Tools for communication and collaboration

How can you use EdTech tools to support communication and peer collaboration among teachers?. To find out, read through the guidance at your own pace, or jump to a specific section:
Evidence-based guidance

These tips will help you effectively choose and use EdTech tools to develop teaching knowledge and skills.

#1

Use communication tools to encourage peer support.

Peer support is an essential characteristic of effective TPD. It is important for teachers to communicate with their peers, form communities of practice, and learn from each others’ experiences. This can improve pedagogical practice and support teacher wellbeing.

  • Prioritise school-based groups of teachers; Pay attention to cultural considerations with group dynamics (for example, mixed-gender groups may be inappropriate in some settings, compromising effective communication).
  • While face-to-face peer support is the most beneficial, EdTech tools can also give teachers access to more peers and a more diverse group of peers than they share a building with. Communication tools can support inter-school, inter-region, and even inter-country communities of practice.
  • In times of crisis that limit face-to-face peer support, communication tools are even more crucial to support teachers.
#2

Use communication tools that teachers already have and / or are familiar with.

This encourages scale, sustainability, and cost efficiency as teachers do not need to adopt new tools and practices. For example, if teachers are used to using WhatsApp or Signal, prioritise using these, instead of introducing a new tool or app.

#3

Use tools in ways that encourage teachers to reflect on their practice.

Reflection is an essential practice to help teachers to develop into stronger practitioners.

#4

Make sure tools are suitable for teachers’ levels of digital skills.

Tools should fit teachers’ levels of digital literacy and support communication in their language.

Teachers have different communications needs in TPD depending on their settings, the type of TPD, and their level of teaching. Here’s how you can tailor tools for communication to meet the needs of your teachers.

Novice teachers
  • Incorporate tools for communication within TPD programmes so teachers can form communities of practice.
  • Incorporate tools for communication within TPD programmes so coaches can remind teachers of effective practices.
  • Use simple and / or familiar communication tools that less tech-savvy teachers can adopt more easily.
  • Provide tech support for novice teachers and guidelines on how to use the communication tools for TPD.
Experienced teachers
  • Use communication tools to engage in critical discussion, reflection, and real-time problem-solving.
  • More tech-savvy teachers can use complex apps that are tailored to TPD communication and have features such as discussion forums, topic searches, peer feedback facilities, and shared resources.
#5

Make sure tools can be used at scale within the existing digital infrastructure.

For example, consider mobile penetration among teachers, data costs, and network connectivity among teachers.

#6

Make sure tools are low-cost or free for teachers to use.

This allows for a more cost efficient and scalable TPD solution.

❔ Who can use tools for communication and collaboration and how?
TeachersTPD coordinatorsSchool leadersPolicymakers
  • Communicate and collaborate with peers to discuss successes and challenges, and to provide each other with socioemotional support
  • Share resources such as lesson plans to encourage each other to adopt effective practices
  • Engage in critical discussion and real-time problem-solving
  • Use tools to coordinate with teachers, including checking on their progress and goals, reminding them to try new practices, and scheduling TPD sessions
  • When it is difficult to meet in person, organise teacher learning circles digitally using these tools
  • Share relevant TPD resources with teachers in your group
  • Use these tools to encourage collaborative lesson planning amongst teachers
  • Check-in with teachers within your school to understand their progress, challenges, and achievements
  • Encourage teachers within your school to communicate with peers, such as teachers within their subjects or grades
  • Make tools for communication and collaboration available for teachers and TPD coordinators to use
🔎 Curated tools for communication and collaboration
ToolDescriptionReview
RapidProRapidPro is an open-source communication platform you can configure to suit your communication needs and digital infrastructure requirements. It has features such as SMS, interactive voice response (IVR), and automated flows. It has APIs to allow you to integrate with other tools, and offers real-time analytics so you can monitor the TPD programme.

☑ Encourage peer support

☑ Familiar to teachers

☑ Encourage reflection 

☑ Suit digital skills and tailor to teacher levels

☑ Suit limited digital infrastructures

☑ Low-cost or free for teachers

TeachersConnect

TeachersConnect is a free app that allows teachers to share ideas and ask questions. Teachers can search through topics, ideas, and problem-solving techniques from peers. Teachers can use this tool to share challenges and achievements with other teachers, ask for solutions to challenges, and offer advice to other teachers.

NB: TeachersConnect is US-centric.

☑ Encourage peer support

🚩 Familiar to teachers

☑ Encourage reflection

☑ Suit digital skills and tailor to teacher levels

☑ Suit limited digital infrastructures

☑ Low-cost or free for teachers

WhatsApp, Signal and Telegram for communicating within TPDWhatsApp, Signal, and Telegram are  instant messaging tools. The popular instant messaging tool of choice differs from country to country. Instant messaging tools are commonly used among teachers in many settings. Teachers can use these tools to communicate with peers and coaches.

☑ Encourage peer support

☑ Familiar to teachers

☑ Encourage reflection

☑ Suit digital skills and tailor to teacher levels

☑ Suit limited digital infrastructures

☑ Low-cost or free for teachers

Facebook for communicating within TPDFacebook is a social media platform with an instant messaging tool and a feature to create groups. Teachers can use this platform to form Communities of Practice, share best practices, and share useful resources. Facilitators can moderate and facilitate group discussions.

☑ Encourage peer support

☑ Familiar to teachers

☑ Encourage reflection

☑ Suit digital skills and tailor to teacher levels

☑ Suit limited digital infrastructures

☑ Low-cost or free for teachers

EdThena

EdThena is a communication platform based on the use of video and feedback. Teachers take videos of their teaching using any device or software, such as Zoom. They upload and share their videos with a coach or group, and receive feedback on their teaching through time stamped comments from coaches or peers.

The features are useful for encouraging cycles of trial, feedback, reflection, and refinement, and for promoting microteaching, which has a significant impact on student outcomes.

NB: This is not free or open-source for decision-makers.

☑ Encourage peer support

🚩 Familiar to teachers

☑ Encourage reflection

☑ Suit digital skills and tailor to teacher levels

☑ Suit limited digital infrastructures

☑ Low-cost or free for teachers

Teacherly

Teacherly is a teacher communication and collaboration platform that allows teachers to collaborate on lesson-planning, give each other feedback, and seek support in teams and workspaces. It can be used by both teachers and coaches to facilitate collaboration, feedback, and refinement of teaching practices.

NB: The free option is limited. Used at-scale, this would not be free for decision-makers.

☑ Encourage peer support

🚩 Familiar to teachers

☑ Encourage reflection

☑ Suit digital skills and tailor to teacher levels

☑ Suit limited digital infrastructures

☑ Low-cost or free for teachers

📎 Case study: EdTech tools for communication and collaboration
The Teacher Development Programme (TDP) in Nigeria

Teachers for Teachers

Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya

Duration
(2016-2017)

Overview
The Teachers for Teachers initiative was launched by Columbia University in the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya. It is a three-pronged teacher professional development intervention, with training, coaching, and mentoring.
Approach

Mentors communicate with 4-5 teachers over WhatsApp and Facebook.

Mentors deliver a mobile mentoring curriculum, share experiences, and problem-solve real-time challenges teachers are facing.

Teachers are provided with mobile phones, airtime, and data.

Mentors form larger WhatsApp groups for teachers to engage with all peers in their training cohort (~30 teachers).

A separate group chat is set up for global mentors, to brainstorm solutions for their mentees.

Results
Almost 50% of teachers reported trialling new practices shared in WhatsApp conversations in their classrooms, and that these practices were successful.
Using WhatsApp and Facebook allowed teachers from the same areas to connect with each other and form Communities of Practice.
The programme leveraged digital tools to allow global mentors to connect with local teachers and share their support.
Further Information

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