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.
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.
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.
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.