Co-teaching has been shown to be an effective, natural support for a diverse range of students in classrooms. When teachers work together (often a classroom teacher and a learning support teacher), students benefit from well planned differentiated instruction. Two sets of skilled and experienced minds can more effectively plan for all students in the room. However, to make this successful practice a reality, co-planning needs to occur regularly and effectively. Finding time to plan well enough to facilitate this process can be challenging in the school context. School days are busy and outside of school hours are filled with meetings and extra-curricular commitments. To overcome these time restraints, the use of technology might assist co-teachers to find ways to effectively co-plan collaboratively.
In our busy day it can sometimes be challenging to find time for even a simple catch-up, let alone face to face meetings. Modern technology has high functionality when it comes to facilitating quick communication. Email your colleague with an updated plan for tomorrow, or to check on a modified resource for a particular student. Use the chat functions on your computer or tablet to check in with how a session went. Even use your messenger apps on your phone to ask a quick question that you didn’t manage to find time for before you left school for the day.
Creating and sharing resources:
There are multiple online sources for group creation of resources. Google apps for education and virtual whiteboards allow teachers to co-create documents, presentations and teaching tools in real time. These platforms also allow co-teachers to make comments, suggest edits and chat with each other during the creation process. Storage platforms such as Google drive and Dropbox allow co-teachers to readily share their resources and store them together in an organised fashion. No need for running off a master copy for your co-teacher any longer! The use of online curriculum mapping tools such as Managebac, Rubicon Atlas or chalk.com, can be highly supportive when teams of people are working collaboratively. These online platforms allow teachers to work together to plan units of work that align with standards. Having the ability to have access to shared unit plans at all times is significant when co-teachers are co-planning together.
Sharing student data and tracking your work:
Another benefit of co-teaching is the increased ability to formatively assess students’ progress as there are more eyes in the room. But sharing paper notes or records of student data between staff can be troublesome. Apps and online platforms such as CCPensieve, Confer or Evernote allow teachers to record notes, sometimes take photos of student work samples for evidence and then easily share with collaborators. Keeping records digitally sure makes report writing easier to deal with! No more lugging bulky assessment folders home at night!
Co-planning in different physical spaces:
While we know that face-to-face meetings between co-teachers outside of teaching time is integral to effective co-teaching arrangements, sometimes the reality of physically being present in the same room or building is not possible. In instances where it is not possible to be present within the same space at the same time, consider the use of video calls. Virtually meeting with your co-teacher will enable you to still develop that relationship, check in with how things are going and make plans. If you use Google Hangouts, you can even pair your video call with real time collaboration on a Google doc! It’s almost the same as being in the room together!
Make use of calendar apps on your devices to schedule your co-teaching sessions. Set an alarm to remind, and add a note to remember which co-teaching strategy you will be using. Some calendars, such as the Google calendar, allow you to share and view each other’s schedule, as well as send invites to events.
Finding adequate time to meet and plan is an often-mentioned barrier to effective co-teaching. Making use of the technology available to us, may help us find a way around our packed teaching schedules. When you and your co-teacher are in the swing of things, don’t forget to share all the wonderful work you do with others! Share your insights, pictures and ideas on your blog, website or Twitter account and let everyone in to see the fantastic work you are doing!
Christine Arnold is an Australian educator currently working at ISS International School, Singapore as the Elementary School Student Support coordinator.She serves on the board of the Singapore chapter of SENIA (Special Education Network In Asia). Her interests include working with students with learning difficulties, early childhood education, literacy and integrating technology. She can be found on Twitter at @carnold005.