Thursday, December 26, 2013

Using Informal Observations to Gather Teaching Data

In Ohio, many districts have adopted into their teacher contracts the new Ohio Teacher Evaluation System (OTES) developed by the Ohio Department of Education.  The evaluation system definitely has its positives and negatives depending on who you speak with.  In my opinion, one of the positives of the new system is the significance of informal observations (also known as a "walk-through").

At NLHS, Assistant Principal Jay Young and I try to get in as many informal observations per week as possible.  The number that the we accomplish fluctuates from week to week due to our daily schedules.    It is important to be visible and present in classrooms to see what students are learning, the different teaching methods that teachers are using, and to gain the pulse of the school environment.  During our informal observations, we use data collecting forms that enable the administration and teaching staff to see the different types of formative practices that are used, how often they are used, and any additional comments that we add for recommendations and/or encouragement.  The data is distributed at the end of each quarter and the staff can see how the building as a whole is doing regarding methods & strategies.

Before OTES, the informal observation was not applied to the teacher observation or evaluation process.  Now, OTES includes the informal observation process as another form of observing a teacher's body of work in the classroom.  An outsider may think this is a bad thing for a teacher; another chance for administrators to play a game of "gotcha!", but this is not the case.  It is a plus for teachers because it allows the administrator to see different types of teaching methods & strategies over a number of times during the evaluation cycle.  Teachers demonstrate to administrators their classroom abilities on a daily basis.

Some key aspects to include in order to have efficient, data retrieving informal observations:
1.  Create a schedule of whom you plan on visiting each week
This way, you are organized and can visit the teachers that you need to see for contract obligations.

2. Have access to mobile, wireless devices.
We use iPads for our informal observations, but you could use phones, laptops, etc.  It is important to have some type of device.  That give you the ability to supply immediate feedback to staff members.  This type of feedback is imperative for administrators.

3. Create a form for your data collection
Having a form to gather your teaching data (using surveymonkey, Google Forms) is important to figure out what is going well and what is not going well in your building or district.  Using a device and a form allows you to gather your evidence at the end of each quarter and deliver the data to the staff with feedback regarding practices.  We mirror our form with the OTES Informal Observation form.  This way, the staff knows what they are being evaluated on and how it will affect their evaluation.

4. Offer immediate feedback to staff
The staff loves to get feedback regarding their teaching methods and environment.  Even if your feedback is critical, many if not all teachers will use the feedback to get better.  That is the point of conducting informal observations.  Help teachers get better and give them encouragement, support, and recognition when they are doing things well.

5. Keep your observation time standard for all staff
We try and conduct our informal observations in 10 minute segments.  We remain in each room 10 minutes so we do not give preferential treatment (regarding time) to one teacher over another.

6. Make sure the staff knows what is expected of them in the classroom
If staff members are clear on their roles, they will know what is expected of them.  Having professional development on informal observations and the expectations of using different teaching methods & styles is extremely important.  At NLHS, we offered professional development to our staff on the OTES procedures, what is expected on teachers, and what we would be looking for during informal & formal observations.

Informal observations will offer you great insight into your classrooms.  Make time during each one of your days to get in the classroom and see what is going on.  It is an expectation of effective administrators.  Use the data that you accumulate during the observations to help your teachers and building grow.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

School District nominated for Technology Awards

New Lexington City School District staff members and one of their schools have been nominated for the Ohio Educational Technology Conference (OETC) #BestEdTech Awards.  The OETC awards recognize the work of schools, programs, teachers, administrators, and tech coordinators from around the state.  The awards are nominated by the Ohio education community for Ohio schools , staff, and programs.  Voting is available to anyone on social media channels.

New Lexington City School District technology director Tim Householder has been nominated for the Technology Coordinator Innovator Award.  Mr. Householder was nominated for his great work around the district including the 1:1 iPad initiative at the high school.   Tim is a countless worker who manages a variety of technological projects throughout the district.  He recently organized a successful district-wide technology professional development day where NLCSD staff members shared their technology practices with each other.

New Lexington High School teacher Mike Kunselman has been nominated for the Teacher Innovator Award by the OETC.  Mr. Kunselman has been recognized for his work with the Panther Fab Lab at NLHS.  The program has allowed students the opportunity to see how technology & business work together.  He is also the lead teacher in New Lexington’s Project Lead the Way engineering program and the Advisor to the high school robotic’s team.

New Lexington High School principal Bobby Dodd has been nominated for the Education Leader Innovator Award.  Mr. Dodd has modeled the use of devices by incorporating them in them in daily walk-throughs, shared Apps with students & staff, creating flipped faculty meetings, and digital newsletters for the students, parents, and community.   Mr. Dodd has also helped initiate the 1:1 iPad initiative at NLHS.

The 1:1 iPad initiative at NLHS has also been recognized as a finalist for the best 1:1 program.  Students are able to use the devices to collaborate with teachers & other students, using a number of different Apps to demonstrate mastery of content, and develop technological skills to prepare them for different careers and secondary schooling after high school.

Please take time to vote for the #BestEdTech Awards by clicking here and recognize the great things taking place in the New Lexington City School District.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Early College High School - Data Tracking

Earlier this week, the Rural Ohio College High School (ROCHS) administrative team held a meeting with the data team from the Muskingum Valley Education Service Center (MVESC).  The meeting was very beneficial for the ROCHS collaborative because we were able to take the first steps in collecting data for our students involved in Early College High School (ECHS).

We discussed ways that we can streamline the data process for our students and our ROCHS faculty. This includes the application process for students when they enroll in the ROCHS program, student data that has been accumulated from over the years (standardized test scores, attendance, etc.) transcripts that are produced when students complete ECHS classes in our schools, ROCHS faculty members teaching status with our partner colleges, and how we can track all of our students who have taken ECHS classes.

The MVESC staff did a great job of walking us through what we wanted our database to look like.  Being able to discuss what we were looking for to a group of people who have not seen our ROCHS program was actually more beneficial than if they were familiar with our program.  As an administrative team, we were able to fully explain what our program looks like, how things are perceived by our students & communities regarding ROCHS, and what we need it to look like so we can help our students and parents become more comfortable with ECHS and the benefits it can have for our students.

We are excited about the future of ROCHS and what it means to the students of our school districts.  Allowing students the opportunity to earn a great deal of college credits while they are in high school is a great way to transcend our school cultures.  We are not only preparing our students for college, but we are preparing them for life.  We are creating life-ready learners who are the future of our communities.  Having the data to help their transitions from grade school, middle school, and high schools will benefit the students as much as it will help the schools.  

Monday, December 9, 2013

How to create a video newsletter for your school

I recently began creating a video newsletter for our school.  I had seen a few people create video newsletters and post them on Twitter, so I had an idea of what I wanted to do with the NLHS newsletter.  We have done newsletters for years at the end of each quarter, but I am not sure how many people read the newsletters.  In order to save the district some funds, we began to post the newsletters on the school website for people to view.  Again, I was still not sure this had any impact on whether people read the newsletters or not.

We had a district professional development day on Monday, November 25th.  I had to present to staff members how to use videos in their classes.  As I was analyzing different apps, I found a few that I thought I would like to try and I thought these apps could help teachers & students in their classes.  At this point, I decided to create a video using the app Videolicious (@videolicious).  I thought I would make a short video to demonstrate to the teachers how the app works and how it could help them.  I created the video and posted it to Facebook & Twitter.  I got a great response from many community members.  As you can imagine, a lot more responses than I ever received regarding our printed newsletters.

When creating a video newsletter, there are some important topics to address before you create the video:

1. What do you want to convey to your viewers?
Figure out what you want your message to be.  Hopefully, you will be able to let everyone know about the great things going on in your building.  If you're in the classrooms as much as the administrative team is at NLHS, you will have a pretty good pulse of what each class is doing.  Highlight those activities, conduct interviews of students and teachers, take pictures and videos of projects to let parents and community members know what is going on in the building.

2. Why do you want to convey that message?
That should be pretty obvious: to let people know what is going on in our building.  Looking at this question more in-depth reveals something else.  Letting parents and community members see what is going on also allows you to educate your audience to learning techniques, methods, and strategies.  Your audience is able to see what the teaching methods and strategies look like in practice and not just read about them.

3. What medium will you use?
This is a great deal easier than it used to be.  Not long ago, you choices basically consisted of just YouTube.  Now, there are apps and software that allows you to video, edit, add music, and upload to Facebook and Twitter all in one application.  I enjoy using the paid version of Videolicious ($10/per month).  It allows me to take video on my iPhone and/or iPad, add music, edit my videos, and upload them to our school Twitter account and school district Facebook account.  There is no upload time with Videolicious as the videos are stored on their servers.  You could also use YouTube Capture as a video tool, but there is upload time involved with Capture.

4. Get students involved in the process.
We have a Media Club at NLHS where the students have the responsibility of capturing the footage and conducting most of the interviews.  The students enjoy practicing their speaking skills and technology skills and it lets the public see your students at work.  We are beginning to have meetings for the club to address all of the technology initiatives we have in the school.  The best part of the process is interviewing students.  It is surprising how nervous they get, but also how honest they are in their responses.

5. Have a plan in place.
It is a really good idea to have a script.  Set it up just like you would a short story or report.  Create an introduction, have transition pictures or slides, mix in different edited videos with music in the background, and end it with a closing.  It is a good idea to keep the videos relatively short and create the videos once a week or bi-weekly.  The idea is to create something that keeps people attention for a short period of time and at the same time, communicate your message to the viewer.

Creating video newsletters will help you communicate your message to a number of people.  Don't think of it as you would a traditional printed newsletter.  You can get a lot more insight into your school through video newsletters than the traditional newsletter.  Make sure you share the video in as many social media applications as possible to get your message out there.

Here is an example of what one of our newsletters looks like: