Monday, August 12, 2013

"Collaboration"....One Word That Makes A Difference Everyday

This is a photograph taken the end of July at the November Learning BLC Conference in Boston. BLC is one of the best weeks of the summer for me and has been for the last four years.  I have enjoyed listening and learning, as well as presenting and sharing with others.  

You look at this picture and see an amazing sea of educators who are there at the Boston Park Plaza to make a difference.  We come together to teach, to learn, to share, to create, to connect, and.....

to collaborate. 

This year people from 30 different countries came together for the week to do just that.  
This week my school community will come back together for another school year to also do just that.  

Last Friday was the first day back to school for the teachers at Van Meter.  It is my 7th year teaching and as the district teacher librarian. It still feels just as fun and exciting as my first even more.  

Around 6:30am on the first day, the collaboration started. 

I started to get the first texts, tweets, and emails of the new school year from teachers....even one parent.
Oh and I almost forgot....a tweet from one student who will be a 10th grader and one email from a former student who wants to be a teacher librarian.  

And one more thing.....It really wasn't my first interaction of the year.  The morning before my friend and colleague Janelle Thompson came out to my house to get advice and help on her new blog. 

Actually, the interactions and collaborations with all of the teachers and our school community didn't just stop in May when school got out for the summer.  Throughout the summer, I connected through Twitter, Facebook, texts, emails, Instagram, Pinterest, Skype, Google Hangout, the ball field in Van Meter, and other places.  
When I was thinking about all of this at the end of the day on Friday I just had to look up the definition to see what it said.  

"To work jointly with others or together especially in an intellectual endeavor." 

Collaboration.  Collaborative.  Collaboratively.  


The collaboration that I was part of this summer, last week, the last 7 years, is definitely more than this.  
From the way I began my morning on Friday before I even got to school, to starting another year at school with my wonderful PLC, I could add so much detail to the definition for collaboration that would truly reflect what collaborative relationships and interactions can be. 
After two hours of collaborating, the related arts teachers within my PLC had four blogs created for our 4th and 5th graders related arts portfolios. We worked together, learned, and created through collaborating with each other.  You can read about our project here
We talked about how we would share the links to the KidBlogs with our students and decided to use the collaborative social networking site, Symbaloo.  Our students and teachers would be able to get to these anywhere, at anytime.
When we finished up with the portfolio planning I walked around to the classrooms to see what I could do to help the teachers get ready for their year.  Everyone I saw was anxious and excited to start collaborating for another school year.  

I reminded them to fill out the collaborative Google Doc that we have used for the last few years.  I sent it out over the summer and the teachers have filled out what is happening in their classroom this year.  

We use this to collaborate not just with each other, but also for the other teachers to collaborate together.  This is a public document that our parents and school community can view to see what is happening too.  

Google definitely understand collaboration. 
In the afternoon, my friend and colleague Kate Goodwin connected on Skype with Steve Gagnon in New Hampshire. Steve is a wonderful friend of mine and we have been collaborating together for the last two years after we met on Twitter.
In fact, I just got back from a vacation to his house where we did a lot of collaborating. 

This coming Thursday, Steve is going to Skype with our 5th graders during related arts time.  He will be collaborating with the students and teachers to teach them more about blogging and to talk about connecting with his students throughout the year.  
After we Skyped, Kate and I spent more time learning about KidBlog.  She even created her first KidBlog, wrote her first post, and then I....
created and wrote on mine.  It was fun to show Kate how to make a post and how easy it is to make comments.  Always remember some of the best kind of collaboration is when it can happen naturally during an activity such as this.  
Steve extended this collaboration even more when he also commented on Kate's post.  
When I got home that night I received this tweet from my friend Brian Mull.  He was connecting me to Jenny Velasquez who is working on library redesign which he knew that I would be interested in.

Brian put a spin on collaboration by connecting us through Twitter....something that I do often. By connecting to others through Twitter you are opening up a whole new platform for collaboration.  One that is 24/7, without any limits, and one that brings the world into your space.
About the same time, a new friend had picked up on the conversation that Steve, Kate, and I were having about our collaboration with KidBlog earlier in the day.

Amy Mi, is an English teacher in Shenzhen, China. She is going to use Kidblog with her students this year.  Through our conversation on Twitter we determined our connection from China to Iowa would be a great match since she is teaching her students English as a second language.

How powerful with the collaboration be between our students.  I just love thinking about the possibilities.
Amy also had the fun idea of connecting our students on Halloween since they will be able to do an evening activity on that night.  All of our kids will have a blast with that! 
After Amy and I finished our collaboration, I wanted to connect my school community to a few resources before school started.

One of my favorite places to connect and collaborate is on Facebook.  I have a personal account and one for the library, Van Meter Voice.  I use this as another place to connect and collaborate with our community and the world. 
One of the best parts of this day came at the very end.  

I spoke with this amazing group of people I have been collaborating with for the last 6 months. Two students, a few teachers from Iowa, and myself have been planning the first Iowa Student Learning Institute.  I saw Ian Coon, a high school student from Waukee and Jack Hostager, a high school student from Dubuque, on Twitter late at night so reached out to see how things were going with the planning. 
Before we knew it we had four of the adults involved in the conference and both Jack and Ian in this great Twitter conversation, collaborating live about the conference.  We usually meet in Google Hangout, but we joked that perhaps we should move our meetings to late night on Twitter and we might get everyone there.  

This collaboration is so important to the success of our event and by using Twitter and Google Hangout we are able to bring our group together any time we want.  
As our young people come back to school remember all of the ways you can incorporate collaboration into your classrooms and libraries.  When you let students collaborate you are giving them one more key in creating amazing things from what they are learning.  You are giving them experiences that will enrich what they are learning, reading, teaching, and connecting with.  You are giving them a voice.  

Let them collaborate.  

This is one word, one action, one moment that will make a difference everyday.  


  1. Enjoyed the post. I'm starting my first year as a Library Media Technology Integrator and I'm excited to have the opportunity to be able to collaborate with so many different teachers.

    1. Hi Josh,

      Thank you so much. That is exciting about your new job....You will LOVE it. :)

      Have fun collaborating.


  2. Hi Shannon! Love your ideas! I'm a Teacher Librarian & Technology Coach in DBQ and always looking for ideas to bring to my school :-)

  3. Thanks for taking the time to post these stellar collaboration examples. And thanks for the reminder to check out the BLC 2013 website for shared info from the conference.