While various Google applications such as Google Drive and Google Docs are great tools to use with students, they also can dramatically increase teacher collaboration in schools. Administrators can play an important role in encouraging collaboration by introducing these tools and encouraging their use, as we did at our middle level school.
Google applications such as Sheets, Docs, Forms, and Slides allow multiple teachers to collaborate within a single document. Think of lesson plans, classroom presentations, parent surveys, and other important instructional documents that may have been done in isolation in the past. The use of Google applications can lead to a more collaborative approach to instructional planning for teachers. Teachers can work on documents and resources together not only at school, but also at home or any other remote location as long as there is internet access.
At our middle level school, we started with an intensive Google training session for all teachers, demonstrating the various tools and features that teachers could use for instructional planning as a team. As part of this experience, all teachers were assigned a task: creating a curriculum map or pacing guide with all of the other teachers in their grade level on a Google Doc. These documents included units of study to be taught in a given year, including content, skills, and assessments.
Initially, each curriculum map was shared with the entire grade level of teachers teaching the same course. For the next phase, the maps were shared with the entire school through a Google shared folder. Teachers maintained editing access for their grade level and view-only access for all other grade levels. The result has been an open and transparent school curriculum. The curriculum maps have also become the centerpiece of vertical articulation meetings at our school. They are continuously updated, reflecting changes in curriculum and standards.
For many teachers, this experience was the starting point in understanding how Google can be used both with students and to collaborate with colleagues. It has led to even more collaborative approaches to teaching, such as common classroom and parent presentations, lesson plans, assessments, and surveys, to name just a few examples.
Countless studies have confirmed the power of teacher collaboration and its impact on student achievement. Google applications should be considered by schools as one tool to promote more collaborative instructional approaches.
William P. Bohen, PhD, served as assistant principal at Transit Middle School in the Williamsville Central School District in Williamsville, NY, from 2011–19 and was named the 2019 New York State Secondary Assistant Principal of the Year. He is currently the principal of Maple East Elementary in the Williamsville Central School District.