Have you ever sat in your classroom alone at your desk, thinking about your students, looking at the papers, staring at the computer screen, wondering where to start, feeling overwhelmed, wondering how your colleagues are doing, knowing you have things to do, uncertain about what all those things are, and thinking,
"There has to be a better way?"
We have too.
It is our intention in these blog posts to explore the issues and challenges we face as educators and how WeCollab can be maximized to help provide a better way! The goal is to highlight, through our own experiences and those with our partners, the "better ways" that we have been fortunate to uncover along our learning path.
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” ~ Lao Tzu ~
Every journey has a beginning, and WeCollab is no different. At one point in time it was known as the Collaborative Response Model System (CRMS). Designed by educators for educators, at its inception it was an idea for a software system to enhance Collaborative Response structures and processes: replacing the science boards and emailing of meeting notes. This was then brought to fruition by a team of programmers.
Given its roots, let us revisit the history of Collaborative Response with Jigsaw Learning's Kurtis and Lorna Hewson.
So how did structures and processes centred on addressing the learning needs of students lead to the design of software? Kurtis shares some insight into the history of WeCollab below.
The Napkin Conversation
I was fortunate to be around for what I affectionately refer to as "The Napkin Conversation".
Kurtis and Roger, my direct supervisor with Northern Gateway Public Schools, had met at Teachers' Convention just to catch up between sessions. A few of us passed by their table in Edmonton Centre, and, as we were on our way to a session, someone mentioned (and not for the first time), "Wouldn't it be nice if there was a piece of software that worked with CRM?"
What followed was a beautiful interaction between brilliant minds who contemplated, "What if...?"
What if there was a way to digitally display the physical science fair boards Kurtis talked about as part of the process? What if you could select a support that had already been identified instead of having to type it over and over? What if meeting notes could be recorded and automatically emailed? What if there was a way to put all the notes about individual students into their own space? What if teachers could access their assigned actions in one place? What if teachers could provide updates to those actions when they were completed instead of having to wait until the next meeting? What if principals could see all the assigned actions for all staff with easy access?
Each idea became connected to another, and with little effort and much excitement, a simple coffee conversation became an intense brainstorming encounter. As our travels took us past the table again after our session, we were treated to an explanation of the napkin drawings spread across a table that gave rise to an intricately coordinated software solution built on the foundation of Collaborative Response.
From CRMS to WeCollab
The initial napkin conversation was brought to life by programmers willing to take direction from educators and be open to feedback to ensure that the end product aligned with its intention. Pilot groups provided early insight into the system with their appreciation for particular features and their wishes for additional elements. Over time, it has been the valued feedback from the field, from the educators engaging with the system, that has seen enhancements made to the system.
Small component requests led to grand ideas, and the product itself expanded beyond supporting Collaborative Response at the school level to include parallel processes at the district level and the development of school profiles. Thus the product was rebranded for two reasons:
- to represent ongoing collaboration with partners to develop and continually grow a complex but elegant digital solution
- to better reflect the many ways collaboration can be engaged in with transparency and integrity within the system.
The Addition of The Student Support Plan
As the understanding of Collaborative Response has grown, the connection between structures and processes in WeCollab and the way in which educators respond to the learning needs of all students, including those requiring exceptional support, became more and more evident. The action-oriented approach to addressing common key issues and the commitments made to supporting students, paramount in Collaborative Response, were principles that guided the development of a Student Support Plan module. In practice, the module is flexible (create different support plan templates to meet provincial/state standards within the context of a district), living (adjust goals and supports as students learn and grow), and intuitive (aligns with user familiarity of the WeCollab system and ensures ongoing communication about goals for students, as well as the actions and supports in place to achieve those goals). Learning is an organic process, and student support plans can reflect that process within WeCollab.
What to Expect Next from WeCollab
WeCollab, from a programming perspective, has been entirely rewritten. While this next version is a little more modern in image, the solid foundation of Collaborative Response remains. The rewrite has been informed by the educators who continue to share their experiences with WeCollab as they find better ways to do their good work. New features include
- Actions Not Connected to a Student - Assign actions to staff that pertain to the work of supporting students that may not be student specific
- Separation of Actions and Supports - Supports will continue to be selected from a dropdown menu with actions automatically created to both begin and review the support for the student
- Key Issue Articulation - Identification of a key issue as part of the conversation during meetings will allow for supports to be both brainstormed as part of the meeting and suggested from the database
- Access Student Profile During Team Meeting - The ability to click the student’s name in the meeting note so there are separate tabs for the meeting note template and the complete student profile
- Development en français - WeCollab will have a francophone option in which all language will be in French, not just what is entered by the user
We have been soft launching this updated version with our current partners this Fall 2022 and we would love to have you schedule a conversation to learn more!
Moving Forward with the WeCollab Blog
Collaborative Response is a mindset that values collaboration, action-focused discussions, data-informed decisions, and timely supports to ensure student success. We stand firmly behind the premise that WeCollab is a tool to enhance Collaborative Response structures and processes. You will often hear us say that, "The process trumps the program," and we mean it. The most important thing is that we have the conversations about meeting student needs and strive to find the best ways to support them.
We will continue to blog about WeCollab here at Jigsaw Learning, sharing features, connecting the program to the process in order to further increase efficiency, effectiveness, and transparency in communicating about how we support our students and how we collaborate to do so. We hope, moving forward, that there may be insight that sparks the notion, "There is a better way!"
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