Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Classroom Video for Professional Development

My recent posts have been reflections on my involvement in a blended/hybrid education technology professional development on the integration of The Geometer's Sketchpad into high school and middle school math.  This post reflects on the use of classroom video in the online component, and my thoughts on how schools/teachers could be using this tool to inform their own practice.

Part of the online component my participants are currently involved in includes videos of teachers using Sketchpad in the classroom.  The video they watch this week includes the teacher in the video's thought process, the students actually in the classroom, and reflection of what happened.  It is fascinating reading the discussion from my online participants on what they are seeing in the video and how they then connect what they are observing and hearing to themselves. Comments such as:
"I liked how the vocabulary was embedded in the lesson without focusing on it - it let students learn without feeling pressure"
"My strategies for using the software would be to explore the tools with my students and make a learning team" (similar to what was seen on the video with round table discussions"
"Computer use could be an obstacle but the teacher seemed to work just fine with the lab top in front of everyone.  You could also just use the lab top with whole-small-whole concept"
Teachers are clearly focusing on different aspects, but thinking of their students and also reflecting and commenting on how they personally would change or use the same ideas. Seeing someone else doing what they will eventually be doing themselves provides a chance to plan and anticipate.

Which has me thinking about the use of classroom video for professional development in general, not just online - why don't we use it more?

Naturally, it makes sense in an online environment to have classroom video, since the online environment includes links and resources that participants can access easily and asynchronously. But I think it's something we should be using more regularly, both informally and formally, in face-to-face teacher professional development.  Informally, it could be used as a personal reflection exercise for teachers, peer groups, or coaches/mentors. A teacher films themselves teaching and then either on their own or with a colleague or coach/mentor, looks at what happened and reflects on their own behaviors or student behaviors to inform their practice.

In more formal settings, such as department or district meetings, classroom video analysis is a great way to incorporate collaboration and reflection on instructional practice, whereby teachers are looking at different aspects of the classroom video, reflecting on what they are seeing and how it impacts student learning.The goal in either situation is to focus on specific aspects of the video, such as the questioning skills or wait time, or behaviors of students during group work, etc. This type of analysis and reflection can lead teachers to consider their own instructional practices, make connections between teacher behaviors and student behaviors, and hopefully, provide a way to help change and improve their own practice.

My suggestion for anyone trying to 'improve' teacher practice is to consider using classroom video as one avenue of learning and promoting change. There are resources out there or it's pretty easy to tape a classroom with the abundance of recording devices out there and it provides a valuable tool for reflecting, collaboration, and informing and improving instructional practice. 

To get you started, here is a quick video from YouTube with Melissa Burkhead using Sketchpad and a SmartBoard with her students. What can you learn?!

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