Guest, User Stories | December 11, 2015

Swivl for Teacher Reflection

Our guest blogger this week is Patrick Donovan. Patrick is a former science teacher, who has taught in three districts across Iowa. He is currently in his third year as a Technology Integrationist at Ames High School in Ames, IA. He has been giving presentations on educational technology at conferences like ITEC, NETA, and TIES. Patrick has been using his Swivl Robot for several months since he joined our Swivl Pioneers 2015 program. We’ve asked him to share his experience and some useful tips with us and our readers. Using the Swivl Robot to Reflect on Teaching Prior to discovering Swivl, many of the teachers I work with used audio recordings to reflect on their teaching while they were student teaching. However, these audio recordings did not show the whole picture. So in the last year, one of the ways we have been using the Swivl Robot is to video record lessons for teacher reflection and self-evaluation. Being able to see and hear what is going on can tell you so much more than just the audio alone, which is why we encourage our teachers to use the Swivl Robot to make videos of their lessons and analyze them. In addition to letting teachers hear everything they are saying, video allows them to see what went well, what didn’t and what was happening around them, while they were teaching. The idea of using video to reflect on your own teaching works perfectly with the Professional Learning Communities (PLC) model that many schools are implementing. After you record your lesson, you can use your PLC to help improve your instruction and find another set of eyes and ears to help you reflect. You and your instructional coach can even set up a coaching session around the video of your lesson. Many times our own recollection of what happened in our classroom is altered by our own ideas and desires, but may not reflect what truly transpired. The video is something that can’t be altered by what we want to happen. It only shows what did happen. So, a video of you giving a lesson can improve your planning and reflecting conversations with your instructional coach because you’ll always be able to go back and watch your lesson again. Tips on Using Video for Reflection
  1. Make sure you include the students in the video, so you can gauge their engagement and to see how you interact with all students.
  2. Do a test run with your students, so they get used to the Swivl and are not distracted by it. We have found that at first students are focused on it, but since it works so seamlessly, with time it fades into the background.
  3. Be prepared to make mistakes while you teach and be OK with it. The point is to reflect and figure out how to improve, which means you know you will not be perfect, and that is just fine.
  4. Do not be afraid to share your video with others. We can get so much more accomplished when we work with others. Others may bring up something you haven’t thought of. If you have an instructional coach in the building, make sure you are using them regularly. Especially in situations such as using video to reflect on your teaching.
  5. A tripod can make this a lot easier, especially in the upper grades, as the students may block the signal and cause the Swivl Robot to stop tracking you. Students will get used to it very quickly, so do not worry about it being a distraction.
  6. Use the Swivl Cloud to easily share video with others, it makes the whole process a lot easier than some other methods out there.
Teaching is not a simple act, and we should always be striving to improve as educators. Using video to reflect on our teaching can help us greatly improve our own instruction, but it can even strengthen the teaching of others when we share our videos. Making use of PLCs and instructional coaches can also improve the effectiveness of using video, while improving the collaboration culture that we want in our schools. We do not expect perfection when we teach, as we know there is no perfect way to teach, but we should be trying to improve in order to create the best learning situations for our students.