“Swivl-ing” into Professional Learning

This is a repost of a blog post I wrote that was recently featured on the Swivl blog.

A review of the wonderful posts on the Swivl blog will highlight the many benefits of using the Swivl system to implement individualized observations with students. Being able to review any lesson via video is great, but the additional features that the Swivl+ system provides cannot be overlooked. As teachers, we often pride ourselves on “being able to hear a pin drop across the room” and “having eyes in the back of our heads” but everyone knows that neither of those claims is truly accurate. We cannot see or hear everything. With the Swivl+ system, you have a much clearer picture of what your students are doing, and most importantly, what they are “getting.” 


However, as much as I can tout the benefits of individualized observations for students, I can only do so from afar. As the Educational Technology Specialist for a statewide STEM initiative, I work primarily with teachers, not students. When I applied to become a Swivl Pioneer, I shared this with the Swivl team but also discussed some of the many ways that I felt Swivl could benefit educators at all levels including allowing us to truly review and reflect on our work. I present between ten and fifteen professional development sessions each month ranging from 30-minute overview sessions to six-hour workshops. The formats run from online webinars to conference presentations to hands-on workshops. Topics range from Google Teacher Boot Camps to Microsoft Office to web tools in the classroom. 

Teaching adult learners requires a different mindset than working with students, but the goal is the same- I want each of them to “get” it. I recently set up the Swivl+ system and used it during a portion of the Google Teacher Boot Camp I was leading. I did so with several goals in mind. First, I knew in advance that several of the participants would not be able to attend this first session and the recordings would provide an easy way for me to share the information with those participants. Now, I know that I could have done the same with a video camera on a tripod or even a webcam, but the Swivl+ system would also allow those participants to see and hear the discussions of the other participants. 

When it comes to teacher professional learning, almost every teacher will mention the “teacher conversations” as one of the most valuable parts of an effective professional learning session. But the Swivl system also helps me as a trainer and facilitator. This is the first Boot Camp I have led as a Google Certified Trainer. Having the video of my session will provide me with incredible feedback on my performance. Were the teachers truly engaged during the presentation? What conversations were they having as they worked through the various activities? Were they off track (yes, teachers do that too) or were they engaging in peer learning? I have a second session of the Boot Camp scheduled for next week. 

After working through the process the first time, I plan to use the Swivl system again and hope to record a whole session. I included in my personal professional development plan that I would “review recordings of at least two training sessions I conduct and reflect on my performance.” I also included “I will ask a critical friend to review the same two sessions and to provide feedback on my performance.” When I wrote that plan, I had my Swivl but was only casually familiar with Swivl+ and certainly was not part of the Pioneer program. Now I know just how much easier it will be to complete that plan. 

Inspired by my experience with Swivl? Apply to become a Swivl Pioneer!

A collection of coding apps and resources.

Coding for kids.

Over lunch today, I was pulling together a few resources related to data governance for a different project and was digging through the great resources provided by Common Sense Media Education (on Twitter @CommonSenseEd).  As I search for my original target, I came across this video on ways to get kids coding.  Take a look. . .

While the three tips included are things I had heard, and shared before I still found myself pulled into this quick little video.  I have been working on a broader project working to integrate computational thinking and computer science into the work of our (primarily) Math and Science efforts.  This has resulted in me taking long looks at several coding apps, robotics programs, and other computational thinking related resources.
By far, my current favorite is Tynker.  The app is extremely well done on iOS and the web resources are incredibly rich. We are, however, still in the midst of a funding quagmire. The Tynker app on iOS is free (the school version incomes with a $6 price tag). The training options on the website, the curriculum itself, is outstanding and comes with a pricing model designed for whole school adoption.  Yes, they have “classroom” plan, but that seems to fit a program that has the same 30 students under one teacher for a whole semester (12 lessons with 62 activities falls a bit short of the traditional 90 class days of a semester).  But for many teachers, schools, districts, and in my case, programs, do not work that way.  If I am an innovative 5th-grade science teacher and I want to integrate computer science, and coding, into my course, I may have 60-80 students (if students rotate teachers). I may not need 60+ activities because I may not have the time available or I may elect to use some of the great resources from Code.org to supplement as well.
Before I go any further, this is not a criticism of Tynker.  In fact, they have a great 6 lesson course that would fit perfectly into the scenario that I described and it is offered free. But it is one course. Now it is up to me to piece together Tynker, Code.org, and other resources to build my own curriculum. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is more work for the teacher. Especially when you look at the management of these varied resources.
I want to use resources from Tynker, Code.org, Sphero, Wonder Workshop, CS First, Swift Playgrounds and a half a dozen other apps and programs. But I also want to keep my sanity. Developers, please don’t take this as criticism  I am after all a teacher. Take it as a design challenge.  I am here to teach students.  In the words of Jerry Maguire, “Help me help you!”
Well, until those developers contact me directly for my thoughts, here is a Participate Learning collection of my favorite coding resources.

https://www.participate.com/collections/embed/ca499ef0-85eb-47f5-b924-e81b9a6b14c8?type=standard

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