Tuesday, July 29, 2014

My First PLN - Sending Gratitude

Tomorrow my son and I leave for our yearly trek to Lake Almanor, CA.  For my son Skyler it is a non-stop play fest with seven of his best buddies, they ride bikes, scooters, play in the lake, build sand castles, run, jump, laugh, repeat...  For me, I get to meet with my first PLN - 5 friends/teachers (now moms) who once worked together (over 11 year ago) in a small northern California school district.  We carpooled together, student taught together, attended conferences together, attended or were in each others weddings, got pregnant together, lost pregnancies together, went through divorces together, have always been there for each other.  Now, we make sure that once a year we get ourselves and our children together.

Because we are passionate educators we do spend a lot of time talking shop, we need to catch up on each others "school year" and then share resources, reflect on our practices, discuss our various school situations and problem solve together.  It is a face to face professional learning network.  We know that when we are together and pouring out our educator souls, it is possible that we get the "bullshit" card thrown out for a reality check and we embrace and welcome that.  Although we only see each other once a year, it is like we see each other frequently and we are transported back to the time when we all worked, taught, and learned together.  I am privileged to spend a week of my year with these incredible educators, moms, and women.

So, with our impending gathering, I have been thinking of an interesting pondering... what are the key educational resources and/or innovations I HAVE TO share with my girlies?  It is a daunting question (and I would love input on this!)  So, I began thinking, if I were giving them a short list of resources what would I share?

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Cooperation vs. Collaboration Is There a Difference?

I chose this picture for this post (thank you Krissy Venosdale for your incredible poster stream) because it has the word Collaboration. I also like that the message is to share and I take that as sharing your Talents, Passions, Creativity and Innovations as an educator freely. This past week I attended a Gifted Learner Conference (coincidentally, Krissy is a gifted learner expert) and we discussed the differences between Collaboration and Cooperation. Interestingly, I had not pondered the unique differences between these two words.

Please bear with me as I publicly work through my understanding (or lack there of).

Collaboration (Based on Dr. Sandra Kaplan's definition):
  • Collaboration is based on the strengths or talents of individual group members
  • Each member has a unique skill, talent, strength, or expertise he or she brings to the problem or session
  • Participation can be passive or active and participants may be generalists or specialists depending on the situation and the needed talent or expertise
  • Team members are chosen thoughtfully based on their needed contribution to the group
  • An example would be a district textbook adoption committee which is a group of carefully chosen educators with specific skills and expertise (you want to be picky about who you choose so that you have a mix of talents and/or expertise)
  • You are solving a problem or building or creating or designing
District and/or School Site Talent Teams (I don't have a better name right now):
  • I see these groups as collaborative in nature because they are formed to solve problems, design, build, create - in other words: be the innovators of the district
  • We have a District Instructional Leadership Team (DILT) in which members are carefully picked for their strengths and expertise.  This team is expected to create, innovate and share with others.  These folks are the visionary educators of the district
A pre-requisite for any "Talent Team" whether it be a group of students, teachers, or administrators is finding the individual strengths and talents of each individual.  This takes time and effort and is absolutely necessary if you want creativity and innovation to drive change in your classroom, school or district.

Cooperation (based on what I was taught from the Cooperative Learning Gurus - The Johnson Brothers:
  • Cooperation is based on "inter-dependency" all group members must count on or depend on every other group member for success
  • Each member has a defined job and the jobs are periodically rotated so that each person experiences each job
  • The jobs are practiced and understood by all students (adult or child)
  • Job assignments are not related to the strengths of the individual group members.
  • An example would be a grade level or department team made up of a group of teachers at a site or district level coming together to meet and discuss student learning (the group members are pre-determined by what grade level and subject matter they teach)
  • You are completing a needed task or assignment
Professional Learning Communities - PLC Mondays - (PLC's that meet weekly in grade level or department groups):
  • I see these groups as Cooperative in nature.  They are getting together to create common assessments, collect and discuss data based on student performance on the assessments, and plan instruction and intervention based on the collected data.  Because of the time frame (one hour each week) 
    • Inter-dependency and specific jobs will allow for optimal use of time
    • Each member contributes equally based on his/her assigned job
    • Jobs are switched so that group members experience each job
    • A specific agenda with guiding questions is followed so that group members come prepared and ready to discuss their students' performance or to contribute to the formation of common assessments
    • Because of the time constraints, the groups must be focused on how students are performing in their classes and who to provide interventions or extensions to when differentiating the curricula
    • PLC time is short and must be productive
As I stated earlier, this post is a result of unleashing the contents of my brain as I reflect on new learning and perspectives on Collaboration and Cooperation.  This reflection will lead to more ponderings as I battle and struggle to make sense of this.  

One connection I have made is to Google and Google Teacher Academy.  I have a friend who works at Google as a software designer.  The biggest frustration my friend had when starting work for Google was that after each project was completed the groups would be changed.  As a computer nerd who struggled with new group dynamics, this was a frustrating part of working for Google.  However, as I see it, Google constantly creates "Talent Teams" which emphasize individual strengths and expertise leading to superior products.  Google Teacher Academy participants are chosen the same way.  They are looking for a "Talent Team" of educators with a mix of strengths and expertise to build the strongest cohort possible.  So, those of us who are not chosen do not "fit" with the team YET...