Real PLCs Use Slack
Does your professional learning community perform more like an oligarchy than a democracy? Do you feel that there is always some important school news that you forget to share because there are not enough hours in the day? Do you wish that you could be a fly on the wall for some conversations just to improve your own classroom? Did you read a great article five months ago that you wanted to share and now you cannot relocate the article? What was it that the curriculum coordinator said six weeks ago would really help student performance? Do you have to walk across the building to talk to two of the members of your department? Do you wish you could find the website that was shared at a PD last summer?
If you answered yes to any (or all!) of the questions above, Slack might be a great tool for your school. Slack allows you to communicate with your Professional Learning Community and allows everyone access to the information. In it’s most basic form, think of Slack as a group message that is saved by all members and searchable. Slack can help your PLC communicate, implement PD, and help new teachers succeed.
In theory, a Professional Learning Community is better than a department because they communicate regularly to improve student learning and to grow professionally. It’s that simple. What would a real PLC look like using Slack to facilitate everyone’s professional growth and continuous progress for all students?
When I was teaching, most of the math department had neighboring classrooms. Because our rooms were right beside each other, we greeted each other in the mornings and shared our lesson plans for the day informally. This meeting would like a lot like the Daily Stand Up or Daily Scrum in a business setting. But it wasn’t perfect. Two members of our department had classrooms across the building so they weren’t really a part of the group. Also, if someone had to be out of the building for Professional Development or Pneumonia (because none of us were going to miss for anything less), they missed out, too. With Slack, everyone can be involved in daily communication whether they are present or not.
One of the other things my team did that worked okay was to divide up the various grants, regional professional development assemblies, district professional development meetings, conferences, data analysis workshops, and… Well, I think you get the idea. We all took turns attending events then shared the learning with our team members. With Slack, the PLC representative attending the event could share research or resources with everyone while attending the PD event.
Sharing using Slack also means that if a new teacher starts at Christmas, that person can access materials previously shared by the team. Slack is searchable and stores previous conversations. New teachers can use Slack as a tool to really become part of the school and learning community.
Effective Professional Development
Teachers participate in lots of great professional learning throughout their careers. Teachers aspire to improve their craft and to become life long learners. We hope to develop a growth mindset for ourselves and our students. Essentially, we need to become aware of new ideas and have time and feedback in order to develop and grow these ideas. Sometimes professional development is still delivered to teachers via the sit and get model. Of course, we all know this model doesn’t work for students and the professional development is often to introduce new ways of engaging learners. What if professional development also modeled the classrooms we want for students? Slack might help with this endeavor.
In Slack, you can be part of multiple conversations or groups. Imagine that before school started, the teacher received an online pre-assessment to help determine the his or her professional learning for the school year. Groups of teachers could be added to various Slack groups for professional development goals. PD Coordinators could use the pre-assessment data to share articles and ask questions to create a learning community. As the teacher members began to learn about the topic, they could share with each other, too. Teachers could begin to implement ideas while communicating with a team with similar goals. Teachers could give each other feedback and use slack to facilitate the growing with a supportive community of other teachers. When teachers are learning and growing together, students are also going to be learning and growing together, too.
New Teacher Success
Navigating a new school is not easy for new teachers. Developing rapport is difficult when you have to plan lessons, grade, spend planning periods in meetings, attend professional development, work concessions at ball games, pre-conference and post conference for 52 observations (slight exaggeration), cover for absent teachers because there are no subs available that day, plan a field trip, and do all the other tasks required of teachers. Using Slack, a new teacher can integrate while doing all of the aforementioned tasks. A new teacher can communicate with seasoned teachers about curriculum and management as well as searching for resources that his colleagues have used in the past.
Did I mention that Slack integrates with Dropbox, Google, Asana, and lots of other great tools? Collaboration among teachers means a better experience for students. Over time, collaboration also means helping teachers grow instead of letting them wither in a job that is, sometimes, overwhelming. Collaboration and belonging lead to job satisfaction which ultimately leads to better classrooms for kids. Slack is a great tool for schools.