Toward Civic Collaboration

Faculty meeting today at 4pm… we’re presenting… topic is collaboration… it’s 9:30am, and the topic is rumbling around in my head…

I’m drawn to the notion that effective collaboration among teachers serves students and student learning most effectively. An essential question, then, could be “What does effective collaboration among teachers look like?”

I like to think that Clay Shirky has developed part of the answer. In his June 2010 TEDTalk entitled “How Cognitive Surplus will Change the World” Shirky describes ways that web2.0 technologies enable extraordinary, potentially game-changing loose ­collaboration among people during their free time.

What’s may be interesting for our discussion about effective collaboration is Shirky’s thinking about ‘the big jump’ – from not collaborating using the new tools to collaborating in some way. Whether it’s using Twitter or blogging or publishing the work of students, I’ve found those first steps toward collaboration in some way to be the most difficult ones to take, too. Maybe we’re asking the wrong essential question, then: “How can we encourage teachers to experiement with new tools to collaborate?”  might be the crucial step in a process that yields effective collaboration.

I take comfort in another of Shirky’s conclusions – the notion that, once we’ve begun experimenting with collaboration using web2.0 tools, moving toward civic collaboration (ie, collaboration for the good of the community) becomes significantly easier.

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About Dr. Ostroff

Head of Upper School at The Emery/Weiner School in Houston, TX
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