Classroom Relection

What was my least favorite part of student teaching? Making a video of my teaching, then watching it with peers and critiquing it.

What was my most valuable part of student teaching? Quite possibly that same video.

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I finished undergraduate and graduate school in the late 1990’s, when mobile telephones were still in bags and required power from a cigarette lighter.  At that time, it was a massive effort to video a lesson in a classroom. Much like watching a video on TV in the classroom, to video a lesson you hauled in a massive tripod and a huge camcorder, complete with a fresh VHS tape, pointed it toward the center of the room, and hoped you didn’t move out of the frame and spoke loud enough to be heard over the air conditioning, students moving chairs, and the bell ringing.

 

Today, the entire concept of doing video in the classroom is different. We have high quality cameras in our pockets at all times. The idea of taking pictures has evolved from “how many more photos are on this roll of 24-exposure film” to “should I Instagram this or post it to Facebook?” We grab memories all the time and share them with families and friends,  so why not do the same in the classroom.

Fold into this the idea of reflection of our practice.  Athletes do this all the time to improve their swing, throw, or hit. Teachers today have a wealth of tools available to make this reflection easy, but probably the hardest part is something that technology can’t fix: Reflecting on your practice is hard, and sharing that reflection with others is even harder. Simply put: the practice of closing the classroom door makes it hard for many teachers to be open to reflect on their classroom instruction, especially with other teachers.RCA_VHS_shoulder-mount_Camcorder.jpg

I hope that technology is going to change this, though.  Because society has changed the norms around taking pictures and video and sharing that with others, I’m hoping that norm will carry over to the classroom for reflection.

I’ve recently purchased a couple iPads, but more importantly, a couple Swivl devices. The Swivl features a robot that the iPad docks into and bundles a microphone. That microphone, worn on a lanyard around the teacher’s neck, contains a tracker that helps the Swivl robot pan around the room, following the teacher. The microphone captures high-quality sound, and the iPad records the entire session on the device.

It doesn’t end there, though. Where the Swivl really shines comes after the recording ends. Once an online account is created with Swivl, the video is automatically uploaded to Swivl’s secure servers and shared back with the account holder. From there, you can easily review the video. The Swivl Pro account adds lots of great features, including annotating the video, sharing with colleagues, and more. You can also add additional microphones and place them with students, then tune into specific conversations to hear student discussions, figuring out where your lesson was strong and where some reteaching is needed.

Swivl does a lot more, which I’ll likely talk about later. You don’t even need the robot to try out the software, which will work on iOS and Android.  You can see more about Swivl at https://www.swivl.com and consider purchasing one. You can also purchase a Swivl at Amazon, as well as other tools for classroom reflection.

Back to Blogging

It’s been a while since I’ve posted here, as you can tell from the post just before this one…lots has changed for me professionally since the last post. I continue to serve as Instructional Technology Coordinator in my 10-school district in York, South Carolina, but I added the role of Public Information Officer about a year and a half ago.  Due to retirements in the district the position opened up, and I was working to coordinate our district’s AdvancED accreditation process, so I asked to take on that role as well to consolidate efforts.

The Public Information Office role has been a lot of fun, but a challenge to keep up with along with the other responsibilities. Being a PIO is a full-time job in all but the smallest districts. Our district is just on the fringe of the Charlotte media market, so we are able to “avoid” attention for some situations, but are frequently looped into stories involving Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools as well as the other districts in our county.  Often times it is a “this happened there, what does York do?” type of story, which doesn’t take much to respond to. Occasionally it is a significant story involving our district, which requires all of my time and focus.

My real goal in the PIO role is the same as other PIOs throughout all organizations: Tell the story of our students and staff. I’ve been successful in that quest a few times recently, including the always-tear-jerking Military Reunion I was able to video just before the Christmas holidays last year.  A York graduate returned home a day earlier than expected and surprised his sister in her classroom.  That video is here:

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I’ve captured the Teacher of the Year announcement, student projects including t-shirt launchers constructed in a Physics class, and many more events in schools that only begin to tell the stories inside the walls of our campuses.

I’ve also been lucky enough to be working with PIOs in the other districts in my county who I have leaned on for support and guidance, taking advantage of their knowledge and training. The state’s branch of the National School Public Relations Association is also extremely generous with their time and resources, and like classroom teachers, love to swap war stories when they get together.

I’m going to try to blog more frequently over the next few months, in part to help tell these stories, as well as some personal talk, including products that I’ve bought and like to use, and probably some other random stuff. As with other bloggers, drop me a note and let me know what you think or what you’d like to learn. I’m @tcooper185 on Twitter as well.