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Classroom panoramas let teachers see it all (photos)

CNET gets an exclusive look at Teachscape Reflect, a multimedia system that gives teachers a 360-degree view of their classrooms, in the hopes of improving modern-day education.

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James Martin
James Martin is the Managing Editor of Photography at CNET. His photos capture technology's impact on society - from the widening wealth gap in San Francisco, to the European refugee crisis and Rwanda's efforts to improve health care. From the technology pioneers of Google and Facebook, photographing Apple's Steve Jobs and Tim Cook, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Google's Sundar Pichai, to the most groundbreaking launches at Apple and NASA, his is a dream job for any documentary photography and journalist with a love for technology. Exhibited widely, syndicated and reprinted thousands of times over the years, James follows the people and places behind the technology changing our world, bringing their stories and ideas to life.
James Martin
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School hasn't changed

SAN FRANCISCO--Stepping into the second-grade classroom at Cesar Chavez Elementary School in San Francisco's Mission District, one thing was clear. In many ways, school hasn't changed.

The books, the pencils, the paper. None of it looked very different than my second-grade class did 25 years ago.

But Teachscape, an education company focused on using technology to develop new ways of thinking about learning, wants to change that; and it's giving teachers the tools to watch, listen to, and share the ways they teach.

This tech tool, which was announced by Teachscape today and which I recently got to see in action, is intended to help improve teacher effectiveness and the quality of information available about teacher practices.

The Teachscape Reflect is a 360-degree multimedia classroom video panorama and audio system that gives teachers the ability to review (or "reflect" on) their own teaching methods and student interactions when the day is done and their students have all gone home.

The idea is to help teachers identify strong-points and needs for improvement in their teaching techniques--introducing technology into the classroom in a whole new way.
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Measures of Effective Teaching

The Reflect system originated with an initiative called the Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) Project, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Instead of using a single test result or student assessments for evaluation, the MET Project looks for ways to observe the real work of real teachers in real classrooms to make evaluations and assessments.

MET says it wants to give educators and policymakers the tools to be more proactive in understanding a teacher's ability to recognize and diagnose common student misperceptions.

Teachscape expects that self-review and the ability to reflect back on real-world situations will go a long way toward improving these educational interactions.

The chance to regularly observe their classroom behavior alongside education professionals and teaching coaches could give teachers more insight into how they do what they do, and allow that knowledge to be shared.
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hardware and software

Accompanying the audio and video hardware is software that unwraps what is captured by the panoramic reflective cone into a view of almost every inch of the classroom.
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vertical 360 degree camera

A dual-camera system produces the panoramic view as well as a dedicated main view of the front of the room and the lesson being taught.
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Microphones

Two microphones included in the system record classroom audio. One mic is worn by the teacher, the other picks up the sounds of the students.
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The vertical convex camera

The vertical convex camera is able to capture 360-degree, floor-to-ceiling video of the classroom.

In addition to self reviews, the teacher is also able to review the video for the purpose of focusing on one specific student, closely observing an individual throughout an entire lesson.
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Cesar Chavez Elementary School

Here, at Cesar Chavez Elementary School in San Francisco's Mission District, teachers are trying out the Reflect system to self-observe their classes.

By the end of the two-year project, the plan is to have 23,000 hours of videotaped lessons captured, which will then be observed by the trained Educational Testing Service. These observers will evaluate teaching methods, styles, and ability to establish a positive learning environment and interactions with their students.
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360-degree video capture

The Teachscape Reflect set up in a San Francisco classroom.
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State budgets fall

As state budgets fall and classroom sizes grow, it can become increasingly hard to closely observe every student in a classroom.

While the main goal of the Reflect system is to help teachers evaluate each other's teaching techniques, class clowns, beware. Technology like this could also mean paper airplanes, passed notes, and spitballs no longer go unnoticed.
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Teachscape Reflect

The two-year MET initiative, which began in 2009, is using the Teachscape Reflect to test multiple measures of teacher effectiveness in its work toward better teaching.

The goal is to use this technology to better understand education environments and give feedback that can be used to make for more effective teaching.

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