collaboration3Kentucky educator and “teacherpreneur” Paul Barnwell eloquently blogged this week about the fact that teachers need more time to plan and collaborate to improve education. “With so much on our plates, and few opportunities to scale solutions outside of the classroom, we teachers are longing for expanded opportunities to share what we know and can learn from one another. But we need time and support beyond the limits of traditional teacher schedules.” Mr. Barnwell went on to explain the exciting ideas that take root when teachers have time to think, plan and share.

Though not addressed in his blog, fostering a culture of collaboration in the selection of instructional materials is integral to educators’ use of the materials selected.  As the Director of Governmental Relations for the school boards association, I often engaged with legislators about whether school districts were financially efficient entities.  Despite my numerous examples of efficient district practices, skeptical legislators often asked why so many districts have closets, rooms or even Costco-like warehouses filled with unused textbooks and computers. For the answer, I turned to curriculum directors of districts large and small. I asked why their teachers weren’t using the materials their district had purchased. Their most common response was, “Our teachers don’t use the materials because they didn’t feel included in the selection process and thus don’t have confidence that the materials will address their students’ needs.”

We designed LearningList.com to help districts address that problem by making it easy for educators to collaborate in the selection of instructional materials. On average districts spend $14,000 in staff time in committee meetings to select instructional materials for a single subject. This figure does not include the cost of transporting teachers to/from regional textbook fairs, the hours educators spend reviewing materials on their own time or the cost of any substitute teachers who may be needed in the process.

In the following ways, Learning List makes it easy for educators to select instructional materials collaboratively:

(1)  Districts or campuses that subscribe to Learning List can authorize an unlimited number of district employees (and school board members) to access Learning List under the district/campus’ subscription;

(2)  Collaboration tools on Learning List make it easy for educators to share the reviews they like; and,

(3)  Our editorial reviews and educator ratings and reviews provide educators’ perspectives about the usability and effectiveness of the products reviewed on Learning List.

Learning List makes it easy for educators to (1) become knowledgeable about the materials their district is considering, and (2) get involved in the selection process so that they’ll be more likely to use the products selected. Subscribers report that by making collaboration easy, Learning List has reduced the number of selection committee meetings that their staff had to sit through and changed the focus of the committee’s conversation from “Is this material aligned?” to “Is this material best for our students?”

Though the examples of collaboration Mr. Barnwell blogged about are far more exciting, experience suggests that it is just as important to build a culture of district- or at least campus-wide collaboration in the selection of instructional materials. Learning List makes that type of collaboration it easy.

ISTE UPDATE: If you’re planning to attend ISTE, JOIN US for an ISTE RECEPTION on June 29th at 5:30PM at the Omni (ISTE conf. hotel). No Badge is Required – just RSVP here.