Organization & Workflows

Digital Collaboration with Co-workers

I’m fairly certain that by now most people can agree that Google Apps are some of the best collaboration tools out there so I won’t waste words making that argument. I would, however, like to share how my content area partner and I have streamlined our use of google Docs into the perfect co-planning tool.

First, let me give you a bit of background on the structure of our school which has made Google Docs our lifesaver. We have PLCs but not in the traditional sense. Instead of having common prep time with our content area team we share a prep with an interdisciplinary team of three teachers. In my case (10th grade), I share my prep with a humanities teacher and an art/design teacher. The three of us have the same 100 students and this structure allows us to better meet the needs of individuals as well as create interdisciplinary projects and learning experiences. I wouldn’t trade this arrangement for the world but it does make content area planning a challenge due to lack of prep time.

Here’s where Google Docs comes into play. My content area partner, RB, and I live and die by Google Apps. First of all, we create everything in Google Drive for easy sharing and editing. Each unit of study has a master planning document which gives an overview of the units and standards, outlines each day with learning objectives,activities, and assessments, and links all resources needed for each lesson (worksheets, videos, whatever). The unit plan is our go to not only for planning, but also for communication. Here’s how we work:

  1. Before each new unit, RB and I carve out about an hour after school to hammer out a rough outline of the unit story, learning goals, assessment, and pacing. We then use the comments feature to assign tasks to each teacher to flesh out the details and create the necessary documents, find resources, etc.
  2. RB and I go our separate ways with our task list. As we finish things we resolve the comments with our assigned tasks, type up the lessons, and link the resources or documents as needed to the master unit plan document.
  3. When we teach the unit, we refer back to the unit plan to access the necessary worksheets, readings, activities, Kahoots, and whatever else we need for each day. If something worked really well or went really horribly or we have a new thought or idea we will add a comment to the document.

The benefits of this system:

  1. It keeps all our documents organized. In all honesty my google drive is an overwhelming mess. The unit plan documents help us get to the right documents as well as bookmark great resources and share links to things outside of the Google suite.
  2. Both of our workloads are cut in half because we are sharing planning and creation duties. Fortunately RB and I have nearly identical teaching styles so we are easily able to share EVERYTHING.
  3. It reduces the time needed for face to face meetings. Once we have met and agreed on a vision for the unit, we don’t have to try to juggle our schedules to have regular planning meetings which is a saving grace. Don’t get me wrong, nothing really replaces face to face time, but without a common prep, ┬ákids and doctors appointments make that nearly impossible for us. Google Docs makes it so we an work together asynchronously and keep pace with each other. We still check I with each other for about 10 minutes each day (our classrooms are connected after all).

Here’s as screenshot of our current draft unit plan so you can gets rough idea of what we do.