Ask any teacher to name the most important aspect of professional development, and you’re likely to hear it is collaboration, hands down. Yet with everything teachers must do, collaborating with one another is often the last thing they can do.
That’s where Collaboration in Common (CiC) just might make a difference. The new online resource exchange promises to connect educators across the state to the best resource available to them: other educators.
Early reviews from educators indicate it may be exactly what is needed.
Kathleen Pickens, a fifth-grade teacher and a teacher-leader in CTA’s Instructional Leadership Corps (ILC), had the opportunity to beta test the platform in the spring and plans to continue using it in the future. Collaboration in Common has enabled her to join different groups online, collaborate with other teachers in Region II by subject matter, post resources, find lesson plans, discuss problems, organize documents, and even highlight and annotate articles.
“The interface is really friendly and a lot easier to use than other online platforms,” says Pickens, Fresno Teachers Association. “I’ve enjoyed a lot of the articles that members post, and I’m also using the site to access important documents and information that I need with regard to the work of the ILC. This platform is the only way we communicate, since we are scattered all throughout the state.”
Maybe that’s because teachers themselves contributed to the creation of Collaboration in Common. One of those teachers was Pickens’ colleague, Adam Ebrahim, a longtime high school teacher. As a former vice president of FTA, Ebrahim recognized the role CTA plays in helping its members become better educators. He has since left his teaching position to become director of implementation for CiC.
“One of my hopes is that local associations will use it to help their members connect on instructional issues,” he says. “CTA has always connected with its members to improve working conditions and wages, but it is increasingly supporting their professional development.”
“We didn’t want just another place to park resources and lesson plans. We wanted to give an equal or greater emphasis to networking and social media — to offer a place where a teacher could connect with another educator struggling with the same thing, or where they can post their own resources.”
— Adam Ebrahim, Collaboration in Common
Ebrahim says 2,000 educators signed up in the early phase, and he hopes to have 50,000 users by the end of the year.
Collaboration in Common is itself a public-private partnership of the California Department of Education, Californians Dedicated to Education Foundation, Palo Alto-based educational software firm Declara, and of course, educators.
The effort is well timed to assist educators as they continue to implement the new standards. In fact, the introduction of the new standards with a shortage of resources to support them is what instigated the project.
“We felt there weren’t resources available that were aligned with the Common Core State Standards. After looking at creating a repository of information, we decided what was really needed was educators connecting with other educators,” says Shelly Masur, CEO of Californians Dedicated to Education Foundation, a nonprofit organization spearheaded by state Superintendent Tom Torlakson to support innovative programs.
Collaboration in Common also builds upon the California Department of Education’s participation in the federal #GoOpen campaign, which encourages states and school districts to share free educational resources and materials.
“We didn’t want just another place to park resources and lesson plans,” Ebrahim says. “We wanted to give an equal or greater emphasis to networking and social media — to offer a place where a teacher could connect with another educator struggling with the same thing, or where they can post their own resources. Collaboration in Common is really by and for practitioners working within districts, local associations, their subjects and their schools.”
Ebrahim foresees educators in rural school districts especially making use of Collaboration in Common. With so many school districts spread across the state, it’s often difficult for educators to meet in person, he observes. Schools in El Dorado County, for example, are already using it to connect their teachers with one another, while the Exploratorium has introduced CiC to assist educators in meeting the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).
In addition, Ebrahim says, CiC is sharing resources with other states through a national learning registry and would welcome broader adoption.
Of course, as with every educational innovation, the challenge will be for teachers to actually start using Collaboration in Common.
“We know that the one critical resource teachers are short on is time,” says Glen Price, chief deputy of the California Department of Education. “The idea here is that resources can be accessed rapidly, there is not a lot of intensive professional development needed, and eventually, it will fit into the workflows of our teachers.”
Check out and sign up for Collaboration in Common at collaborationincommon.org. @collabincommon