May 5, 2017

The Power of Video for Professional Growth

Do you remember the first question you asked on Facebook? Or consider an even more powerful experience: do you remember your sense of revelation in that first moment when you asked the internet a question, and the internet replied back? For me, my first question “to the internet” was a tweet asking for St. Patrick’s Day project ideas for my second graders. And with that message to the Twittersphere came replies with ideas and suggestions and links! In that moment, I moved from Googling something to asking something. That is the real power of social media: you can connect with anyone from anywhere.

Video amplifies this idea of “any time, any place, any pace” collaboration. You’ve likely heard an impressive quote about the quantity of content on YouTube. Those numbers were outdated even before you heard them, because that body of content is growing exponentially. On average so far in 2017, five billion videos are watched on YouTube every day. Uploads are even more astounding—every 60 seconds, 300 hours of new video appear on this platform. Why? Because video is powerful. It communicates so more than written text. Watching a video of someone talking, even without any fancy edits, shows all of the speaker’s nonverbal communication that you just don’t get in any other format. Our brains are wired for face-to-face interaction, and video provides a powerful means to communicate.

Seven years ago, third-grade teacher Tim Bedley saw the power of video and began to livestream his class. Any teacher, student, or parent could watch what was happening at any time. Tim’s motivation for this radically transparent way of teaching was simple: he wanted to share, and he wanted feedback. I think Tim was onto something, and I think more teachers need to be sharing their own practices.

A Powerful Tool for Professional Growth

What if we could use video to grow professionally? What if instead of talking about professional growth we started watching professional growth?

We started instructional rounds this year at Hillbrook School. We played with several formats, but there was always one consistent piece—we went into a classroom as a group and watched someone teach. We learned so much about the craft of teaching, but it was a colossal pain to schedule.

Moving forward, we plan on continuing in-person instructional rounds, but we’re also planning to add a video component. Instead of coordinating the schedules (and covering classes with subs!) for six people at a time, we can simply record a lesson and watch it. This gives several benefits:

• You can rewatch the video for key components; think instant replay for football, but substitute a kindergarten teacher for a linebacker.

• You can share exceptional moments with others.

• You can look for different things each time you watch it. Perhaps the first time, you’ll focus only on the questions asked; with the second viewing, you’ll focus only on one student; and the third viewing can be a look at how students are grouped throughout the lesson.

All of this is impossible in real time, but video allows us to do these things and more.

Digital technology and the internet have given us powerful tools for professional learning. It’s time we leverage video of teachers teaching to enhance our conversation about pedagogy and to grow professionally. We can have powerful conversations around video and around lessons. All we need to do is start thinking creatively about how we might use video in the classroom.

More Resources

Harvard’s Best Foot Forward Project Harvard GSE researchers looked at the impact of using video for observations, and found multiple benefits for both teachers and administrators. 

Game Changer for School and District Leaders: Using Video to Achieve High Performance in the Classroom  Download this free report and practical guide created by Insight Education Group and Smartbrief Education that includes “how to” information for effective implementation of video for feedback and evaluation.


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