Have you ever experienced one of those days when you feel like you're herding cats? You had plans to visit a few classrooms, catch up on some paperwork, and meet with a couple of teachers to discuss upcoming classroom observations. Unbeknownst to you, Murphy's Law had prepared a wonderful day full of great activities for you.
Instead of getting any of your work done, you have to mitigate a fight between two students, call parents, and determine the appropriate discipline procedures. Maybe a few teachers called in sick and you do not have enough coverage in the classrooms. Have parents ever been late for a scheduled meeting and pushed back your daily timeline?
The list of possibilities is endless. And as the school administrator, you are required to utilize your situational priority skills on a daily basis. This can mean rescheduling those pre-observation meetings with your teachers until tomorrow -- which could throw off what those teachers had planned for your visit, causing a ripple effect throughout the classrooms. Utilizing the appropriate technology tools could help alleviate some of the time constraints from your schedule and lead to effective digital networking.
Schedule an Online Meeting
As daily schedules become further complicated throughout the school year, an online meeting may be another method to efficiently communicate with your staff. If you find yourself running out of time during the regular school hours, ask the teacher you are observing if he or she would like to schedule an online meeting. Tools such as Google Chat or Google Hangout are excellent resources for collaborating anywhere, any time.
As a classroom teacher, I personally would rather meet with my administrator online prior to a classroom observation instead of having to rework my weekly lesson plans. This method could be used for other types of meetings as well throughout the school.
Providing immediate feedback to a teacher can be an extremely effective method for improving instruction in the classroom. Most teachers that I work with are always reflecting on and critiquing their lessons, especially after an observation. Using an online collaboration tool such as Google Docs would allow an administrator to make comments directly on the teacher's lesson plan. This method essentially provides real-time advice or recommendations for the teacher to reflect on instead of having to wait until the post-observation meeting.
Record, Share, Discuss
One of the most effective (and most difficult) classroom observations I've experienced involved having to watch my own lesson after I taught it. I quickly found out that I am my own biggest critic. Although a little unusual at first, it was extremely helpful during the reflective process!
My administrator was able to show me clips from my lesson and provide meaningful feedback on ways to improve instruction. Inserting time stamps from the recorded lesson into the shared Google Doc lesson plan gives the teacher a reference to go back and review. These tools could be used either at school during a face-to-face meeting or in an online meeting to facilitate a truly reflective post-observation meeting for the teacher and administrator.
Example of a Traditional Evaluation vs. a Redefined Evaluation
Traditional Classroom Evaluation
- The administrator and teacher schedule a face-to-face meeting to review the lesson plan during regular work hours.
- The teacher prints out the lesson plan or has hard copy available in the classroom for the administrator.
- The administrator observes the lesson and takes notes to be reviewed during the post-observation meeting. The teacher is left with little immediate feedback.
- The administrator and teacher schedule another face-to-face for post-observation.
- The administrator presents hard copy of the evaluation and discusses future recommendations with the teacher.
Redefined Classroom Evaluation
- The teacher shares the lesson plan with the administrator on Google Drive. Using Google Hangout or Chat, they review and discuss the lesson plan before, during, or after school hours.
- The administrator comes to the classroom with a digital version of the lesson plan. He or she makes comments directly on the lesson plan, and the teacher receives immediate feedback.
- The administrator shares a digital copy of that classroom observation with the teacher. Using Google Hangout or Chat, they review and discuss their post-observation before, during, or after school hours.
The redefined classroom evaluation model showcases how technology opens endless opportunities for communication and collaboration. If you still don't feel confident about diving into a redefined model, try another example from the SAMR model (Substitution, Augmentation, Modification, and Redefinition) below. I've detailed a few examples for classroom observations using SAMR:
- Take notes using MS Word on a laptop.
- Take notes using a mobile device or tablet.
- View the lesson plan as an email attachment.
- Review the lesson plan on a mobile device during an observation.
- Record the lesson plan using a mobile device.
- Share the lesson plan and evaluation on Google Drive.
- Embed a recorded lesson plan within your evaluation.
- Meet with the teacher in a Google Hangout for the post-observation.
- Collaborate on the lesson plan and evaluation using Google Drive.
Based on your perception and tech savvy, some of these tasks may not fit your definition of SAMR. Please feel free to leave a comment below sharing your ideas!