My initial solution for this problem of collaboration among my colleagues and myself is “satisficing, i.e. achieving a satisfactory solution, an outcome that, given the circumstances, is good enough” (Koehler & Mishra, 2008, p. 11). Based on feedback from classmates and my colleagues in the music department, I chose to create a secret Facebook group that is only open to the four of us. Koehler & Mishra also refer to Rittel & Weber (1973), who say that “while attempting to solve a wicked problem, the solution of one of its aspects may reveal or create another, even more complex problem.” I would like to explain: 1) The new problem created by my initial solution and 2) why I chose Facebook for my medium of technology.
The New Problem: School Policy
First of all, the first question asked by classmates and colleagues when I asked for feedback on the use of Facebook was, “What is the school’s Facebook policy?” Our superintendent has explained that teachers may use Facebook and personal e-mail at school for school purposes only. As my colleague Jeremy said, “Obviously, this would fit in that category.” There is a temptation that comes along with being on Facebook at school, though, even if it is for school purposes. When on our NPS Music Teachers Facebook page, it could be tempting to just check to see what the “outside world” is up to. Unfortunately, I think the only solution to this new problem of temptation is practice of self-control. My colleagues and I would have to trust each other to use Facebook appropriately at school so that our privilege of using this tool for educational purposes does not get revoked.
So why use Facebook, then, if it is walking the line of “acceptable use?” When I asked my classmates for feedback on my problem in a blog post, they suggested using Facebook groups or Google Docs for collaboration. When I asked my colleagues through a Facebook message, Jeremy (6-12 Band Teacher) suggested using Blogger, an email group, or Facebook. Connie (6-12 Chorus Teacher) expressed favor to a Facebook group– most likely because it is a technology with which she is already familiar. Cathy (5-12 Orchestra Teacher) was ready to learn anything new! So I chose Facebook because in order for this to work, I need all four of us to be on board. The more I look at the affordances of Facebook groups, the more excited I am about using this media.
- [Facebook] gives notifications when there is something new to look at. -Annie Blaauw in a comment on my initial blog post
- Many people have access [to Facebook] on their phones already. -Colleen Kayl in a comment on my initial blog post
(The following affordances come from facebookforeducators.org/groups.)
- Privacy settings: An option for a “secret” group creates a safe environment.
- Group Docs: This feature allows people to collectively write and edit notes with one another.
- Group Chat: This feature allows members of the group to talk to group members in real time, or catch up with the conversation later.
- Facebook Questions: This feature allows group members to poll all of the members of the group.
- Facebook Photo Albums: This feature allows you to upload a set of photos and share privately with just the members of your group.
- Facebook Events: Dates and times for events can be entered with an option for reminders.
Everything that I would want to do with Google Docs, Blogger, or email can be done on Facebook! If I think of another technology that would be beneficial for a certain conversation (i.e. Google Sites for a departmental website), I could link to it and include instructions on the Facebook page.
Furthermore, the use of the NPS Music Teachers Facebook Group (technology) will benefit our students by enhancing our content knowledge, pedagogical knowledge, and pedagogical content knowledge.
Plan of Action
While the NPS Music Teachers Facebook group is already up and running, I do not plan to begin putting it to use until mid-August (unless one of my colleagues starts using it before then!) It is important that the entire department is ready and willing to collaborate. I am afraid that if I begin conversations now, in the middle of summer, that they will develop a habit of ignoring the page. Once the start of the school year approaches, I will start to initiate activity on the page.
- I will create events for meetings we have planned for the beginning of the school year.
- I will poll the group to find interest in one “big topic” to approach for the year. This idea came from Ernie Delemeester in a comment on my Problem page where he mentioned that one common goal may motivate my colleagues to participate in the group. I will include the following topics in the poll: goals and expectations for specific grade levels, keeping each other informed on exceptionally musical students, seeking advice on how to motivate difficult students, making connections between schools and ensembles, and program advocacy. I will also leave space for teachers to insert their own topics.
Hopefully by doing those two things, I can get the ball rolling and teachers will contribute to the group. The possibilities are endless! Perhaps we can just give each other quick daily or weekly updates on what we worked on with our students. Maybe we can share fun music jokes and cartoons with each other. Perhaps on of our Facebook Docs can be full of “little victories” where we share the little things that make us love what we do.
As I mentioned in my Problem page, there has been research to suggest that students of teachers who collaborate prove to be more successful. I hope that by implementing this Facebook Group that our students will get a sense of cohesiveness throughout the music department and get a better overall music education. Measuring this would be a wicked problem in and of itself, though. In order to measure the impact of this solution, I will try to show you what the music department looks like in my eyes at this point in time.
As of 2012, NPS has fantastic ensembles across the board– from the 4th/5th grade Lakeview Chorus up to the high school band, chorus, and orchestra. Most students continue with music after they leave elementary school, but there is a disconnect between the schools and ensembles. Our community offers us more support than most music program gets. Strong fundamental skills are developed in elementary school and retaught (maybe unnecessarily?) as students enter middle school. A musical is produced annually as a collaborative effort, but lack of communication seems to have been an issue.
It will be interesting to look back at this depiction in 2013 and see how much has changed after we teachers have begun to hone our collaboration skills!
Koehler, M.J., & Mishra, P. (2008). Introducing TPCK. In AACTE Committee on Innovation and Technology (Eds.) Handbook of technological pedagogical content knowedge (TPCK) for educators (pp. 3-30) New York: Routledge Taylor & Francis Group.