St. Columba is a PreK-8 school with about 250 students. They have one section per grade level, fifteen teachers, three aides and a very limited but dedicated support staff. The principal at St. Columba must serve in all capacities ranging from counselor to C&I leader, finance director to facilities management, development to discipline, substitute teacher and sanitation. Just recently they started using Vosaic, and we asked their principal Kevin Chick to share thoughts on it.
Kevin, how do you use Vosaic at your school?
I use Vosaic for performance discovery in the classroom, for documenting observations, and to support instructional coaching efforts. I currently use it to offer feedback regarding classroom management and student engagement. This offers great opportunities to recognize teachers’ strengths and to "catch" them at their best.
I am present in the room while taking a 20-30 minute video. I do not go beyond 30 minutes. Vosaic app allows you to use two iOS devices for observation. One as a camera and the other as the markup device. I set up my iPhone as a camera, and use my iPad to mark important moments while observing. The app uploads the video and my markup to the cloud as it is being recorded.
After the observation, I go back to my office and view my markup on a computer, add comments, and finally send it to the teacher for review. We set a meeting date and time to discuss the observation comments.
What kind of insights have you gotten from Vosaic that you would not have gotten otherwise?
I learned that even with positive relationships with teachers, with all the regular meetings, preparation, and high levels of teacher engagement in the coaching process, there were still flaws in the observation and feedback process. The process of text documentation during an observation means the observer is often distracted and occupied by filling in forms and note taking. When I observe, I am often focused on producing complete and clear documentation. If I don't document, or don't do it well, the observation and the time spent is a waste. As such, I never gave myself permission to just "observe."
When just observing with Vosaic, using buttons I created, I am able to spend more time observing everything going on in the classroom. All I have to do is push a button to mark the video while I remained focused on the class activities.
With my previous observations methods, I would have to stop observing and focus on documenting. In addition, watching the video in my office allows for more effective processing time to make more thoughtful and meaningful comments. The video only shows the truth about what is happening in the classroom. Combining Vosaic’s video functions with quality feedback has helped strengthen my professional relationships with the teachers I coach.
Would you recommend other principals and teachers to use video for professional growth and why?
I would. It is a very powerful tool to use with new and developing teachers. The little bit of extra time it takes to observe and review video is well worth it. The teachers see themselves and get the benefit of professional feedback. There are no questions as to what happened in the classroom because it is on the video. This keeps the observation discussion focused on improvement and growth.
This product also builds credibility with faculty because there is not a question about what was actually observed. It helps validate highly effective and quality teachers. People like to see themselves doing well.
Do you have an interesting anecdote or a story about how Vosaic helped you observe something you otherwise would have missed?
I learned that without video my critique and observations were consistently focused on the same issues or biases. When using Vosaic to review video later in my office rather than text documentation, I found my that my text documentation was filled with biases. I only documented when I saw the things I was looking for. I missed many activities while documenting.
Missing a variety of activities made for inaccurate or incomplete observation documentation dominated by my biases.
What are your favorite Vosaic features?
I like the flexibility of making my own forms with buttons and tags that are specific to our teacher goals and professional standards. They help me bookmark important moments as they’re happening without losing focus on activities in the classroom. Once I’m done with my review I like that I can share the videos with teachers for review prior to our follow up meetings. This gives teachers time to digest my feedback along with the video. Finally, I like the ability to download a spreadsheet report summarizing my observations. I can then use that data to track the progress my teachers are making.
Video combined with notes and markup collected using Vosaic helps me provide objective feedback to my teachers, and holds me–the observer–accountable for commenting only on what was actually observed.