Wednesday, October 19, 2011


(photo by wonderferret on Flickr - cc license)

Collaboration. That's kind of the goal right? We want to collaborate with teachers on great projects on any number of subjects. We want to collaborate with our students as they create interesting work products. We want to collaborate with each other on what technologies are working, what isn't and how we can best help our students and teachers get the most out of the library. That's something we've been told from day one. Which is pretty awesome. We are (hopefully) going to walk out the door ready to be collaboration experts, armed with an arsenal of cool, innovative and exciting technologies that can get it all done. Yes, it is definitely awesome. You know what else it is? Overwhelming. Not even looking at the personal side of it (i.e. how do we get them to want to work with us?) it's easy to go a little cross-eyed at the sheer number of resources there are out there for collaboration. 

Many schools have blackboard, which has collaboration functions that can be used by classes. For one fieldwork project I did I used blackboard to set up a library book club, we had discussions, could watch book trailers and even created a group document of questions to ask the authors (including one we ended up skyping with). All the new technology is awesome, but sometimes it's good to start with the familiar and then begin introducing new programs and technologies as teachers and students become more comfortable. 

Other technologies are also making their way into the school. Wikis, Blogs, LiveBinder, GoogleDocs, Edmodo, Cover it Live and Google+ can all be used effectively as collaboration tools. Even social networking tools like Facebook and Twitter can be implemented in different ways depending on the project. For me, I like the idea of a blog (no one should really be surprised at that answer) because from the blog you can build on so many different things. 

For example here are some ideas of ways to collaborate:
  • Create a student submission page that would highlight students works including art, writing and even tutorials and videos that the students make. 
  • Have a place for students and teachers to share book recommendations and reviews.
  • Create a discussion/forums page where discussions can take place about projects and assignments. You can make these require a log in (so you can only view your class) or keep them open for discussions on things like a book club or upcoming events.
  • Embed Twitter and Facebook feeds so that you can see a running discussion about not only things that are new to the library, but also about programs and other school events and news. 
  • Have a live calendar for teachers to use to not only see the libraries upcoming schedule, but to also sign up for library time for their class. 
  • Using Cover-it-Live (a site I love and use all the time) you can embed live chats. These can be used for classroom chats about projects, chats with teachers about upcoming projects or events and even to chat with authors as part of a library event or book club. 

Moving away from the blog- using tools like Twitter, Facebook and Google+ to collaborate is also a great way to connect with different groups or people, from students to teachers to parents. 

So with all these great ways to collaborate, where is the downside? In my opinion the fact that there are so many ways is the downside. As I noted, it can be overwhelming, and in our rush to try out what it new and cool, we need to be careful we don't overwhelm our teachers or students. For instance, in this class I've looked at what seems like a huge number of technologies and resources. I'm signing up for accounts left and right and trying to keep track of what seems like it will be most useful in the future. Which is all okay, because pretty soon it's going to be my job to know all these technologies and pass that knowledge on. (Want a little taste of what's out there? Check out this list from Cool Tools for School) As a librarian I think part of our job will be to look at what the teacher is hoping to accomplish, what level the students are at in terms of technology, and then look into our bag  of tricks and make a suggestion of what we think will work best for each circumstance. What we don't want to do is say "Oh, we could use google docs or maybe google+  would be better, or instead we could try to just use blackboard. Oh and have your tried doing a wiki? Maybe that would be best..." and so on. We want to help, not overwhelm. 

So, in short, collaboration is great. The number of choices we have out there to aid us in these collaborative projects is great. We need to give everything a test run, see what we like, see what will work best for our school, our teachers and our students and get to work creating great, innovating and effective projects!


  1. Love the graphic! Great job of putting all things collaborative into perspective. I wholeheartedly agree that once we've given some of these tools a whirl for our own research purposes, then we hone in on the one that makes sense for a particular project and NOT overwhelm the other collaborators. Thanks for such a thoughtful post here.

  2. To jump on what Marilyn said, I find it much easier to start with the project/lesson, then look through that bag of tricks to find the perfect tool to boost that project to a new level. I have tried to start lesson plans with, "hey, I want to use VoiceThread" then backtracking to what can I teach with that tool - does not work for me!

  3. Amen Sister! This was a very thoughtful post Kate and I agree wholeheartedly! It's good to know about and familiarize yourself with the tools and technology out there, but at some point we just need to say "STOP," what is the best tool for me, or, what is the best tool for the student, teacher, etc. Although I haven't gone crazy with it, I enjoy posting on my blog, finding it to be much like our discussion boards (just need more people to jump on board so to say). However, I'll be honest in saying that I am not a fan of Twitter. Another teacher may prefer wikis to using Google Docs, etc., so it's important for everyone to keep an open mind and communicate with those we hope to collaborate with.

  4. I love collaboration! It is how I plan my day...what teacher can I work with now. Or as I learn stuff I ask myself who can use this information. Sometimes its not just a "thing" but a website I found that might help students understand a future project that I can tell the teacher...hey I found this cool site that has good information on it and your students might benefit from it, look it over and I will post it to your links. It just further increases their dependency of me which in the end makes me invaluable and they can't live without me, and will fight the school board for me when they try to cut my job.

  5. That's a great point! It doesn't necessarily have to be some big project- collaborating simply by sharing knowledge is probably the most important thing we do.