“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!

Want to improve your practice? Observe yourself!

It is often said that the first step in recovery is admitting that you have a problem.  For educators, this could be expanded to say that the first step towards improving your practice may be identifying the problems in your current practice. Teachers and technology coaches that are truly interested in improving their practice may be overlooking some of the most practical ways to get started.  You cannot fix what you do not know is broken.

Yoda- The teacher that needs no evaluation!

Here are a few great tips for educators to identify areas for improvement:

1. Actively participate in the mandated teacher evaluation system.
Teachers get evaluated, that is nothing new. The systems used to evaluate teachers vary from state to state, even district to district. The importance that administrators place on these systems also varies.  It may be simply a task that they have to complete and could, therefore, be of little value to teachers.  But if you have an experienced administrator that truly sees teacher evaluation as a mechanism for teacher improvement, pay attention to their comments and suggestions!

2. Take a look, hard look at your own practice.
When was the last time you took your own test or completed the same assignment?  Do you have quirks in the way you create assignments that could be improved?  Are your instructions clear? Are your examples and test questions free of bias?

But self-evaluation does not end with the products you create.  It also includes taking a good look at yourself in the mirror.  Well, the modern equivalent of a mirror.  Technology has improved to the point that recording yourself in the classroom is so easy that arguing against its use is futile.  I did this myself during a professional development session just a couple of weeks ago.  I set up my iPad mini along with my Swivl C- Series C1, my own personal robot videographer! I recorded the entire session and then, a few days later, I watched the recording.  I looked for any tics, overly repetitive phrases, and my general interactions with my audience. (I actually used a portion of this recording in my PBS Digital Innovator application; you can see a portion here.) Remember, few people like to see themselves on video.  Just get past that and evaluate your practice objectively. Are you providing wait time? Do you call on boys more frequently than girls? Or particular students?

3. Critical friends
Never underestimate the power of having a close friend sit in on your class and then have a frank and honest discussion with them.  What did I do well? What could I improve? What might you do differently?

Want more tips on teacher self-assessment? Check out this page of resources from Scholastic.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑