In two weeks, my building will be on the receiving end of something called a Technical Assistance Visit (TAV), a two-day visit by a team of local educators assessing our building’s progress and adherence to our Site Action Plan. This two-day fury is a product of a state-funded initiative, Making Middle Grades Work, a sister program to SREB’s High Schools That Work.
As one of four members of our building’s leadership team, I’m co-charged with preparing mounds of reports and documents for the TAV. This process involves taking templates (unfortunately not real template files, just what some people like to call templates), populating them with the information specific to our building/district, and preparing them for publication (binders, slideshow, etc.).
So here’s my gripe: We’ve gone old school!
In the weeks leading up to the TAV, our leadership team has covered ourselves in a nearly-unsortable web of updated, revised, changed, modified, and edited documents that have been shared, attached, forwarded, and replied. There has to be an easier way! And there is.
A simple Google of “top collaborative tools” yields a plethora of results. Add the word “education” to the mix and you get even a more helpful list of tools. There have been tweet after tweet RT’d through my PLN over the last year, offering reviews and guides to a whole slew of collaboration software.
These tools, specifically designed to connect people who are physically distanced to a single, shared document, would be PERFECT for our TAV preparation. Simply put, we could see who edited what, when, and where. They could even comment to tell us why! Without that tool in place, we’re left with a textbox in the footer that says “Rev. XX/XX/XX.” Even with that, only a few of the collaborators will update it as they go. On a bright note, I’ve used DropBox to share (and monitor updates) a folder of documents with another team member. (On a side note: DropBox is a great solution to those of us migrating away from Apple’s MobileMe. Another post for another day.)
When my family decided to celebrate my parents’ anniversary this past summer by renting a cabin in Tennessee, I created a pad at etherpad.com (recently acquired by Google). It was just the right solution for helping three couples around the state plan who would bring what on the trip! I’m confident that the same successes would be seen if our TAV team would give it a shot.
So why not?
I guess it’s easier for me to complain than it is to fix it. Fixing it requires professional development for my colleagues and troubleshooting when something goes wrong. It would require us to ask permission from SREB to communicate with them with these non-traditional collaborative tools. Or does it? What if I just…shared. What if I just sent them invites to collaborate on GoogleDocs? With GoogleDocs’ new “upload” feature, it’d be perfect for working on the already-existing Word document “templates.” Would they accept the invitation, tinker with it until they figure it out, and result in true collaboration on this project? Or is there a middle ground somewhere between these two options?
I should count my blessings. We did use email to send attachments. Final, no-need-to-edit-anymore, documents are being converted to PDFs for emailing/presentations. It could be worse. We could be sharing paper documents in manilla envelopes.