Our district recently set up Google+ Communities for our staff. Currently we have two communities set up, one for our PreK through 5th grade staff, and another for our 6th grade through high school staff.
Why did we do this? Well, for a lot of reasons:
- Creating a district culture. There are four buildings in our district – one for PreK-2, one for 3-5, one for 6-8, and one for 9-12. Even though the buildings are all geographically close (two of them are even connected), ideologically, culturally, and pedagogically, they are sometimes worlds apart. Creating online communities that combine buildings is an attempt to bring those worlds a little closer together, with staff interacting in an asynchronously so there is no need to carve out time during the school day for that interaction to happen.
- Magnifying the positive. One of my goals is to take the positive that is already there and magnify it, letting it run rampant and causing good wherever it goes. What better way to do that than creating a space where teachers can share all the good stuff they do in their own classrooms?
- Making professional growth the norm. Along with all that sharing of goodness, Google+ communities within an educational G Suite domain are a private space where teachers can have conversations about what they do in their classrooms and why they do it, providing and/or sparking ideas among all staff. While developing a PLN of educators around the world is always a fantastic idea, sometimes the best ideas for helping a teacher grow in their practice are locate right next door to their own classroom.
- Building relationships in an online space. These G+ Communities allow teachers, principals, and district administrators to engage in dialogue that normally might not happen. I know I always have every intention of getting out and about into classrooms, but then end up getting pulled back into my office because of some situation that arises. However, if I’m in front of my computer, I can interact with teachers and other administrators that are posting at any time. I’m not saying this is a replacement for face-to-face interaction, but I feel it can offer another avenue to build relationships when time is always in short supply.
- Modeling technology expectations. Everyone is responsible for growing, and I believe it’s a responsibility of administration to model how to do that. That means participating in these G+ Communities is a chance for administrators to model what growth in this day and age looks like, posting and discussing and growing out in the digital open.
While the expectation is that all teachers join one of our two communities, there is no expectation to post. If some feel comfortable posting, fantastic. If others just want to lurk and get good ideas from their colleagues, that’s great too. Whatever use they get out of it will be a good one, as long as everyone is growing together.
Because that’s how good district become great – they never ever settle, and never stop growing.