This is the second post in an occasional series about Why I ♥ My PLN

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One of the most important advantages of blogging is developing an interactive audience. This week, a new commenter really got me thinking about untapped uses for Flip-style pocket video cameras. In response to my post about a unique teacher evaluation system being used in Larry Ferlazzo’s school in Sacramento. Janice writes about a program called in her district “Side by Side” that pairs up novice teachers and experienced mentors,

“With the low cost and ease of use of Flip video cameras, there’s really nothing stopping us from planning a specific instructional strategy focus, videotaping our lessons, and then analyzing them together. In the past, I think teachers felt vulnerable about exposing themselves to consultants who might report weaknesses to administrators, but now that teachers can do it all themselves, I think you’ll see this tool being used more and more often.”

Wow, huh?  Not only is it encouraging to hear about an open-minded district administration willing to push the traditional mode of teacher evaluation, but kudos to them for finding a method that is simple and (probably) more cost-effective.  And, she hits the nail on the head when she identifies the feeling that every educator feels while being judged by an outside party.  This tool allows teachers to tape themselves in a fairly informal way for later reflection and discussion with their mentor.  Or, mentors can do the recording of the rookie to have some concrete “teachable moments” during the post-observation conference.

Best of all, Flip cameras are common enough (and small enough) to be fairly unobtrusive in your classroom, especially if you already use them for student activities.  The toughest part of any of my own recorded lessons was getting my students accustomed to the presence of the camera so that they would begin to forget it was there.

In the days before social networking tools and digital media made it easy for professional educators to share ideas like this one, Larry and Janice’s experiences would have remained locked up in their respective systems.  Now, they are instantly shared and can lead to meaningful improvement in the way that we do what we do.

What’s your take on classroom observation?

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