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How to improve school communication using Slack

Written by Ben Newsome on August 10th, 2016.      0 comments

school collaboration using slack
Who wouldn't want to improve collaboration?

Anyone who thinks that a school is easy to run most likely hasn't worked in one! It's no wonder teachers have little time to eat their lunch considering the never-ending list of demands placed on them. Apart from keeping yourself organised (I recommend Trello for that by the way) you still have to work with your fellow teachers on shared project-based learning tasks, planning excursions, coordinating resources, meetings and much more. This can be quite hard when you only see your fellow staff members as you rush into the staff room for a quick bite to eat before heading out to lunch duty! As a result, many teachers have an overflowing inbox of emails from their fellow staff which they have to sort through themselves as well as personal phones jam-packed with text message conversations that can easily get buried.

Thankfully there are many education apps that can make all the above much easier to deal with and one that just might change the game in your staff room could be Slack. This messaging app exploded onto the scene as a solution for busy teams needing a quick solution that could replace emailing and text messages into a unified area where quick messages between staff could be sorted into specific channels as they're being sent... dramatically reducing the time needed to wade through messages for that all important urgent one. Imagine how useful this could be in your school; no longer do you have to sort & catalogue your messages into folders for future reference as this is already done for you by the messenger and more importantly everyone in your school can contribute to these team discussions using any device, effectively creating a highly accessible in-house forum that just works. You can quickly check the channels that impact upon you the most as well send direct private messages to one or more of your fellow teachers too. Where Slack can really help your education team is the option to integrate the online storage app Dropbox and project management tool Trello to Slack, allowing your education staff to really work effectively together. The effect of implementation? No more inbox clutter, increased staff communication & better coordination of resources... and the free version of Slack does what most teachers would want anyway! Sounds like a win to me :)

So, are your curious to try Slack out for your staff? It can be quite easy to deploy on your smart phone, tablet and computer, it's just a matter of taking the time to setup the basics. First up, visit Slack on the web, on iTunes, or on Google Play. Next,  create a login to setup your team...

Create a new slack team

You'll need to authenticate who you are using your email address. After that, setup your name you'll use...

Put your name in Slack

After setting your password and name, you'll need to name your team and come up with a web domain name...

web domain for team slack channels

... and you're in! When you first enter the Slack dashboard you'll find an option to explore Slack with their tutorials (you can also find guides to Slack here). What you will notice is the option to enable desktop notifications if you;re using a computer - this can be handy to have on if you want to monitor information flowing amongst your team.

slack welcome screen

On the left hand side of the app you can see that you already have been set up with two channels "general" & "random". You can now start adding multiple channels such as 'grade 1 science resources' or 'grade 5 mountain excursion' and invite people to join Slack to whichever channels you think they need to be involved in. You can describe each channel's purpose when you set it up as well.

creating channels in slack

It's so quick to get going! At this point it's just a matter of using the app by sending messages back and forth between your education team (the more the better!). Very soon you'll find yourself using email and text less and less as Slack becomes the go to place for communication. As always, change management is always an issue for any team and so it would be worth you getting a few of your close teaching colleagues on board with the app first to trial it out and work out how you best want to use it. That way you can be more likely of creating enthusiasm with the rest of your staff room if people can see it working and how it'll help give time back in their already stretched schedules. Even though Slack is a great solution for working together, no doubt your school already has a communication system in place and such there could be people who will want to cling the old ways of doing things. Don't worry though, in time they will see how much more effective you'll have become with your time and will want to join in too (especially when they see you can add silly random .gif videos in channels just for fun!).

Anyway, no worries if  Slack is not for you. What matters is that hopefully this article has allowed you to think how communication is currently managed in your education team - perhaps it's time to review it? As someone once said... your best thinking 5 years ago is your baggage today.

Happy teaching!


Ben Newsome
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