Benefits of Virtual Collaboration in Early Childhood Education
Preschool teachers spend all days separated into their classrooms educating their students. As they walk through the lesson plans for the day, they might have one or two other teachers who they collaborate with or who come in to allow them to go on lunch break.
But collaboration in preschool environments is challenging. Working to maintain teacher-to-student ratios, manning the front desk and going through the day-to-day work schedule leaves little time for in-person collaboration.
The result can be that teachers feel disconnected from their work environment, which leads to a lack of loyalty and can increase turnover rates.
Throughout the pandemic, we learned the value of virtual collaboration. And even though we can gather as teams again, virtual collaboration tools can still play an important role in childcare and preschool environments.
Virtual Collaboration in Early Childhood Education
Virtual collaboration can have a big impact on the work environment for teachers and on the quality of care your center can provide to your customers. Here’s a look at some of the benefits of providing teachers a way to communicate with one another and your administrative staff throughout the day.
- Share lessons learned while they are fresh in teachers’ minds
- Ask questions and get quick responses
- Discuss non-work topics, such as life events and interest areas
- Remind teammates of upcoming in-service days, pajama days, field trips, etc.
- Improved retention rates as teachers have a sense of belonging and community
- Greater interpersonal relationships among teachers
- Improvements in collaboration and communication with parents
- Less likely for teachers to feel drained and stressed, according to research
- Provide a platform for ongoing learning
- Share ideas and give teachers a sense of belonging and purpose
- Increase efficiency and productivity
Virtual Collaboration Tool Options for Preschools
One key to offering teachers collaboration tools is the ability to turn them off once they’ve left work for the day. That’s the challenge with group text messages or even one-on-one messages between teachers. Once the workday is done, teachers want to relax at home without the burdens of work or the mental weight that work-related questions can create in their home lives.
It’s a better idea to implement a virtual collaboration tool that empowers teachers to create groups for team collaboration while also enabling one-on-one communication for personal interactions with individuals teachers work more closely with.
Here’s a look at some of your options when evaluating virtual collaboration tools.
- Childcare Software
If you’re using childcare software, you might already have the necessary tools at your fingertips. When preschools think about their software, they often consider it a tool for parent-teacher communication. But many software tools provide an opportunity to message any user on the childcare app.
Talk with your vendor about ways you can increase team collaboration using the software you already have. That way, teachers don’t have to switch apps throughout the day to go from communicating with parents to chatting with team members. And, teachers won’t have to download an app on their personal devices to stay connected. They can simply use the classroom tablets to stay in touch.
GroupMe allows for text message-like communication, but with options for silencing those messages when the teachers are away from work. Your staff will have greater control over their level of collaboration from work when using an app like GroupMe.
The service is free and won’t disclose phone numbers and personal information to coworkers unless the teacher wants to share that information. It allows for some separation of work and home for teachers who want that.
Slack is a popular communication tool for distributed teams, but it’s also useful for staying in touch with teammates who work locally. Teachers can create different channels for collaboration. For example, you can have an all-hands group as well as a group for teachers of 3-year-olds and a separate one for 4-year-old classroom teachers.
The tool allows for creating threads and empowering teachers to silence notifications during set times of the day.
Skype is slowly falling out of favor as a virtual collaboration tool, partly because Microsoft has increased support for Microsoft Teams. But it’s still an option for staying in touch with teachers. Skype also allows for video or audio conferencing for free, which is an added benefit of the service.
Having these groups preset for virtual team meetings can be helpful for quick check-ins and team meetings with all teachers despite staggered start times or even part-time schedules where they are only in your center a few days a week.
If you aren’t sure where to start with virtual teacher collaboration, discuss your needs with your childcare software vendor first. That way, you’ll know what you already have in-house and how you can better use those tools to provide a platform for teacher engagement.