send it to all of your communication apps. Be bold and have fun with this! With each skill and tool you add to your skill set, you will model the communication and collaboration that exists beyond school. What you don’t know can be learned using short video tutorials easily accessible with a quick Google or Youtube search. Or…ask a student to help you! I guarantee they won’t say no, they will be proud of themselves, and you will have modeled a true and vulnerable learning stance.
St. Mother Teresa Catholic High School, OCSB
N.a. “.” Edugains.ca. 29 Mar. 2016. Web. <http://www.edugains.ca/resources21CL/About21stCentury/21CL_21stCenturyCompetencies.pdf>
N.a. “ISTE | Standards For Students.” Iste.org. n.d. Web. https://www.iste.org/standards/for-students>