As part of my responsibilities as the support teacher for my grade level, I teach a reading intervention with students learning phonics called Orton Gillingham. I read posts on a FaceBook group called Orton Gillingham Online Academy (OGOA). This is a moderated group associated with the organization I trained with. I routinely search for information to help improve my practice and make the intervention more interesting and effective. I find this Facebook group helpful. One example is finding out about the Bitmoji Chrome extension. This is a simple idea is something I had wondered how other teachers were adding their avatar to their slides but I had not bothered to ask but now I know.
Another helpful website I learned about in this group is wordwall.net. This website is a quick and easy resource to make activities and games using vocabulary. I have shared this site with my colleagues and they have started using it. We discuss how we are using it and share ideas. I have also created activities for the grade level so now not only are the special educational needs (SEN) students using the activities for learning vocabulary but every student in the grade level.
There is a community section for this resource and it allows for contributors to share their activities with others. I often search the community resources to find activities already made my students can use. There is no opportunity for discussion among the contributors. I once came across an activity I wanted to use but there was a misspelled word. I was not allowed to edit the activity and there is no way to contact the person who created it. I find this limiting in allowing for collaboration among the people using the website.
Teachers Pay Teachers
Another resource I use to find teaching material is Teachers Pay Teachers (TpT). I find inspiration for creating my own materials on this website and of course, I find activities to use in my teaching. With my learning from COETAIL, I came to realize I need to be a contributor and not just a consumer. I am proud to say I recently uploaded my first resource to my store on TpT! “It is good to use TpT because it’s helpful when you’re creating your own materials and contributing back to others. First, you were searching for information now other people have an opportunity to find more,” said one student.
SEN teachers WebEx Teams
This year our school switched to using WebEx instead of Google Meet for our platform for working online with students. One of the services WebEx offers is WebEx Teams. We are able to create collaboration groups to message ideas, questions, share files, etc. The most exciting advantage of using WebEx Teams is how quickly we can get answers to our questions. Emails traditionally are answered eventually; however, people respond to messages much quicker. The supervisor of my department created a group for the faculty and we collaborate often.
My school has the strongest COETAIL community! Last year, I embarked on this COETAIL journey with several colleagues from school. Right away we started a WhatsApp group called, “COETAIL group 2020” to collaborate with each other. We also had coaches in the group to help with any questions. Shout out to Cary and Paul for all their help!
Unfortunately, this group was not very active except for a few of us. To not annoy the silent ones with all the banter, we next created a smaller group. Shalene, Erika, Mooney, and I held continuous discussions via the smaller WhatsApp group, “the real coetail group” plus we would meet at times for a face-to-face work session Shalene humorously dubbed “COETAIL Cocktails.” This professional learning support group community (PLsgC) helped with sharing information and ideas plus provided a safe place to ask for help or encouragement. We should totally have t-shirts made.
Online community involvement is a natural way to collaborate with others to create synergy towards improving our teaching practice. Through the process of reflecting on the ways I seek information, I have come to realize some of my interactions are not sustained beyond a topic. Other interactions are more continuous with a back-and-forth, give-and-take relationship where sharing information and expertise does happen more regularly. I was lucky to have my school colleagues completing the COETAIL course with me. Social media platforms are a great way to network; however, having a couple of in-person collaborators is even better.