Collaborating on Collaboration, Summer Plans, & all that jazz.

Collaborative Learning Retreat…the amount of knowledge I received has caused an evernote & blog post to honor the occasion) 
(The 3 main questions our retreat focused on) (via Alabama Best Practices Center! :o) <——- 
1. What do students need to know and be able to do to succeed in college/career?
2. What do teachers need to know and be able to do provide the learning expectations, opportunities, & experiences that will prepare students to succeed in college/career?
3. What can leaders do to create expectations & support to transform their schools into places that value both adult & student learning, where collaboration is the norm for both students & teachers, and where engaging in rigorous instruction occurs in every classroom? 


(some of the main questions since that I have been trying to figure out) 

What does collaboration mean to you? How do we create essential, effective collaboration in the classroom & PLCS? How do we ensure the collaboration is purposeful? 
Things I am working on this summer, post-retreat
-Effective PBL/ IBL projects 
*Powerful Learning- Linda Darling Hammond
-Guided Instruction 
*Better Learning- Fisher & Frey
-Purposeful Classroom Norms
*Focus- John Schmoker 
I am using evernote to work through all 3 of these texts in hopes of creating Guided Instruction lps, purposeful inquiry based projects, quality question sets, PLC topics, & PLC/Classroom Norms (which I hope are similar) 
…please respond with questions, comments and/or concerns πŸ™‚ I am hoping to do 3 different posts on each text and how they have shaped my classroom/plc approach for next year.…    <—— PLC topics Evernote Sharenote link 



14 thoughts on “Collaborating on Collaboration, Summer Plans, & all that jazz.

  1. Looks like your retreat resulted in some amazing work and ideas. Looking forward to your end result. Collaboration to me means open, constructive sharing and conversations. Using these conversations to develop, result in best practice ideas is what I crave, well that and the interactive process. Waiting in anticipation.

  2. Beth – First, this retreat looks like it was awesome. The photos you posted show evidence of a fascinating discussion! I have a feeling that what you guys did to create those graphics was something very close to collaboration. You had a shared goal. You guys wanted to define something by digging deeply into your own preconceptions and debating them. That’s where collaboration begins. But for a true collaborative experience to happen, I believe a shared goal must be achieved due to the efforts of all of those involved in the process. This is really tough. Those involved in collaborative efforts must understand (on some level) why they are needed in the process, they must be expected and counted on to contribute, they should want to do this, and they should be willing to step up or step back at any time. A collaborative effort doesn’t require that every person be a leader or have the same skills or expertise, but everyone must contribute toward achieving a shared goal. I believe teachers need a tremendous amount of practice with this. Collaboration isn’t always easy – especially for the "take charge" type of person reluctant to share responsibilities, etc. It is my view that a teacher must clearly understand the process of collaboration (learn by doing) to be able to effectively guide students in this process. This requires a great deal of reflection and discussion about the collaborative process. This dynamic process is complicated, which is why we love trying to get it right. It requires the use of all we know of ourselves to even have a shot at doing it right. Good luck with your efforts this year. Can’t wait to read more about it!

  3. Thank you so much for the response. A clear cut definition of what collaboration is & how specific the process & goal must be to be successful and purposeful is exactly what is needed to ensure that we all are on the same page, working towards the same goal, with the same expectations. I definitely need to work on sharing the work load as I always fall into the "take charge" role but I do think with the use of specific collaboration strategies, norms and goal setting this is something myself, classroom, & school can work towards. I am craving the benefits of successful collaboration, while slowly but surely understanding how essential the process is to getting to the results.

  4. Your retreat sounds awesome. Thank you for sharing all of this!I believe collaboration is when people share ideas, methods, experience to help everyone learn more. Students need to be taught how to collaborate effectively. They are too quickly thrown into group work without really understanding how to be in a group. Teachers could also learn how to collaborate effectively. I think it helps to start a collaboration session with outlining the end goal.

  5. I think Jennifer is exactly right about sharing the responsibilities and everyone wanting to be involved and contribute. I think generally people want to be a part of the solution but don’t know how (need modeling) or don’t know how to communicate or work with people who do things differently than they do.That’s why one of the best and most revelatory things about this retreat was the compass activity. Of course, it was good to reflect on my strengths and shortcomings as a "north" who just wants to get things done. But seeing how others felt about working with me (apparently norths are the hardest to work with!) made me realize that in order for us to be successful working together, I had to care about how others perceived us and our efforts. Generally, my mindset has always been "Do your thing, don’t worry about other people. If it’s positive, they’ll get on board." But if we’re really concerned with outcome, we’ve got to really care about other perspectives and work to make the communication successful.

  6. Oh to be a North…was working a compass post when you responded- I am so in my head with all of that. Really feel like I can build a lot off of Jennifer’s breakdown!

  7. This is always a concern for me as many colleagues are able to sit silently in meetings and only collaborate on a token level. I am currently reading about protocols and their use in PLCs. By using a protocol, or designed strategy to get everyone participating and truly discussing… hopefully we can work on effecting real change for those participating.

  8. @Becky_Ellis_ would love to hear more on protocols for PLC! I think that is something my school PLC definitely could benefit from! Be sure to share which you’re using! I’ll definitely be picking your brain about them!

  9. Hi Beth!Some quick thoughts, but would be glad to elaborate and collaborate more as I am working through the creation of a wiki for my new course I’m designing called 21st Century Global Studies which is a convergence of participatory citizenship, both authentic and digital, and digital literacy. I will share wiki links once I have more put together. Still trying to work through the tools as well. Collaborative Learning vs. Cooperative Learning – Important to make this distinction. From my experiences, true collaboration means students working together to explore big ideas and create a meaningful product. In our last #sschat, this was discussed, however, cooperative learning is often interchanged with collaborative learning. In a sense, cooperative is a type of collaborative, if that makes sense. Collaboration is a bit higher on Bloom’s taxonomy on the creation scale in most cases wherein collaboration requires wide-scale efforts, often online. Students have equal responsibilities versus leadership, etc. and then they work together to make something cohesive from everyone’s input. Cooperative learning is more structured, specific duties and roles, and often face-to-face in small groups.In other words, when I group students in class for a small activity and they work on it together, it is cooperative. When my students are building a wiki, online, based on a broad-based inquiry topic with students (either in another class period later in the day, or with students in other states and countries), it is collaborative. Wes Fryer gives a good distinction of this here in this visual I never understood this until participating in projects like Digiteen ( and Flat Classroom ( These projects offer a level of authenticity that makes the learning so much more meaningful. When you ask, "How do we make these projects purposeful?" My personal experiences would again offer up authenticity:When students created their own Interest Groups and corresponding, propagandized media campaigns via a collaborative wiki, they authenticated their work by writing to our local state representative. One group made an interest group called Xterminate Cuts to Education ( The representative visited our classroom. Purposefulness comes full-circle.When students worked on the Digiteen project (with students in China, Qatar, Houston, Oman, to name a few), based in part on Mike Ribble’s Digital Citizenship in Schools, the project co-founders were able to have author Mike Ribble participate in an Elluminate Q/A session with the students. Some of the things my students asked blew me away. And they logged in from home, on their own time, with no graded ‘requirement’ to be there. Assessment in these instances becomes self-evident. Listening to students question and discuss on this level needs no additional assessment ~ it is transparent and it is self-evident. This is where I believe standards-based practices miss the boat (just IMHO). Some consider this practice unfair. But really, is ‘equal’ EVER ‘fair’? Why are we still trying to equalize humanity? There is nothing equal about who we teach. Our students are richly diverse in so many ways and we need to capitalize upon it, not extinguish it in the name of standardization. Collaboration and PBL truly allow diverse aspects to flow. Most importantly, the students truly learn something.When students were learning about Congressional powers and taxation (which can be incredibly boring for adolescents), they each did their own W-4 and 1040EZ form based on a variety of W-2’s with which I provided them. I made sure there were vast differences in income and at the end we graphed a comparison of how much more in taxes some folks had to pay. The light bulb went on. Several returned to school to relay that instead of paying H&R block, they helped their parents do their taxes (the simpler cases). So, purposefulness? Make it relevant to something in the real world. Apologies for taking up so much of your comment section ~ it ended up nearly a blog post in itself. πŸ™‚ If you don’t mind, I am planning to cross-post this response as a post on mine as well at I didn’t mean to spout off a post. :)I am more than happy to work through this with you over the summer as I put my own course together. I’ll also be a attending an ISTE session at the conference on a Bucks Institute based PBL practices workshop being conducted by one of my former grad school classmates. I’ll be sure to share resources.

  10. Thank you so much for spouting off! Cannot wait to see what you do with your 21st Century Global Studies class, I have so much to learn from you and will be following the wiki very closely! I hope to be implementing a lot of what that class entails into my Social Studies classes! Also, I will be at ISTE and would love to attend that session with you, what are the dates and times..I’ll tweet you about it haha. Thank you SO much for your addition. Some of my favorite quotes are below- talk about wordage to build on! "Purposefulness comes full-circle" "listening to students question and discuss on this level needs no additional assessment ~ it is transparent and it is self-evident. This is where I believe standards-based practices miss the boat""Our students are richly diverse in so many ways and we need to capitalize upon it, not extinguish it in the name of standardization"I dare anyone to question my twitter PLC because you just blew my mind with this reply! Thank you so much for pointing out the difference between collaborative & cooperative learning. Makes complete sense and totally something I have been struggling with defining! What you are doing as far as digital collaboration goes is fascinating and the exact direction I want to be going in! I have so many ideas stirring from your examples! I am eager to continue building off of this topic with you!

  11. Beth,You are asking all the right questions which leads to more questions which I absolutely love! Every level asks the same questions – what do we need to do to prepare our children for kindergarten, elementary, middle, high school and college? How can we best help our students to be successful? I always come back to the same answer, no matter what level – model what it means to be a lifelong learner for our students and encourage and foster their innate curiosity! If we do this and we do this well, students no matter what age or grade will love to learn! I always like to focus on the process of learning and not the final product because ultimately we want our students to engage and learn and this happens in the process! Its all about supporting and celebrating our students to take risks and this can only be done if we model it for them!Can’t wait to meet you at ISTE, so we can continue this conversation!

  12. Beth,This looks like it was a great workshop with much creative thinking going on. That right there, creative thinking, is what is needed at any level. All too often, with all the testing mandates, both teachers and students forget this fact. Whether it be student or teacher, being creative brings forth new ideas, solutions, and programs. Being creative thinkers also brings a sense of success. When people can think for themselves and respect the thought process of others success will follow. To allow our students to be successful in what ever phase of life they are in we just need to teach them to be creative thinkers. As you know I’m writing my dissertation this next school year. It’s going to be centered around professional development and PLCs. I’m looking forward to what I will be learning and uncovering in the process. Not only am I looking forward to it changing my pedagogical beliefs, but I’m interested to see how my classroom practices change as well.Keep up the good work!

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