Monday, April 21, 2014

Professional Learning via Video - tools and ideas

Well it's been way too long since I have blogged. Life is no less busy since starting my new position with the school district. There have been many things to learn and many projects we are working on. With Easter break, now is as good a time as any to chat about one of them. 

The project in one word: video! This year I have been involved with the implementation of Microsoft Lync. For those of you that may be unaware of what Lync is, essentially it is a videoconferencing tool. Unlike Polycom technologies I have used in the past, Lync allows for the sharing of desktop and applications with ease while allowing for the easy recording of a videoconferencing session. That allows us to offer online synchronous professional learning to anyone throughout our province and record it for asynchronous, on demand professional learning. 

Furthermore Lync can create a Meet Now videoconferencing session where a presenter can present and record desktop and applications without others logged in. This allows Lync to become a tool that teachers can use to record flipped lessons, videos for student support, and the list goes on. 

In short, Microsoft Lync will be a major tool that increases our use of video for professional learning, both synchronous and asynchronous. 

But there's a big piece missing... and that's what happens in the classroom. The easiest way to model good teaching practice is to provide a means for teachers to watch it... again video is the solution. BUT...

The first "but" comes from recording authentic classroom practice. The first time you bring a video camera with a cameraman into a classroom you have behaviour in that room which becomes more artificial or staged. What gets recorded may not be "real" or "typical" classroom interaction. This issue then leads into the second and most important issue or "but" for the classroom teacher... Workload. 

Teachers are already very busy people. To ask them to learn how to record their own video while teaching simultaneously can be overwhelming if not handled properly. Further to that, having them edit recorded videos so that they are comfortable with sharing those videos complicates the issue even more. The question becomes this: If we want teachers to record classroom practices and allow them to do it themselves and without having a major addition to workload, how do we do it? The answer, I believe, involves using iOS devices with a newer technology called Swivl ( 

Many teachers have exposure and proficiency with using iPhones and iPads. Many have recorded video with these devices and even have edited video with apps like iMovie. So the basics of video recording and editing are already there in our schools. Furthermore the iOS technologies already exist in our schools meaning some of the hardware needed to record classroom practice already exists in schools. Drawing upon existing expertise and previously purchased technologies seems like the most logical path forward.

The invisible cameraman that needs to hold the iPad/iPhone for recording is where the Swivl unit comes in. It is a remote controlled base which holds the iOS technology and "follows" the teacher with the use of a marker/Bluetooth mic that communicates wirelessly with the base. With a 360 degree rotation and 25 degree vertical tilt, it should be able to record the teacher, regardless of classroom position. In short, with the iOS device (with iMovie) and a Swivl base (with the Swivl app) , a teacher can record high quality video with audio without others in their classroom and edit with ease. 

We have ordered a Swivl and will start testing after Easter. We would not dream of implementing this concept of recording classroom practice via video without testing first. However, having downloaded the free Swivl app, recording video with both my iPhone and iPad, and editing with the iMovie app, initial testing is very encouraging. 

So there you have it! My long overdue blog post and just one of the projects that our team is moving forward on. As you read my blog posts in future there will be an overriding theme throughout them all... implementation through minimizing or reduction of impact on teacher workload. Why? To anyone involved in education today, the answer is obvious!

PS I have to revise my blog title. Any suggestions? 

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