Saturday, March 12, 2011

Technology Powered Meetings

Learn & LeadA colleague of mine, a school principal, recently asked if I could think about how we might better engage people in school staff meetings and District meetings.  In particular we talked about how staff currently use their mobile devices or laptops, either covertly, or overtly but often for purposes unrelated to the meeting.  Believe it or not, meetings still most often are sage on the stage productions where a person broadcasts information to the meeting attendees.  Probably never happens to you, right?!!?  We’re making people suffer and spending a lot of money to run our meetings.  Don’t get me wrong, meetings have a place, people need to be informed and connected, but there must be a better way…

Here’s a list of meeting practices that I think should be discontinued…

  • Presentations that consist of slide after slide of bullet points or large blocks of text that a speaker reads
  • Broadcasting information
  • Banning the use of technology
  • Packed agendas with little interaction time for participants

And a list of practices that could be enacted…

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  • Prepare and post online all materials to be referenced – indicate advanced reading and research expectations
  • Bring your technology (laptop, mobile device) and expect to use it – set expectations on use
  • Build in skill training and practice (not just technology) for the participants so that they walk away knowing something they didn’t know before
  • Poll people for opinions on important questions – they respond with their technology to give immediate results
  • Increase collaborative small group discussion time of important questions, idea storming, working on solutions to problems
  • Build in sharing out time of work individuals or small groups have completed – expect all work to be posted online for others to see and benefit
  • Use new tools such as wikis for group responses, twitter for sharing the meeting activities and info with others, blogs for individual writing time, discussion boards for topical idea sharing

Let’s see what a school staff meeting might look like using these ideas…

The first Monday of the month at 3:00, staff at Cedar Falls Middle School eagerly roll into the multipurpose room for their staff meeting.  After last months meeting, their principal posted an article on the school website entitled “Personalized Learning” for them to read in advance and to, using any means or technology they wish, get feedback and ideas from each other or any other educators they can through twitter or other networks they belong to.  They were also to discuss this topic with their students and find ways to incorporate activities into their learning and assignments. 

Fresh idea crosswordAll important information items had been posted to the online staff meeting space for people to read in advance – they could post clarifying questions or concerns there for all to see or privately for their principal.  All information items are generally dealt with outside meeting times.

To open the meeting, the principal asked teachers to write in the schools online staff meeting space for 5 minutes a summary of what they believe about Personalized Learning.  They then each turned to their neighbor and shared what they had written.

Teachers then formed groups of four, elected a recorder, and then shared what they and their students learned and now believe about Personalized Learning.  The recorder wrote summary notes in the staff meeting space wiki – each recorder created their own page there.  After this, the recorder stood and reported to the group the key points and messages for their group.  Later teachers will review other groups notes online.

The principal next spoke for a few minutes to clarify information items as needed (from the online discussions) and to invite 4 or 5 teachers to join her on an adhoc team to develop some specific action steps for experimenting with the Personalized Learning ideas the group uncovered.  A few teachers stood and let the group know about some social event ideas they were playing with and the meeting finished up.

Perhaps District meetings could be orchestrated in similar ways.  The idea is to make the time in meetings take better advantage of the opportunity of being with your colleagues and to leverage the tools you have at your disposal.  Information reporting and clarifying should be done outside meetings – people can read and question anytime from anywhere given the tools they have available to them.  They can do homework to bring results into meetings for further work.

How do your meetings work in your school or District settings?  What are you doing to improve them?  What would your ideal meeting look like?  What advice would you have for others trying to reinvent meetings?