Technology as a Catalyst for Collaboration
I often hear new (and sometimes veteran) media specialists ask how they can increase collaboration with teachers. I think most would agree there is not one simple answer, but I have used technology as a catalyst for collaboration this year with great results.
Laptop batteries unable to hold a charge started this whole scenario at my school. Our student laptops are about five years old and no longer hold a charge for more than about half an hour. Without the funding to purchase new laptop batteries, many of the media specialists in my district have resorted to purchasing surge protectors with many outlets that allow the laptops to be plugged in.
Before trying this new setup in a classroom, I decided to test it in the media center. I had a teacher scheduled for the laptop cart already and asked her if she could have the students meet in the media center with us working collaboratively to complete the project. She agreed, so I set up all 16 laptops on 4 tables in a line with the surge protector down the center of the tables. With all the power cords down the center, the result was two rows of 8 laptops.
Before we even started the lesson, I had teachers walking through the media center asking what was going on, was I setting up a computer lab, etc. I explained that I was setting up for a collaborative lesson which led into a brief explanation of the lesson itself. A few teachers commented that they wanted to bring their students down to use the setup. I encouraged them to contact me with their idea for a lesson and we could collaboratively plan.
The first lesson went really smoothly. By having the laptops in the media center, I was able to multi-task during the lesson helping students, pulling book resources, and directing students to reference books. Students were able to either work on a laptop or work at a table away from the group giving everyone ample space. Since this first lesson, I have offered this setup to many teachers scheduling more collaborative lessons than I would have otherwise.
The same idea can be used with other technologies to educate teachers about the technology while increasing the amount of collaboration at your school. One of our newest technologies that I plan to use in collaboration with teachers is an answer response system. The teacher can set up a PowerPoint slideshow that includes questions that students respond to either anonymously or as individuals being tracked in a spreadsheet. While some teachers have checked out this system and used it successfully, others are reluctant giving me an opportunity to offer a collaborative lesson with me to help them learn how to use the kit.
If your school has minimal technology funding, consider purchasing a few technologies that can be used during collaborative lessons requiring teachers work with you to use the technologies. Not only will this increase your collaboration, but it will allow you to identify the technologies teachers want more of, give you a chance to learn to use the technologies, and help you show department chairpersons what technologies they could purchase for their teachers.
Media Specialist, Mundy’s Mill Middle School, Clayton County, Georgia