I have been playing in a new sandbox. I have been trying out our district’s SurreySchools.ca site (click on graphic to make it larger). This is a new Sharepoint platform that is designed to bring people in our organization together and create some efficiency around our work. School districts like West Vancouver, Vancouver, Coquitlam, and Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows all use this same platform, although I understand each district’s version is quite different.
People might not know but our platform went through a “silent” release last week (Oops~I don’t think I am supposed to share that publicly). That means all teachers and staff can now access their own internal web page. I had access earlier but hadn’t really taken time to “play” in the site. I decided, however, that if I was going to figure out the vision of this thing (connecting us as educators and providing us with a forum for collaboration) I better get in and make the vision happen. It seemed to me that the only way to really do that was to set up a “group” and invite some educators to play along with me. Here is how I am moving the sand around in this new box and what I am thinking as I explore it.
1. It’s all about connecting our learning.
For me, the group section of SurreySchools.ca is the most interesting feature; it holds both the promise and potential for deep learning by connecting educators. I started exploring by setting up a group for my f2f Network (see below). I chose to make this group closed so that no one else could see the site (or my mistakes!). I would prefer to “play” and experiment with a small group before I launch wider to ensure I design something that is useful for others.
I wrote a description for the group on the site itself. I added what I thought might be the most useful features. I posted a Special Announcement (Last session for the 2011/12 year), a regular Announcement (Don’t forget to pick up your book, The Connected Educator, before you leave our session), I listed emails for key contacts external to our group, and posted the invitation to our session as a Shared Document. That was just the front page that set the context for our group.
2. It’s all about sharing resources.
Have you ever scrambled at the last minute to find just the right video clip to kick off a discussion, presentation or staff meeting? This could be a solution. In the Resources Tab, I included description of its purpose: a place to find useful links, videos, quotes, etcetera so we might have a “toolkit” of resources at our fingertips. I started by posting the New Brunswick video on 21st Century Learning and the video on the Murmuration of Starlings. We used the latter to discuss our leadership and how when one of us moves it triggers others to move as well. There are more clips to be posted and I’m hoping others in the group will begin to add them as well.
3. It’s all about sharing the wisdom.
One of the purposes of this group was to keep me connected to the field. I wanted the ideas and needs of others to inform my work. We can now use the Discussion Board as a way to facilitate these conversations. In the Discussion tab, I included a description of its purpose. I posted my first question on the Discussion Board: How can we encourage the development of organic networks focused on learning? There may be more provocative questions but that one represents my current wondering. I believe in the power of networked educators and want to facilitate that across the district. We learn best when we are connected to others that have the same burning questions as us. I look forward to insights from my network.
4. It’s about playing.
As much as it might be about my work and my learning, it is also about “playing” in the sandbox with others as we explore the journey together. When one frames their “work” as “play,” it feels different. It can be more about bringing a playful attitude to the exercise, being more open to possibilities, less critical about what we don’t like or isn’t working, and a commitment to making it fun. For me, it is about finding joy in the work I do and appreciating the work of others in the same sandbox. I know I can be the first to see the glass half empty and therefore I have to choose my frame of reference. I articulate this carefully because I know I need to work hard at bringing this very attitude to everything I do.
I am curious to see how others in our organization will make this platform work for them and their own networks. I see a place for principals and vice-principals to do their planning in the sandbox. I see opportunity for teams across the district, whether engaged in The Numeracy Project or The Innovative Learning Designs (Phase 1 & 2) or something else, to connect. Grade 1 teachers across the district could link in here and share their lesson planning and ideas about improving student learning. Anyone engaged in collaborative inquiry can record their journey and make it a place for sharing their joint thinking about their purposes. There is great possibility in the dream. We can connect, we can collaborate and we can “play” in the sandbox together.
Are you ready for it?
SchoolSchools.ca is currently in “silent” release. The Go Live date for both external and internal users is August 20th.