Saturday, August 25, 2012

Mobile Observations in Education

Steve Katz (@stevekatz), Ben Summerton (@bensummerton), and I have all been out of the normal classroom for a year now. Not having a regular class has provided us opportunities to do more co-planning and co-teaching with our colleagues, but it does damage your street cred with normal teachers. In an effort to counter that problem, Ben had the idea of getting into as many classrooms as possible in the first three weeks of school to observe our colleagues. Of course being Ed Tech geeks, our focus is to observe how our colleagues are using technology in the classroom. We aren't observing to judge; we are there to learn. With the addition of two new members (Chris Bernhardi and Art Schultz {@art_schultz}) to the Ed Tech team at KIS, we have more time to do such observations.

Enter yours truly, I wanted to go one step passed observations and actually capture how the classroom feels --  the mood, the tone, the vibration of learning. I decided early on that I would pack my iPad with me to these observations and take photos, audio, and video clips. My first victim... Er... Um... I mean, my first subject was the amazing Jay Londgren, one of our band teachers. I've always admired Jay as a teacher, because not every teacher can take 50+ middle school students and keep them on task and actually accomplish some learning, but Jay does it every day. What I have come to appreciate about a seasoned 1:1 teacher is that they know exactly how and when to use technology to enhance learning; we can witness this subtle ability in Jay's lesson. In the photos, notice the projector screen is on the whole time displaying information for the class. It doesn't drive the lesson, the students were told to read the notice, but it was continually projected to reinforce the message, but it was only actually discussed briefly. The other use of technology was so natural to a music course, it would probably go unnoticed to the untrained eye. When Jay introduced a new piece of music to the class, he plugged his iPhone into his speaker system and played clips of the song for them. Not the entire song -- a clip and then they played the same section, a clip and then they played the same section. Students listened and then attempted over and over throughout the band lesson -- I loved it. Nothing reaffirms the love of teaching more than watching a master teacher do his/her job. There was one tech snafu involving a website where the audio wasn't working for the first piece of music, but Jay rolled through the issue quickly asking for my help and then testing another piece. Once he established that it was the particular piece and not the website, he moved on to having students play the piece. This all occurred in less than two minutes.
IMG_0357.MOV Watch on Posterous
sound_file_1.wav Listen on Posterous
These are only samples of the artifacts that I gathered. I actually have ten more photos, another 10 minute audio file, and several short video clips. I have published this with Jay's permission, which I thank him for a thousand times over.

Think of how observations could be done with mobile technology. This Posterous could be private and shared among administrators, department colleagues, or both. We could gather rich artifacts of teaching and learning and building digital portfolios for our faculty. I hope this post, and my future observation posts, will act as an inspiration to coaches and administrators everywhere.