By Todd Nesloney and Travis Crowder

If there’s one thing we’ve learned during our careers, it’s the power of collaborative thinking. When we work beside another person or work together with a group of people, the potential for designing and crafting something far exceeds that which we are able to do on our own. In short, collaboration is powerful, but sometimes our workplaces don’t allow us to collaborate. Sometimes we can feel like a lone wolf in what we’re trying to accomplish and no one wants to walk beside us. Sometimes we are innovators who want to try something new, but we are alone in our desire for novel ideas and approaches. For those of us who want to try something new, there are tools available to help us collaborate with other educators and thinkers.

Two tools we have utilized, not only between the two of us but also with countless others, are Google Docs and Voxer. In fact, because of Google Docs and Voxer, almost 75% of our book Sparks in the Dark was written before we had ever even met face to face.

We’re sure many of you are familiar with the Google Suite tools. But how have you used it to push your practice? To better yourself? Are you collaborating with others from across the country (or even better yet, the world)? Are you making connections in person or on social media, and furthering those connections to write together? With the Google apps, it’s super simple to place your ideas on a page and share it with a friend or colleague. In fact, the article you’re reading right now was planned and crafted on a Google Doc. One simple tool made us more proximate to each other. And it has the same potential for you and the people you choose to collaborate with.

What about Voxer? Voxer is a free walkie-talkie type app. Why use it? Well Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are great for making those connections. But how do you deepen those relationships? How do you collaborate when text can sometimes be so limiting? That is where Voxer has come into play for both of us. Voxer allows us to communicate using our voice. You can hear the tone and passion in voices. You can answer when you have the time, respond quickly, and never have to trade out personal phone numbers!

In fact, at Todd’s school, every one of his teachers are on Voxer and that is how they communicate as a school family. There are Voxer groups for each of his grade levels and teams. And no one carries around a walkie-talkie from 1985. They all just use their phones. It has been a true communication game changer.

Tools like Google Docs and Voxer can be leveraged to not only communicate in new ways but also collaborate. The two of us would never have written a blog post together, much less a book, had one of us not randomly reached out to the other and invited the idea of collaborating on something.

Need a place to start just to get your feet wet? Use these tools with others on your team to begin to break the ice. You don’t have to jump right into working with a “stranger” right away. But we assure you, once you see the true power of finding your people and then collaborating with them on ideas, it opens up a whole new world, not only for you but for your students and teachers as well!

Todd Nesloney is the principal of Webb Elementary in Navasota ISD. Todd co-authored Kids Deserve It! and Sparks in The Dark, and is the author of Stories from Webb. @TechNinjaTodd

Travis Crowder, a National Board Certified Teacher, teaches middle school students in North Carolina. He co-hosts the popular podcast series “Sparks in the Dark” and is co-author of Sparks in the Dark.


TEPSA News, January/February 2019, Vol 76, No 1

Copyright © 2018 by the Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association. No part of articles in TEPSA publications or on the website may be reproduced in any medium without the permission of the Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association.

The Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association (TEPSA), whose hallmark is educational leaders learning with and from each other, has served Texas PK-8 school leaders since 1917. Member owned and member governed, TEPSA has more than 5,900 members who direct the activities of 3 million PK-8 school children. TEPSA is an affiliate of the National Association of Elementary School Principals.

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