There are so many incredible advantages to using video to promote educational practices. Describing the art of teaching is not easy, particularly the nuanced ways in which teachers engage students, use questioning strategies, and move learning forward with feedback techniques.
“Classrooms are complex, busy places where countless multi-layered interactions take place as kids explore academic topics while developing identities, relationships, and social skills. You’d have to be able to stop time to tease out the intricacies of a single moment. Yet video helps you do just this, enabling you to go back and analyze classroom exchanges in depth, after the fact.”
Recently, I had the honor of attending TeamsFest, the annual Teaching Channel celebration of the work they do with Teams across the country. With Teams, teachers and instructional leaders work together in a secure environment. Educators can upload and share videos from their classrooms, view one another’s practice as part of professional learning communities, and work together to view videos from the vast library of curated segments on the Teaching Channel site.
As an educational consultant, TeamsFest was, without a doubt, the highlight of my travels over the past year. The conference was informative, provocative, propelling, forward thinking, and engaging. Yes, it really was “All that, and a bag of chips!” Sometimes you just arrive at an event and you know you’re in the right place, with the right people. The teachers, coaches, principals, professional development providers, consultants, and Teaching Channel staff were in Palm Springs to learn from one another and to share experiences from the heart. I came away with new tools and strategies, and ideas for promoting high quality teaching practices.
I had the privilege to facilitate a reading activity as well as present a session. I learned a great deal from the teachers I worked with. The quality of the materials, the structure of the agenda, and the facilitation by Teaching Channel staff members made the part that I played feel joyous and natural.
My biggest takeaway, in terms of my own learning, came from attending an interactive session where I had the opportunity to practice observation using a video that was uploaded to the Teams site. As participants, we were introduced to a very simple tool that promoted the “I noticed” strategy for observing in classrooms. The session was lead by Andrea Thune, an instructional coach from Ontario/Montclair. The segment, “Noticing Student Thinking Through Video,” was during a time in the agenda when Teams from around the country shared their successes and new learning from this school year.
Based on the premise that we tend to impose our own “lens” or belief system on the classroom environments we observe in, Ms. Thune has developed a template that is direct and uncomplicated, but works like magic. The template is used with the “Noticing Student Thinking Protocol,” which can be found in the Tch Protocol Guide. The protocol is designed to encourage descriptive reflection. While there are times when we want to use specific success criteria while looking at instruction, the “I notice” approach is always a good place to begin. Once the “noticings” have been recorded, without judgment or bias, that evidence can be examined for a plethora of information.
It was very freeing to simply record exactly what was noticed, and then have a discussion with another observer and compare “noticings.” In this particular session, participants noticed many of the same things, but also some unique, less obvious points of interest. The evidence recorded prompted critical thinking and encouraged us to wonder and ask why. This kind of reflective practice pays an enormous role in shifting thinking about teaching in general and about our own practice in particular. Promoting critical thinking in our students means more critical thinking modeled by practitioners.
In this world of educational budget cuts and teachers’ responsibilities being piled higher and higher, we need better solutions for professional development. Using Teaching Channel’s technology, along with the accompanying high quality materials to support learning, positive changes in classroom practice emerge, along with what really matters most: student success. Capturing the art of teaching, and using what we learn from it well, really can be like lightning in a bottle. Powerful and amazing.