Category Archives: collaboration

Team Teaching

Photo Credit: Omar Eduardo via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Omar Eduardo via Compfight cc

I feel like our school has done a few things right that really improve it. One thing we do that I feel is very powerful is team teaching. I teach with a partner in an integrated social studies/ELA class. I so value working with another teacher and I could list many advantages to it, but the one I want to focus on for this post is the huge advantage for new teachers. This year we hired four new teachers as we are a new school adding another class of 100 students each year. Three of them are first year teachers. Also last year one of our original teachers was a first year teacher.

So my partner and I team teach a group of 50 students. The science and math teachers work by themselves half of the time and team teach the other half. Team teaching allows the new teacher to get their feet wet in the classroom without having to be alone with organizing a classroom, preparing content, discipline, and a host of other things. It allows the new teacher to learn from a master teacher over time and plan together. Team teaching is like a paid internship for the new teacher as they are never by themselves. I also think it stretches and grows the mentor teacher too.

From an administration point of view it does not have to cost any extra money because it can be the same teacher to student ratio just with the larger classes. The one problem many schools might have is the space to have these large classrooms, but other than that I think it is a simple yet powerful apprentice model. I think this model of team teaching could be a huge positive change in schools. It would help with retention of young teachers, bring energy to established teachers, and help build skills and confidence in new teachers. I can say I absolutely would have improved greatly as a young teacher if I would of had this opportunity.

My MACUL11 presentation

I presented for the second time at MACUL this year on the topic of collaboration based on the video games my students made with students in Vietnam. Overall I was very happy with how it went. I had less attendees than last year, but great conversations. My goal going in was to get the audience to participate and not just have me talk at them for an hour. I created a backchannel for the session and at first was disappointed that no one used it, but then I realized that was because they were having real conversations instead!

I would like to thank @bruce1lj@kchichester@TheNerdyTeacher, and my tech support @toddhower for their participation in my session. (I would thank the rest of you but do not know your twitter names) It was fun to meet these people face-to-face for the first time in my session, and they definitely added to the conversation. The highlight for me was Skyping in my collaboration partner Gary Bertoia from Vietnam followed by four of my students at school. The audience was able to ask them questions and hear about our project from multiple perspectives.

Here is my Prezi which probably will not make much sense without the audio 🙂

I Ustreamed the session, but forgot to start the recording until I was a few minutes in. The video is not so great but you can hear the discussions. The skype calls start at about the 33:30  mark if you want to jump to that part.

Here is the Livebinder that I created for my session. It contains a lot of information that was not talked about in the session, but to help you in your collaboration efforts including tools, collaboration examples, places to connect, and the Scratch games that the students created.

Scratching the Surface

I have mentioned the Scratch video games my 8th graders designed with students in Vietnam before. We have finished the project and I want to tell you my evaluation of it. Overall we had some higher quality games created than last year, but we still did not reach the level of collaboration I had hoped for (I tend to focus on the negative as I am always looking for improvement). Here is a link to the mostly completed games that you can try out yourself.

Learn more about this project

The biggest struggle with this project is the time zone difference of 12 hours and lack of time overall for the project. One of the goals we had this year was to try to have students build relationships with each other. Students made and shared videos with each other at the beginning of the project. Unfortunately we never had time to make more videos and one was not enough for them to get to know each other. I would love to use Skype if we were closer in time zones. Students also used email to share their games back and forth but often forgot to send messages or did not explain themselves fully. Designing games is complicated and requires better channels of communication. Some of the groups worked on different versions of the same game.

Learn more about this project

I still believe this project is worth the effort to do and that it can teach students many things about programming and problem-solving while exploring cultural similarities and differences from another part of the world. Improvements would be to encourage students to communicate at home through chat, Facebook, or Skype. We also would like to try some easier activities to build community between our classrooms before we start a challenging project like programming. We also need to stress to the students the importance of clear, daily communication. Perhaps we should use a Google Doc that they could constantly edit their ideas, progress, and struggles in.

Learn more about this project

If you are heading to MACUL I will be presenting on this project focusing on the importance of building relationships in a session called Relate, Collaborate, Create. Stop by and join the conversation.

Crowdsourcing Collaboration Ideas

I am presenting on our classes’ Scratch collaboration with Gary Bertoia‘s class in Vietnam at MACUL in March. I would like the presentation to focus on how to have a successful collaboration and not just on what we did. A resource that I thought would be useful to participants is a spreadsheet of ideas from other teachers. So if you have done some kind of collaboration with another classroom please share your project in this form. If you know someone else who has done something interesting please share this post with them also. Thanks for sharing!


Here is the link to see what everyone has shared

Scratch Revamped

This is the second year of a collaboration between Gary Bertoia ‘s South Saigon International School in Vietnam and my classroom. Again the students are working in pairs and designing their own video games using Scratch. Last year we tried this with some bumps in the road.

So we are trying a few new things this year. First of all I have some new tools. This year I am piloting Google Apps at the middle school for my district whereas Gary’s class already had them last year. Also our filter has been opened up which was a problem last year as my students had trouble downloading the game files. This has made the project much easier.

Next we had the students make introduction videos so they could get to know each other. They are posted on the blog we are using so students can view them. Hopefully we will get a chance to make more videos as we progress, but it feels like we are under time pressure to finish.

Problems that I am starting to notice is that it is a huge jump for the students to move from creating games from step by step powepoint instructions to designing their own game from “scratch.” The instruction games were for students to learn how the program works, but it seems to be difficult for most of them to translate what they have “learned” to a new situation. I am thinking about how I can facilitate this transition. We are really just getting started so if you have any great suggestions let me know.