Clearing Things Up With the Cloud
The team leader taps away furiously at her computer. “I know we decided this last spring in our release day. Don’t you remember?” Her teammates watch with a variety of expressions as the harried leader searches for the decision. Time slips by—30 seconds, then a minute.
Finally, out of the polite sidetalk and sudden influx of email checking, a team member says, “Jean, I’ve been talking with Ted here, and we both agree that we said we would use the old version of the assessment until after we analyzed the data again this year.”
As the room slides into debate over the accuracy of this memory, I can see that the best intentions of this team leader facing a familiar hurdle to PLC implementation: if experience shapes attitudes, how can teachers experience quicker and more visible success—and thereby speed up the buy-in process?
In the oncoming age of the cloud and Google Drive, teams are virtually compelled to use the technological tools that reinforce all that we aspire to in a PLC. To not guide them is to obscure the hard-won progress of the teacher teams in your school.
How do cloud tools reinforce and honor our work? Quite simply, they support sustained focus on the four critical questions of a PLC, and unlike misplaced or ignored binders or paper handouts from a team leader, their availability to team leaders means that they mingle into team culture. Consequently, the deliberations, professional learning, and commitments they represent are constantly present. I cannot overemphasize the benefit that comes from showing that “in our PLCs, decisions stay made and make a difference.”
In the Stevenson High School Communication Arts Division, we use Google Drive products to create a folder containing a common set of curriculum unit templates, minutes, and common resources for each course. Every teacher has access to these units and, more importantly, the teams record decisions in real time during meetings (through our “template editor” team position). These backward-designed templates make accessible our commonly agreed upon targets, assessments, and practices for teaching and RTI.
While these curricular ideas are nothing new, the technology enables our team leaders to facilitate key conversations with the click of a link. Imagine a team meeting where an agenda, preferably projected to focus the team’s attention, is before a horseshoe of teachers who are all simultaneously active in the living curricular commitments of a team.
The leader, eschewing paper handouts, has a standard series of links permanently atop the year’s running minutes: the curriculum unit templates, the team norms, the team SMART goal, a “tabled items” list kept on another Google document, and a set of desired data analysis protocols. In the past, this library of information was unavailable to a team that did not reliably schlep around reams of paper and, too often, resisters or skeptics push a team to unnecessarily revisit previous consensus and commitments.
Yet, no longer are electronic versions of an assessment emailed to team members to multiply. No longer must team members squander team time by proclaiming, “I’ll just run back to my room to grab that.” No longer is the organization needed for a team reliant on the “human file cabinet” as team leader. And, no longer do teams that met two weeks ago spend 20 minutes preparing to resume their agendas! When the cloud focuses every team member on instantly updated and distributed key agreements of practice and closes the time lag between planning and implementing responses to student learning, PLC team members see the fruit of their labors as increasingly powerful and dynamic for kids.
And they are right.