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

photo from

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?


My iPhone Feedreader

I’ve made no mystery of my love for RSS and my dismay over its slow adoption by the masses.  I do most of my reading in a given week by means of my feedreader, and it is how I satisfy my inner news junkie.  I find myself trusting mainstream news sources less and less as their biases become more apparent and their propensity toward sensationalism becomes more irritating.  I prefer do-it-yourself news aggregation, especially when I can read it on my portable device of choice: my iPhone.

A couple of years ago, I purchased Byline to read my RSS feeds on my iPhone.  I liked that it syncs to Google Reader so that anything I read on the mobile device is marked read online.  It’s basic features met my needs at the time, especially since I considered my news habit to be very personal.  It was (as most things in my life seem to be) all about me.

In the months that have followed, my PLN has grown and matured and I now appreciate the social potential of RSS feeds.  We all follow some of the same news sources, but our individual interests and experiences (mine are comic books and marine sciences) lead us to read different things.  I make use of Google Reader’s sharing features much more now to pass along and comment on news that I discover.

And so, this week I went searching for a new iPhone app to access and share my RSS feeds.  After some research and suggestions from friends, I discovered Reeder.  I couldn’t be more impressed with an application.  It has all of the visual goodies of my preferred Twitter client, Tweetie, with all of the RSS reading/sharing features I would ever want. Continue reading


Do As I Say, Not As I Do

What happens to educators when they leave the classroom and move up the ranks of school administration?  Is there some sort of “amnesia ray” that is beamed into their minds to erase all that they have learned about pedagogy?  Why do we teach educators using methods that would be woefully inadequate for students?

from Chloe Dietz (flickr)

I asked myself these rhetorical questions this week as I was “trained” in the use of our district’s new professional development component.  Blaming the high cost of hiring trainers and providing substitute teachers, our very large school district has purchased licenses for a new web-based PD product.  The entire website is based around teachers viewing video clips and then reflecting what they have learned from them.  Many of the clips are simply digitized versions of decades-old instructional videos that weren’t all that helpful in their original, analog, form.

Right now, this service is being presented as a supplement to existing face-to-face workshop opportunities, but how long will it be before this is the model for all future professional development?  I cringe at the thought that the advent of easy internet video streaming and pressing financial woes might inflict this type of boring, passive, meaningless education on professional educators.  But, that’s just the beginning…

Continue reading