We all know how crazy the beginning of the year can be. It’ s a race to stay ahead of the kids some days. I have experienced one of the most hectic Septembers of my career this year. I am not sure why it has seemed so insane but whatever it is, it’s been a pretty hectic beginning. In years past I have felt like I had time to meet with colleagues and to begin our year together, but this year I have struggled to collaborate. My school operates with a strong belief in professional learning communities (PLC’s). This means that collaboration is a must. We also find that to have our PLC’s be highly functioning we need to do more than we are given time to and I bet almost every educator out there feels the same at one time or another.
I really do want to collaborate with my colleagues. There are four of us who are all teaching Contemporary World Studies this year. I have had many requests to share resources and, to add a little pressure, one of our Assistant Principals is also teaching one section of the course and would like some guidance and help. This is all just to say I want and need to collaborate more than time is allowing me right now.
I actually didn’t write this post to complain, I wrote it because I found a great solution. For those familiar with the Literacy Design Collaborative I hope you have started to use the CoreTools function of the website. If not go there now! Anyone not familiar, the Literacy Design Collaborative is, well straight from LDC.org, “a national community of educators providing a teacher-designed and research-proven framework, online tools, and resources for creating literacy-rich assignments and courses across content areas.” I would just describe it as a great way to develop Common Core assessments, unit plans and lessons. Now it is even more than that for me, it’s a way to plan collaboratively with my colleagues in the little extra time any of us has.
I am currently working on a module for my media literacy unit. I have been shy about having my LDC modules juried. I am just not sure I have fine tuned them enough to get feedback from a national standpoint yet. I have made six but am now in the process of transferring them from the old planning worksheets to the new CoreTools format. (Basically I have to take what I have saved in large spreadsheets and put it into the new online portal for submission.) I was dragging my feet about doing this because it seemed like I would never have enough time to complete it. I had somehow convinced myself that I had to do it all at once.
I started to build a module and then got behind. I was just sort of plugging away at it when I had a few extra minutes. Then when I was getting requests from four colleagues and an administrator to share with them what I was doing I checked my pride at the door and decided I would just share it with them and they could watch me build it. Now my colleagues have been following along and looking at my mini-tasks (in non LDC terms, lesson plans with resources) a day or two in advance, offering some comments and helping me to fine tune them before any of us implement the lesson. Its like a virtual PLC. I haven’t finished my module. I am actually just completing it as I am planning. Instead of going to my plan book I am going to my CoreTools log in. I am still teaching and planning with the end task in mind I am just short on time to plug it into CoreTools all at once. I didn’t want this to be a road block to ever completing it however. My advice if you are like me is to cheat and do it as you go. Just using it to plan a mini-task or two is a great experience and one you can share with others as I have.
There have been other benefits to using the CoreTools that I didn’t know I would have until they happened. The first was when I had a friend who needed to do a pre-observation conference for a certification she was completing. She asked for a lesson plan. If you are like me you don’t actually write daily lesson plans. A sticky note and that little box in my plan book seems sufficient. However, because I was working in CoreTools I shared the module with her and she could see my lesson all planned out, my resources, the standards I was targeting and the formative assessment for that lesson. I didn’t have to produce these specifically for her. I had to make no copies, or try to figure out how to communicate it to a third party. I simply logged in, went to my collaboration settings and added her email. It actually took thirty second.
The second bonus that I have had with CoreTools has to do with the new teacher evaluation. We are using the Danielson Framework in my district. Danielson takes the state criteria and breaks them into four domains. Domain One is Planning and Preparation. Creating a module in CoreTools basically fulfills all the components of Domain One and a few from Domain Four which is Professional Responsibilities. Again, I don’t have to do anything to create artifacts for evidence. I can just share my module with my evaluator and she can print or upload whatever pieces she would like.
I guess all this is to say, use CoreTools! Use it even if it’s just for singular lessons or build your module as you go through a unit. Use it to collaborate with your colleagues. Use it to share with educators outside your building. And use it to fulfill needs in your evaluation. It’s a great tool. Don’t be intimidated. You never have to share it with anyone you don’t want to, or have it juried. The tool is still great and it will be well worth your time.