Sunday, October 29, 2017

Using Video to Improve Teaching Practice

This is a guest post from Harrison McCoy.

Speaking transparently, I have to admit I don't like the way I appear in videos. To be totally truthful, I dislike the way my voice sounds even more. Yet, I recognize the effectiveness of using video in teaching, coaching, and training, and one of my professional goals for this year is to create a podcast.

However, if we, as educators, want to be in the same room with a lot of other "professionals", we are going to have to put our egos aside and realize what an amazing tool video is for evaluating and improving our performance.

Teaching is a performance profession, but not in the sense that we are actors on a stage pretending to be someone we are not. There are, however days when we might be tempted to see things that way. You know what I mean. You wake up with a migraine on the same day that you are scheduled to lead an important review for your state assessment AND your principal has emailed you that he will be visiting your fourth period class. So you mumble something about "the show must go on" and down a double espresso on the way to school. Showtime!

Paul Bambrick-Santoyo, in Get Better Faster (p. 25), makes the point that "educators are not much different than a cardiac surgeon performing an emergency operation." Nearly every aspect of what we do as teachers is done "live" and without a net. Teachers are much like NFL quarterbacks who have to make decisions on the run with 400-pound linemen chasing them from behind. Many professions rely heavily on video to enhance and assess performance. So, why don't we?

Technology now makes it easier than ever to use video in coaching. At a very basic level, every teacher with a smartphone has the ability to create a video of herself/himself teaching. Even without a coach, that video can become a tool for teacher self-improvement On a higher level, technology also makes it possible to combine multiple camera views, Bluetooth microphones, and cloud-based storage to enable virtual coaching complete with discussion threads. My employer furnishes two tools that I have used with some success; IrisConnect Discovery Kits and Swivl.

Both of these have, in the last year, begun offering a "live" coaching options that involve all of the above AND two-way communication between the coach and teacher with immediate feedback and mid-course correction on the fly.

Are there costs involved? Depending upon the package you choose, you could spend a lot of money. Put that in perspective by comparing it to the cost of hiring and training a new teacher for every good educator that you lose to burnout. Coaching is proving to be one way to help solve the retention problem in education today. Add video and the quality of coaching goes up dramatically.

Jim Knight, in Focus on Teaching, (p. 4) observes that video “helps us see exactly what it looks like when we teach or our students learn.” It's not uncommon for me to hear teachers say something like "I had no idea that I said that/looked that way/only focused on certain students that way" when when watching their video with me as their coach.

Video improves both the process of teacher improvement and the results. It will also help us to have something to talk about the next time we find ourselves at a cocktail party with an NFL quarterback or a heart surgeon.

About the author:
I am employed by the Education Service Center, Region 11, in Fort Worth Texas. I am part of an instructional coaching team that works with more than 70 school districts in north Texas to ensure teacher improvement. I have been an educator for nearly 20 years. I enjoy connecting with educators around the world on Twitter and blogging as a means of reflecting on my practice as an educator.

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