As the Omicron variant of Covid-19 pushes some school districts back to distance learning, teachers may be frustrated by the return of video meetings. However, imagine if video weren’t as ubiquitous as it is today.
I argue that video technology has helped save education during the pandemic and therefore should not be abandoned. As years of research at Harvard University have shown, the benefits of capturing and sharing video to support future teachers, new teachers, and instructional coaching are far too great.
While a district-wide system dedicated to recording, annotating, and sharing videos might seem like a big budget, teachers can start using just their cell phones. The proof is all around us. From TikTok to Instagram to Snapchat, students perfect intricate dances, learn and showcase their skills with musical instruments, teach each other about climate change, and more.
This trend is not limited to young people. Educators use apps and video tools to share lesson ideas, best practices, and classroom instruction. They record, reflect, observe and learn from each other. It’s all about growth.
Here are three suggestions for how educators can leverage video for years to come.
The pandemic forced teachers to broadcast videos to students who were at home. While it may have worked as a temporary fix, future teachers weren’t so lucky.
Remote learning meant that classrooms were closed, with trainee teachers not only unable to be in schools, but also unable to observe more experienced teachers. As many teachers will attest, shadowing experienced teachers is essential to their development. This situation has presented teachers in teacher education programs with another challenge.
LaGrange College in Georgia was well equipped to overcome this obstacle. Its teacher preparation program had already been using video feedback for seven years. Dr. Rebekah Ralph, Educational Technology Instructor and EdTPA Coordinator, turned to using video to support teacher candidates who had little or no hands-on interactions.
During the shutdowns caused by the pandemic, Ralph provided feedback to teachers-in-training from his back porch. As she recalls, she and her team “were able to support future teachers by continuing our models of observation and coaching through the use of video when school systems did not allow visitors into the building. Our student teachers also got to see a variety of teaching strategies used by their peers in various school settings as they shared, commented on, and reflected on their teaching and the teaching of others.
Teacher mentoring and onboarding
Research tells us that new teachers most often leave the profession in the first few years because they feel unsupported. While mentoring and induction programs have always been effective, in the current environment, instructional coaches with district-wide responsibilities have not been able to visit classrooms frequently enough. The stress of teaching during a pandemic has magnified the problem.
Teachers who have entered the profession in the last 18 months know only chaos and uncertainty. As a result, and with a growing shortage of teachers in the pipeline, education leaders like Kenya Elder, executive director of teaching and learning for the Douglas County school system in Georgia, have sought to new ways to support new recruits. This year, Douglas County onboarded 76 teachers “who were not only new to our district, but also new to the teaching profession. This specific group of teachers has joined us as we enroll and welcome 26,000 students back to in-person learning.
The problem, as Elder saw it, was, “How can we effectively and consistently connect our induction coaches to these teachers?” Their solution was to put in place a structure that focuses on “safe, non-evaluative” video observations. So far, she says, this approach “results in trusting relationships between teachers and coaches.”
Pedagogical support and observation
MSD Decatur Township in Indiana has been using video to support instructional coaching for about five years through the Empowering Educators to Excel (E3) TSL grant project.
Assistant Superintendent Dr. Stephanie Hofer and the district instructional leadership team began by asking teachers to record 10 minutes of their practice to encourage self-reflection. Eventually, this led to teachers sharing videos with peers and mentors for feedback. As teachers and instructional coaches became more comfortable with video, Dr Hofer said, “We started using it more because it actually gave us more value than anything. what else we were doing.”
When the pandemic hit and physical classrooms closed, the district had to make a choice about how best to support teachers. They decided to double down and increase the use of video coaching, but faced a new challenge. According to Dr. Hofer, “we didn’t know how we were going to evaluate our teachers or make sure that the evaluations were completed. We decided to give teachers the option to self-record and upload their lessons, and we still give them that choice. »
The district’s several years of implementing video coaching has built a culture that has seen it through a difficult time. Dr. Hofer said the pandemic “…was the catalyst for our district to jump into video coaching and start using asynchronous video for teacher assessments with the full support of our teachers union.”
Despite how uncomfortable video can be at times, the benefits are clear. It is a tool that can help teacher candidates, new teachers, and seasoned teachers improve their practice, while increasing the reach of mentors and instructional coaches. There’s never been a more important time to support teachers, and video can play a vital role.