This week, I had the pleasure of catching up with Natalie June, an inspiring educator from California and former Principal at the Aspire Rosa Parks Academy. We have told you about her passion for education in one of our previous blog posts, but since then she has taken on a new challenge. As one of the new Directors of Teacher Residency and the new Director of Curriculum and Instruction for Principal Residency at Aspire University, Natalie is now focused on figuring out how to effectively recruit, train and retain teachers and school leaders, all with the ultimate goal of being able to better serve a diverse population of students and communities.
The Importance of Video Observation and Reflection in Teaching
As a firm believer in the benefits of video reflection, Natalie is bringing her video observation experience and her favorite Swivl classroom video tools to Aspire University to prepare new leaders in education. “Starting our residents with learning about the power of video observation early in their practice can really take them to the next level earlier in their career,” said Natalie. “I really want them to understand that teaching is a field that you can continue to improve and grow in even when you’re not in front of the students. I want them to learn the power of planning and utilizing Swivl as a resource. It lets you see yourself and watch these little nuances that you probably would not pick up on if you were just in the classroom by yourself, so I’m really excited about the Swivl platform. I’m excited about integrating it into the progress and the careers of new teachers because it will benefit them,” Natalie continued. “I want them to be reflective practitioners. Lots of other fields, like sports or music, focus on the idea of improving practice before the game. When you’re in front of the kids that’s game time, but what happens before game time is extremely important. We can use Swivl before the game and during the game. I really think that it’s going to help our kids learn more. Plus, we’re being great models for them. We’re asking our kids to never stop learning, to be critical thinkers and problem solvers. So, my next step will be to learn more about Swivl’s video response and reflection app for students, Recap, to help our kids to join in the fun as well.”
Swivl software and hardware have found their way into thousands of schools around the world. It’s a video reflection and skill development cloud platform for teachers and students, built to improve personalized teaching and learning and create meaningful, actionable dialogue between educators, students, and parents. “I’ve tried several platforms before. I tried using Vimeo, YouTube, Dropbox and I just found that those tools took a long time to upload, and it wasn’t as user-friendly in terms of adding slides or photos, being able to edit them and share them quickly and easily,” says Natalie. “First, as a Principal at Aspire Public Schools I started using Swivl with my teachers. We just fell in love with it. Now, working with Aspire University, I wanted to bring this fantastic resource and this great partnership to Aspire University as well.” While Swivl is best known for its Swivl Robot, a mobile automated video capture unit that works with your mobile device to seamlessly capture video and high quality audio, the software is what makes Swivl so powerful, and with new premium features now available to free users, the benefits of the Swivl platform are more accessible than ever.
Video Observation and Reflection in Action
So how will Aspire University be using the Swivl platform? “I want to utilize Swivl as a way for teachers to record their practice, review their recordings in a group setting, receive feedback and have an opportunity to practice before they’re actually teaching students,” says Natalie. “During seminars we have the majority of the day that’s theory. That’s when they’re learning teaching strategies and practices. Then, they are released to go and apply those practices in a classroom full of kids with another partner resident. They record each other using the Swivl app and then they come back to the seminar space, where we watch ourselves in small-group setting. They reflect on their practice and then they practice again. It’s this constant cycle of planning, practicing and improving their work.”
Student teachers and mentors use the free Swivl app on their phones or iPads. Swivl Robot is not required, although, it guarantees high quality audio and is perfect for those, who want to record themselves. “When I go to school sites, the mentors and I observe the residents in practice in their actual classroom. During that time I’m recording them and I’m thinking about what kind of debrief conversation we should have. What went well during that observation and what will be the best leverage to help them move forward. To me nothing is more effective than actually seeing yourself. So, they could hear it from me, but instead the mentor and I work together to provide probing questions, and then we show the residents a small snippet video of themselves in practice. The resident is SO much more apt to actually see what went well and how they can improve based on the probing question and seeing themselves in action.” The videos made with the Swivl app are automatically uploaded to the secure Swivl site, where the student teachers and the mentors can safely share their videos with each other. They can also leave time-stamped comments, which makes sharing and receiving advice and insights so much easier, especially if it’s not possible to get everyone in the same room. “When I’m not there, when it’s just the resident and the mentor, they can utilize Swivl as a way for them to work together to improve their co-teaching and for the mentor to give the resident feedback”, says Natalie.
Sharing Best Practices with Peers
Using Swivl, a mentor can also highlight a specific teachable moment and show the students what they did well even if they are far away from each other. “We’ve also been using Swivl as a way to celebrate and share best practices. Every week each region sends a newsletter out to their region. We include the residents, the mentors, the principals and the superintendents, and we send those video links from Swivl, so all the folks in the region have an opportunity to see these wonderful teachable moments that are happening across the region. So Swivl is a part of our instruction, a part of our practice, the follow-up work, and then we also use it as a way to celebrate.”
I asked Natalie if her mission as an educator has changed, now that she’s moved to a new role. She replied, “I’ve been in education for over 12 years now. The mission is still the same in that my hope is that when kids see me, they see themselves and that they could hope, dream, and aspire to accomplish things that maybe they wouldn’t have, had they not seen someone that looks like them, achieve it. The beauty in growing, learning, and improving is that now that there’s technology and other resources, those initial dreams that I had are even more possible.”