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Using a Swivl for Instructional Coaching

by Patrick Donovan

Posted March 29, 2017

Earlier this year we purchased Swivls for each building in our district to be used by our teachers in their work in theInstructional-Coaching-post-by-Donovan classroom, as well as their work with our instructional coaches. The Swivls are great when we want to record classroom situations to be shared with others, but they can also play a role in our coaching processes. While Jim Knight has written a lot about how video can be used for coaching, there are multiple ways that I believe that having a Swivl can improve the coaching process.

2nd Chance Coaching

Typically a coaching cycle will involve some observation where the instructional coach is observing and recording something specific in the classroom based upon a planning conversation. Often times while the coach is making observations, based upon what the coachee (teacher) wanted, there could be other things going on that would be useful upon which to record data. I have found it happening myself while having a reflecting conversation that both the teacher and I will think of something else we could have recorded. Normally you would have to schedule a second time to plan, observe, and reflect but if you have video of the initial lesson, you can use that to continue the coaching cycle. You do not need another classroom observation since you can just rewind the video and start from the beginning.

Remove the Lens of the Observer

In my science classes we would spend a lot of time talking about how measurements can be impacted by the person doing the measuring. Even when a coach and coachee agree to what they want observed in their classroom, there is always the chance that the observation will be influenced by what the coach believes and thinks. We can remove the chance for bias by using video as a 3rd party data point. You can’t argue with what you see on the video recording as it is not impacted by any perceptions, it is just what you see. This will also make it easier for the coachee to believe what the other person saw as they can go back and rewatch it also. There are a lot of things that happen in a classroom and it is hard to be aware of everything that is going on. Even the greatest quarterbacks in the NFL will look at pictures or watch video after every drive to see what was really going on, not just what they perceived to be happening.

Reducing Discomfort From Having Others in the Room

There are many teachers who get noticeably nervous when another teacher is in the room, even if they are the ones to ask them to be there. Students can also get distracted or behave differently when others are in the room, which can cause a change in the data and remove some of the effectiveness of the observation. By using the Swivl, the teacher can record multiple classroom sessions which will allow them to get more comfortable with it and will also allow the students to get comfortable with having the classroom recorded. You should never expect to get everything right the first time so recording multiple classes will allow you to get a better video to use for the coaching process and will remove some of the variables that happen when having observers in the room.

Allow For More Coaches to Help

A classroom can get crowded really quickly when there is an extra adult in the room, let alone if multiple teachers join your class. I once had about five principals in my room who wanted to see my class in action while they were in our building for a meeting. Combining 25 students with 5 more adults and it was very crowded and became disrupted. By using a video recording, you can allow others to take part in the coaching process without overcrowding your classroom. This also gives you more time since you do not need to have everyone’s schedules to line up with free time at the same exact time. You can even use the video in your PLC time by having a coaching discussion with other teachers and use that to grow together.

Overall the Swivl is a very versatile and easy to use tool which makes using video in the coaching process a powerful tool when it comes to learning and growing as an educator. It allows us to learn even when we feel that the lesson bombed and that there is nothing to take away from it. Even after a horrible loss, every NFL team goes back and rewatches the video of their game in order to learn and grow. (sorry for the multiple football analogies) We should be able to do the same thing, and having an instructional coach help us will only increase our growth as an educator.


Patrick Donovan is a Technology Integration Specialist in Ames, IA, an authorized Google Education Trainer, a Swivl Pioneer, and much more. He has a Masters in Curriculum and Instructional Technology from Iowa State University. Check out his website and follow him on Twitter






Get Ready for Your Flipped Classroom this Fall!

Posted July 14, 2016

So, you’ve told yourself this is it, this is the school year you’re going to flip your classroom. Or maybe your department chair asked you to run an online version of your most popular course. You’ve read some books and articles on what makes a good flipped lesson. Maybe you’ve come up with some forum topics to kick off your students’ online discussions. You’re all ready to go … right?

Before you jump in, let’s take a step back. What makes a truly impactful flipped, online, or blended course?

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The Power of Self-Reflection

Posted July 14, 2016

Everyone says it because it’s true: Reflection is an essential practice. Particularly within education and as educators, allocating time to reflect upon instruction, teaching techniques and how receptive students are during that instruction are of the greatest importance.

Self-reflection should be a regular (weekly) practice amongst all teachers, regardless of tenure. Little adjustments in instruction and technique will always be required over the course of an entire school year. And that’s normal.

Over and over, I hear even the most experienced of teachers say, “I start over every year.”

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