New technology, apps, and websites pop up daily, especially in the education space, but only a few of these innovations have transformed the way I teach. The website that has had the greatest impact on my teaching and professional learning is Google Drive. While many teachers might use this site in their personal lives, not enough have used it professionally, especially to collaborate with colleagues. Google Drive has transformed the way I teach and the way students learn in my classroom. This summer, I found a new reason to love Google Drive: it dramatically enhanced my ability to collaborate with other teachers both near and far.
Planning Professional Development
One way Google Drive has enhanced collaboration with my teaching colleagues is in enhancing our ability to plan professional development. Earlier this summer, I worked with our district’s teacher leaders in literacy to plan a professional development day for our district around the common core standards. We brainstormed different content we needed to cover and activities we could do while one teacher took notes in Google Docs. After we had agreed on all the parts of the agenda, we broke off into partnerships and each pair planned part of the day. As they planned, they added their ideas to the Google Doc, and in one hour, we had the day planned! Aside from helping us work more efficiently, it was helpful to see what others were adding to the plan in real-time, so each activity would fit well with other parts of the day. Using Google Docs made it so easy to work collaboratively and modify our professional development day plan and share it with our administrators for feedback.
Collaborating on Unit and Lesson Plans
Google Drive has also been helpful in collaboratively planning units and lessons. This past week, I helped to lead a group of teachers from another district as they engaged in unit and lesson design for reading and writing workshop. As we started the process of backwards mapping our unit with standards and student outcomes, bends, and lesson ideas, we realized it would be more efficient if we used a shared unit plan in Google Drive and modified it together. Teachers were able to take the basic outline for the unit and flesh it out with their grade level team, each teacher sharing the “pen,” revising the lesson’s teaching point simultaneously to get the word choice just right. We also used Google Drive to collaboratively write mini lessons for that unit. Instead of each teacher writing all the lessons independently, each partnership made a copy of a mini lesson template and wrote up different lesson. Within an hour, we had most of the unit’s lessons drafted because we had collaborated. The added bonus was that each teacher could continue to edit each other’s lessons and unit throughout the year and all the collaborators would have a copy of the changes without needing to open an email or download a file!
Pooling Our Resources Across the Country
Finally, Google Drive has enhanced my ability to collaborate with teachers from around the globe. After returning from TCRWP’s Writing Institute in June, I wanted to find a way to share my notes with teachers who had attended and other teachers who were not able to go this year. I struggled to find a way to do this until I came across an “idea board” from Nerd Camp 2013 on Twitter. I shared the idea of creating an “idea map” for the Teacher’s College Institutes with Ryan Scala (@rscalateach) and Fran McVeigh (@franmcveigh) who had also attended the summer institutes. Within 15 minutes we had some of our notes from several days linked on a map that we had designed together. Then we posted the link on Twitter and other TCRWP participants added their notes too. One teacher, Stephanie Hardinger (@mshardinger), even created her own set of comprehensive notes organized by topic instead of time. This collaboration was exhilarating. Ryan, Fran, Steph and I were all in different places–New York, Iowa, Minnesota, and California–yet we were all able to create a pretty cool collaborative product without meeting face-to-face and now we can easily share our idea map with others. Here is a link to our idea map!
These are just a few ways that Google Drive has enhanced my professional collaboration with other teachers. Do you love Google Drive too? What are some of your favorite ways to collaborate using this awesome site?