As a small, independent school, we are members of the Pennsylvania Association of Independent Schools, or PAIS. This year, a few colleagues and I decided to launch an online web 2.0 tools boot camp in conjunction with the PAIS. We are certainly not the first to think of this boot camp idea, but I absolutely love the fact that anyone can start their own!
The basic idea is to share free, simple web 2.0 tools with others, then for all members to share their experiences via a wiki or a website. For our boot camp, we decided to create a free Google site that allowed users to comment on the individual pages. We also wanted the tools to be approachable for all levels of comfort with technology and the pacing to fit a busy teacher's schedule.
Our site features one web tool or idea per month and teachers may take the entire month to experiment with the tool. We then ask that they comment and leave advice, feedback and experiences about how the tool worked in their classrooms. Each month, we send out an email blast reminding users of the new tool and guiding them to the website for further instructions.
Below is a partial screenshot of the site. Each month has a page dedicated to a particular web tool or method for teachers to explore.
The specific site for each tool provides directions and links. Participants range from K-12, so their feedback is valuable for using tools for various age levels, subjects and abilities. At the bottom of each page is a field for leaving comments with questions and feedback.
There are a few things that I find really exciting about these boot camp type programs. First of all, my colleagues and I have been able to actively communicate and collaborate with teachers all over the state. There are over 130 members in our program and it sounds like members are even sharing their findings with other non-members at their respective schools. Second, it was relatively easy for us to set up a free Google site and share it with dozens of people. Lastly, because of the self-paced, yet guided nature of the site, teachers are finding that it fits into their schedules as busy professionals.
For security reasons, our site is secured to members only. So why am I sharing this on my blog? Because anyone can do it and share their nifty tips and tricks with the world and get a whole lot back in return. Our monthly boot camp originally started as a collaborative site just within our school, but it has expanded to include the entire PAIS. You can begin your own boot camp for sharing tech ideas in your own school, community or district, too! Start a free site, invite some people to share (long distance works just great, too) and start collaborating with other enthusiastic teachers on the web. It doesn't even have to be about tech tools - it can be science ideas, literacy websites, or math games. The possibilities are endless!