The teachers at Langdon Area Schools (LAS) have a new tool to help them better teach their students.
Posted on 10/31/15
By Melissa Anderson
LAS was given a new technology called a Swivl, which is a tracking robot that will help educators actually view and critique themselves.
“It’s a new cutting edge technology that is an educational tool to help teachers assess themselves, their teaching, and educational practices to look for things they need to improve upon,” Missy Hiltner, who is the instructional coach for the Swivl.
Examples that Hiltner gave for things that teachers are looking for when evaluating the footage is looking for things such as saying “um”, “uh”, “like’” etc. or spending more time on one side of the room versus another. The Swivl can also be used to see how the classroom responds to the teacher.
“Because, with teaching, they don’t want you sitting at a desk anymore. They want you engaged with the students, so the Swivl follows you around the room,” Hiltner said.
The teacher wears a remote in the form of a necklace which the Swivl tracks as the teacher moves around the room. The Swivl holds a recording device such as a smart phone or, in the case of LAS, an iPad, which records the teacher and then can be uploaded to a computer where the teacher can review the footage along with the instructional coach.
LAS received the Swivl as part of the Marzano High Reliability School framework through Marzano Research, a nation-wide initiative to help schools improve the educational experience of students so they learn the content and skills they need for success in college and future careers.
“Marzano recommended LAS get the Swivl to help with self-assessment. What they are finding is that teachers who are self-reflective on their teaching practices become better teachers,” Hiltner said.
The LAS district will have all the teachers on staff use the Swivl at least once this school year to get a feel for it. The teachers then review the footage privately with the instructional coach. Once viewed, Hiltner can help direct the teacher towards the appropriate resources to help the teacher improve.
“It’s completely confidential-only the teacher and myself view it. It’s just for the teacher’s own growth,” Hiltner said.
Hiltner, as the instructional coach, was the first to learn how to use the Swivl so that she could show the other teachers how to use. The school will only be using the school iPad for the time being.
“It’s very simple to use if you are using just one main device,” Hiltner said.
For English teacher Darby Hart, having the Swivl in the classroom has been an eye opening experience that has shown her the areas she can improve her teaching methods.
“The Swivl allowed me to see what I’m actually doing from the student perspective. I can see my explanations and my interaction with students so I can evaluate if what I think I’m doing is what I’m actually doing,” Hart explained.
Harts and other teachers who have used it so far have shown how useful a tool the Swivl is and will be to the school staff. Beyond the evaluation of the teacher themselves, the teachers can see student engagement and reaction to the teachers.
“We can watch what they’re doing as well, which is hard to do in the moment of teaching,” Hart stated.
Hart explained that the Swivl allows teachers to determine if the lessons they learned in professional development courses are being transmitted and used within the classrooms.
“The Swivl gives us an opportunity to see how we are able to implement professional development and if it’s working or if we need to change our strategy,” Hart said.
Next school year, the administration will ask the teachers to use it once in the fall and once in the spring to review the teacher’s progress over a year’s time.
“You can only encourage staff members to try it and adopt it,” Mark Mindt, the Superintendent for LAS, said.
Mindt explained that the Swivl is a very useful, relatively inexpensive tool and would encourage other school districts to look into the technology and subsequently use it in their schools.
“It’s another way that we can use technology as a tool to help us versus just as entertainment,” Mindt said.
LAS is the only school in their Regional Education Association that is currently using the Swivl. Those who have used it think that should change.
“It’s a really good tool for evaluating ourselves as teachers and I recommend it. It’s a really good tool that schools should look into getting for teachers,” Hart stated.