Give Teachers Some Slack

Teachers are known for their tendency to beg, borrow, and plead for the resources they need to create the best-possible classroom experiences for their students — especially when school budgets fail to cover such minor (but essential) expenses as classroom supplies.

Their resourcefulness extends beyond procuring pencils and paper; educators are also embracing digital tools that enable collaboration and resource-sharing at no cost. For instance, teachers and other education professionals have a major presence on social media sites like Twitter and Pinterest because these platforms facilitate networking with others who have shared goals. Twitter, in particular, is teeming with worldwide networks of teachers and administrators who participate in education-centered chats.

Slack in the Ed Space

Enter Slack. Slack functions like Twitter, using @mentions and #hashtags to organize conversations around themes, which take place in specific channels — either public or private. These dedicated channels allow conversations to occur without the noise of a Twitter feed.

Slack may at first seem an unlikely educator tool. After all, it is not a social networking site, but rather an office chat service that allows teams to collaborate and communicate with each other. It decreases the need for email and helps team members manage and organize conversations within a searchable platform. Slack is often used in small startups and office — but it is quickly growing in popularity among educators.

Community and Collaboration are not just words.

The ability to collaborate and communicate is important, especially because teaching can be a desperately isolating profession. In the traditional model of schooling in which teachers are responsible for their own classes, they often work alone with only brief periods of collaboration. According to Primary Sources: America’s Teachers on the Teaching Profession, published by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2012, teachers spend on average only 15 minutes a day collaborating with colleagues. But of teachers surveyed, 89 percent indicated that time for teachers to collaborate was “Absolutely Essential” or “Very Important.”

Unfortunately, teachers’ collaborative planning time is often eaten away by mandatory professional development, staff meetings, or parent conferences, a reality that leaves little time for teamwork. Collaboration, therefore, occurs informally, often over a hurried lunch or in the hallway. PLCs have created more space for shared work, but they are constrained by time. Teacher schedules are like stacks of Swiss cheese: The open spaces rarely align so that teachers can actually meet.

Time will tell if Slack will be adopted by the education community to the extent that Twitter and Pinterest have been. For me, its a no brainer. Slack offers more: more openess, more converstaions, more interactivity.

More power to you.

Join the slack group here #uk-education-group

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