I have to say that I’m rather excited by the prospect of the Pond. Their rather inspiring promo video does an admirable job of covering what the Pond does. Along with excellent music and a dramatic structure all of its own, it really amps up the excitement around the possibilities Pond creates around resource collaboration for educators. Creating resources specifically tailored to the learning needs of our students has often been something we’ve done largely in isolation and too often resourcing collaboration with colleagues only happens in short bursts. Having access to something like Pond that can overcome geographical boundaries and facilitate the use of our diverse individual strengths is definitely some to look forward to.
Even if the architecture of our own workplaces isn’t quite as inspiring as that of the Pond developers in the video, there’s still huge potential here for us as teachers to use this collaborative tool effectively, particularly if we consider how we might adjust our approach to resource development with a mind towards sharing and collaboration. And even though creating resources that are useful in some way for others may take extra time to begin with the benefits our students can gain from this in the long term could be substantial. Here’s a few things we might consider when creating resources with shareability in mind:
Clear and relatively focused learning intentions for resources. If we really want to get all risky here, we could even link them with New Zealand Curriculum achievement objectives! While we’re still going to find some form of content-based searching across resources useful, are we really able to ensure the things we find solely based on topics and content searches will cater for the needs of the students in front of us? If we can provide learning intentions and curriculum based meta data for artefacts, I suspect we’ll have far more ability to find exactly what fits the students we have; their learning needs, prior knowledge, interests and contexts.
Add to the ‘value’ of existing resources. One of the really interesting features of the Pond is that it we’ll be able to add “learning ideas” to resources that we’ve used which will then further enhance their seachability by others. So if we’ve discovered a resource that meets to learning needs of a particular group of students well and this hasn’t necessarily been covered in meta data on the resource already, we can then potentially make this resource findable for other would-be users.
Consider contributing small “chunks” rather than a full-fledged unit. I’ll going to go out on a limb here and suggest that the days of a fully pre-planned unit are limited at best. While some pre-planning of units is essential, we can’t accurately predict every learning need of every student before starting an entire unit. The Pond could be particularly helpful here if we are able to find small resources which might give some usable material or even a bit of inspiration that allows us to take something and alter it to cover a particular learning need as it arises. As well as possibly being more useful for other teachers, small resources are also easier to adjust to be usable for other teachers than an entire unit.
Help your luddite colleagues navigate the tech! I have to admit here that I’m a stubbornly deliberate luddite when it comes to social media and it looks as if the Pond might provide similar functionality to other social medias. The ability to follow particular providers, create communities and communicate with different groups in different ways may mean people with low levels of social media UI turgidity tolerance need your help in figuring out how to use the Pond in a way that suits their needs. In an age where an ability to effectively use ICTs to develop our professional learning is becoming an essential skillset for us, we all need to be helping each other to discover the benefits individual ICTs could offer.
Give as much useful feedback to each other as we can. Not only does specific feedback help other users ascertain what is useful or a potential limitation of a resource, it could also be a way for us to sharpen our own practice when we receive feedback on own resources. Obviously this will take some degree of bravery and resilience on our own part as we submit resources but in the long run could provide us with just the learning we need to continue improving outcomes for our students. I regularly see a high degree of respect and professionalism when educators communicate over social medias (strangely different from what happens in other online communities) and I expect this trend will continue in the Pond.
Communicate, mashup and recontribute! While it’s not completely clear exactly how the Pond will deal with using and changing each other’s resources, there are real opportunities here to link up with other educators who might provide the ideal complement to our own skillset and ideas to create even more amazing resources. Reflecting on the resource design I’ve been involved with, it’s almost without exception that all the really good ones have been collaborative efforts. While this can be difficult on a short time frame the end results have always been of a far higher quality than things I’ve worked on largely on my own.