Harnessing the Digital World to Make Your Team More Effective
Presenter: Jill Spencer, Independent Consultant
Teaming is the most effective structure for meeting the developmental cognitive and social needs of adolescents. The digital world provides educators with tools that allow them to collaborate in more timely, personal, and creative ways with their students and parents.

Teams never seem to have enough time to collaboratively problem solve and create effective solutions to modern learning challenges. By using digital tools, middle grades teams, ninth grade academies, and even high school departments now have more ways to meet the learning needs of their students and forge strong relationships with parents and the community. Curriculum development, digital citizenship, communication, and building relationships all collide in the digital world and can be harnessed to help teams/departments to work more productively and bring to fruition their innovative ideas using Web 2.0 tools, NoteShare, and other tools

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Session Handout

Digital Tools for Teams

The era of isolated teachers, working alone to meet the myriad needs of all their students, is neither educationally effective nor economically viable in the 21st century.
from Team Up for 21st Century Teaching and Learning June 2010

Characteristics of highly effective teams include:
  1. Student-centered focus.
  2. Strong commitment to academic achievement.
  3. Collaborative policies and accountability systems.
  4. Strong sense of team community.
  5. Regular communication with parents.
  6. A proactive approach
  7. Teachers who work professionally and collaboratively
NMSA Research Summary
Interdisciplinary Teaming


Team Functions

Welcoming students and their families to the team
1. Posting an introductory movie on YouTube

2. A wiki for previewing the year and responding to questions http://preview.tinyurl.com/Pjebscotwelcome

3. Survey to identify students and parents worries: http://www.zoomerang.com/Survey/WEB22AYNSLRF2W

4. Podcast

Building a team community
ü Partnership for the 21st Century Skills
  • Social and Cross Cultural Skills
    • Interact effectively with others
    • Work effectively in diverse teams
  • Communication and Collaboration
    • Students use digital media and environments to communicate and work collaboratively, including at a distance, to support individual learning and contribute to the learning of others

1. Slide shows of students and their interests
  • iPhoto
  • Animoto
  • Slide Share
2. Polls—teacher and student created

  • Poll Everywhere
  • Zoomerang
  • Survey Monkey
When looking at results of polls, slide in a little data discussion practice

3. NoteShare TeamBook

4. Digital scavenger hunts
5. Creating a book together on Slide Share
Use this strategy: http://www.slideshare.net/bhazzard/field-guide-for-change-agents

6. Garage Band activity
  • Original song
  • Opera
  • Podcasts
    • Pop media scripts
    • Explanation of an event, process, etc.
    • Reviews

7. Don’t forget the physical team building challenges—it’s not all about technology
  • Adaptive Gordian Knot
  • Keeping on track
  • Duct tape trolley
  • Bandana relay
  • Mrs. Wright’s Story

Don’t forget to take time to process the activity. Reflection is a key component of learning. Consider using questions like…
  • What strategies did your team use in order to meet this challenge?
  • How might these strategies be applied to your class work?
  • Let’s think metaphorically: In our Gordian Knot challenge, what might the knot represent in the life of a typical seventh grader? What might the unraveling of the knot represent?

Communicating with students
Any of these tools provide students the opportunity to ask questions, reflect on their learning, receive specific feedback, etc. They also allow students to collaborate with one another and others not in their classrooms.
  • Wiki
  • Email
  • Skype or IMing
  • NoteShare Notebook
  • StudyWiz

Communicating with parents

1. Wiki: http://jillspencerdemo.pbworks.com
  • Rubrics & assessments lists
  • Exemplars
  • Due dates & Big Projects
  • Event planning
  • Policies
2. Ning—unfortunately this site is no longer free.
3. Social book marking: http://www.portaportal.com/ Guest name: PjebscotParents
4. Podcasts

Organizing to eliminate stress and reinventing the wheel

1. Private Team Wiki
  • Checklists—fieldtrips, steps in posting grades
  • Asynchronous conversations for planning and problem solving prior to common planning time
  • Drafting communications
2. Private team notebook
  • Planning
  • Keeping track of students (be vigilant when sharing—have a passwords no one knows but the team)
  • Record students doing oral reading tests
3. Google docs
4. List serves
  • Ideas about what’s happening in other schools
  • Advice
  • Find “language” to make your case
5. iCalendars

Planning curriculum


Physical Team Building Activities

Why bother to take the time to use team-building activities?
  • Team building helps develop a sense of community that leads to a safe environment. Stress and fear can decrease learning potential. By taking the time to build a community of learners, students and/or staff are more likely to engage in learning activities.
  • Between 25-33% of the population learn best through kinesthetic experiences.
  • Metaphoric thinking helps people internalize concepts. Games can be used as a metaphor for a variety of concepts.

When to use team-building activities:
  • To begin the year or a class/meeting
  • To maintain a sense of community throughout the year
  • To welcome new students/teachers to the class/staff
  • To add a kinesthetic component to a lesson or unit or discussion
  • To energize a group
  • To create meaning through metaphor and stimulate higher level thinking skills

Research On Metaphors and Leaning
From Marcia Tate’s Worksheets Don’t Grow Dendrites (p. 50)
  • Most of our normal system of concepts is metaphorically structured. In other words, most concepts are understood only as they relate to other concepts. (Lakoff & Johnson, 1980)
  • Students should make new learning fit into their personal world by capitalizing on the brain’s ability to connect the new to the known. (Caine & Caine, 1994)
  • Making associations forms new connections between neurons and encodes new insights similar to a tree growing new branches. (Sousa, 1995)
  • Creating and analyzing metaphors to enhance meaning and higher-order thinking skills is a teaching strategy that involves left hemisphere skills. (Sousa, 1995)
  • Metaphors link abstract, difficult to understand concepts with personal experiences and promote a sense of creativity. (Whitin & Whitin, 1997)
  • Metaphors can make otherwise forgettable concepts memorable, placing them easily and quickly into the brain. (Deporter, Readon, & Singer-Nourie, 1999)
  • Metaphor allows a concept to be viewed from a broader perspective, such as how it is applicable to other content areas, to the student’s home environment, or to life as whole. (Allen, 2002)
  • Comparing, contrasting, classifying, and using metaphors are all instructional strategies that increase student achievement. (Marzano, Pickering, & Pollack, 2001)
  • Metaphorical connections stretch the thinking of students and increase the likelihood that their understanding of a topic or concept will be broadened ore retained in the future. (Gregory & Chapman, 2002)

THE GORDIAN KNOT (TeachmeTeamwork.com)
Sometimes It’s Not All About Our Problems!

Materials: Enough 24 inch lengths of rope to give one to each pair of people in the group

Have people break into groups of 6 or 8 people (must be an even number). Then have each group break into pairs. Each group forms a tight circle with pairs standing opposite one another grasping each end of their rope. Will look like a wagon wheel.

Keeping hold of the rope, members of the group should create a knot in the center of the circle by moving under and over one another while criss-crossing the circle. (Do NOT let go of the rope) Continue this knot tying process until there is only about 4 inches of rope remaining.

Each group drops their knot and moves on to another group’s knot. Grasping the rope ends, and without letting go each group untangles the knot.

Processing Questions:

  • What thoughts did you have at the beginning, the middle, and end of the activity?
  • How did your group do with this activity?
  • Who did the talking?
  • What was said that was helpful?
  • When did you know you were going to succeed as a group?
  • How might this relate to our work, our unit?

Bandanna Relay from TeachmeTeamwork.com

ü Bandannas
ü Marbles
ü Paper cups

Teams must move from Point A to Point B.
  • · Split group into teams (4-8 people)
  • · Each person must hold onto the bandanna with both hands
  • · The bandanna must be held out straight
  • · The cup is balanced upside down on the bandanna
  • · The marble is perched on top of the cup
  • · The team moves from Point A to Point B without dropping the marble; they must start over if the marble rolls off.

Processing questions:
  • What strategies did you use to solve this challenge?
  • How might you adapt and apply these strategies in other situations?
  • What do the marble, the cup, and the bandanna each represent?

All Toss
From Leading Together: Foundations of Collaborative Leadership Curriculum
(Frank, Carlin, & Christ)
Materials: a soft 3 dimensional object that won’t hurt if it lands on your head. One for each participant.

Objective: to throw all of the objects into the air at once and have each one caught before it hits the ground.

  • Participants may not catch their own object or the one from the person to their right or left.

  • Clear a big enough space that everyone can be in a circle.
  • Each participant places one of the soft objects at his/her feet.
  • Start with one object. Count to three and throw the object up in the air. Model gentle throwing, not propelling it through the air at warp speed.
  • If it’s not caught, try again.
  • Then move on to two items. Ask another person to pick up his/her object, count to three and both of you toss the objects.
  • If they are both caught, move on to three objects and so on.
  • Anytime an object is dropped, it is removed from that round. For example, if seven objects are thrown and two dropped, the two that hit the floor are removed. The next toss goes back to five items. When the five are once again successfully tossed and caught, add a sixth.
  • As the challenge becomes more difficult, allow participants time to strategize how they might accomplish their goal.
  • An alternative is to allow participants to set a goal of how many objects to try to toss and catch.

Processing questions:
  • When did the group decide to communicate? What led to that behavior?
  • How were decisions made?
  • How is this All-Toss activity like real-life events you have experienced?

Keeping on Track
Materials: Each participant has a section of track. Each group has one marble.

The goal: To pass the marble as quickly as possible from point A to point B using the tracks without touching the marble with fingers or dropping it. Participants may not move their feet while the marble is in their piece of the track. Dropping the marble means starting over.

The process:
  • · The group forms a circle facing inward with each participant holding a piece of track.
  • · As quickly as possible the group moves the marble around the circle.
  • · After the time is noted the group sets a challenging goal and a strategy for improving the time and then tries again.

Variations: Groups can form straight lines rather than circles. Groups can compete to see who can make the marble go fastest.

Challenge: The facilitator takes half of the tracks away. Same goal and everyone still needs to participate.

Process questions:
What was most challenging about doing this the first time?
What did people do differently that made for improvement over the first or second time?
How is this activity like keeping each student on track for learning?

Mrs. Wright’s Story
Setup / Preparation
1. Supply each person with an index card. Have each person write his or her name on the card.
2. Have the group stand up and form a big circle.
3. Before starting the “Mrs. Wright” activity make sure everyone has only ONE card (this is very important).
4. Inform everyone that you are about to read a story. Tell the group that during the story, if they hear the word “right”, they are to pass the card they have in their hands to the Right. If they hear the word “left” they are to pass the card they have in their hands to the Left.
5. Do a “test run” with the group. Tell the group: “I’d like to do a test run with you. Ready? Right (pause to let everyone pass their card to the Right). Left (pause to let everyone pass their card to the Left). Very good. Everyone should now have the card they started out with (your name is on your card). Now let’s begin the story.”
6. This is where you start reading the “Mrs. Wright” story (see the story below). Start off slowly so people can get a chance to feel successful. Then slowly speed up.
7. If everyone does their job, they will end up with their card at the end of the story.

8. THE STORY: “Once upon a time, Mrs. Wright took her three left handed children (Wendy Wright, Larry Wright, and Billy Wright) on a vacation. They left on a Monday and planned to return just before the Thanksgiving holiday. Billy Wright left school for the Wright vacation. Wendy left a whole plate of leftovers for her cat to eat during the Wright vacation. But Billy, who is the president of a local leftist organization, was the saddest of all. He left behind all the addresses of friends that he wanted to write to while on vacation. This mistake left Billy’s friends in the dark. By the end of the week, all the Wrights wished they had never left. They still had the weekend left, but Mrs. Wright decided that the right thing to do would be to return home right away. They arrived back at their house, which is located to the left of Yankee Stadium, in time for Thanksgiving leftovers.”

Adapt & Transfer
This activity is from Jim Cain, author of the book Teamwork & Teamplay.

What might a group learn about itself using this activity?
When might you use this activity in your work?

Duct Tape Trolley

  • Group is divided up into teams
  • 2 strips of duct tape are laid down in parallel lines, sticky side up for each team
  • Teams step on their strips
  • They must move from Point A to Point B

Processing Questions
  • What strategies did you use to solve the challenge?
  • What decisions/actions were key to your success?
  • How does this activity relate to your work?

Thank you to Rick Barter for the ideas on audio recording—I am in his workshop on Wednesday and am incorporating ideas into this handout!
His workshop URL: http://blue1.emerson.u98.k12.me.us/podshop/

3-2-1 Responses

3 Ideas:
  1. Noteshare Notebook
  2. Portaportal
  3. Wikis

2 Things:
  1. How can I get Noteshare Notebook?
  2. What is the best way to communicate with staff - wiki, noteshare...?

1 Strategy:
  1. I will explore the various tools to create a way to communicate effectively with staff that are in classrooms or not always in the office.