Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Dispersed Teams

I have been working from home since January of 2006. I have to laugh when people think that this means I have all the time in the world and so forth. Let me tell you, it's not easy - especially in the summer with an active child at home. Luckily Scott Kinney gave us all a great book about working on dispersed teams, building trust within the team, getting to know the team, and how to effectively work together. That's probably the toughest, learning how to work with people you don't know and probably will only see face-to-face 4 times a year.
So now I'm working for another company -yes, it's official - I'm with netTrekker as the Georgia and Florida Customer Service Rep. Again, I am lucky to be working with a great team of experienced people who I am sure I will learn something from.
Today I attended the Teaching and Learning Institute with the Florida Digital Educators in Gainesville, FL where my focus was netTrekker and the 21st Century. (Email me for the presentation!) On the side I was talking about collaboration and how we use blogs and wikis to really share our ideas. I even shared how my community is using a Wiki to sign up for events and share news. An interesting thought started running through my head - another plug for really collaborating in and out of the classroom.
More than likely many of our students are going to work on virtual/dispersed teams of some sort. They might be dispersed by time shifts or locations, but there will be a dispersement going on. How will they communicate and stay on track with one another? My dad, when he worked in a plant in South Carolina, depended on email. The workers all checked the data, read the memos and knew what was going based on the emails sent to them at work. With today's teams we can use wikis, but the trick is getting them used.
If our elementary students are using Wikis to collaborate in the classroom on group projects, when they get to middle school the students will be ready to collaborate with another class on a project. Then when they get to high school a teacher can actually take the next step and partner with a class in another school - whether it's in their district or outside of their district. How cool would it be for a teacher to plan a lesson with another teacher in lets say Australia? Oh! I know, they could plan a lesson teaching conservation and endangerment and the central figure could be the Sea Cow. Australia also has these beautiful creatures, so it's perfect project for a Florida teacher and Australia to team up for. The students would all have to plan a project, collaborate via email and or their wiki and then create a project. Using PhotoBucket, SlideShare, any of the Google Apps, this should be easy enough to work out. The rubric could be created (I personally love Tech4Learning's rubric maker) and the teachers could grade the students on collaboration and the outcome. It may not be perfect, especially the first time, but it really will get the students introduced to working on a dispersed team.
And then when they want to work for a company that has a huge presence in their area, but not an office, they can honestly say they know how to work on a "virtual team" and are the perfect candidate for the job.

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