The Hobart and William Smith Teacher Education Program has received funding as part of the Mellon Presidential Discretionary Grant for the digital pedagogy project, “Increasing Mindful Practices Among Classroom Teachers (IMPACT).” The Mellon Presidential Discretionary Grant is bestowed on behalf of Hobart and William Smith, with the assistance of the Office of the Provost.
Utilizing video and Web 2.0 technologies, students will be able to examine and critically study their own classroom practices. Students in the education program will form a community with their peers online, providing constructive feedback and reflections on best practices using videotaped sessions of their own classroom instruction.
“Reflection has always been a part of what we do, but this is an opportunity to use technology to develop that skill further in our students,” explains Instructor of Education Sherry Gibbon.
The idea grew from recent changes to the New York State Education policy, which requires that all students undergoing certification be video recorded for review. Despite the mere practicality of the project, however, IMPACT is also the manifestation of deeper philosophical values of the education department – those that emphasize self-reflection and critical problem solving skills.
Funding will allow for the purchase of iPads and other recording equipment. Using the technology VoiceThread, students will be able to record their teaching on an iPad, directly upload the video and get immediate feedback from their peers. The cloud-based program will allow its users to respond with both text and voice notes at any point in the video.
“Having that real-time feedback is incredibly powerful. We all learn by doing, by sitting back and thinking,” says Associate Professor of Education Mary Kelly. “This is a chance to integrate technology into our curriculum, but is also a means of encouraging the skill of reflection.”
Kelly and her colleagues believe IMPACT will also allow students to develop the critical skill of peer review. Being able to present thoughtful – and useful – feedback is an integral piece of being a team member and effective educator.
Prior to the implementation of IMPACT, all teacher-education students will undergo training on how to provide feedback. “This is a perfect chance not only to develop the skill of generating positive feedback, but it also affords students the chance to see best practices in action,” says Jennifer Harris, director of elementary education. “I believe that the more you are able to step back to see yourself and to see others, the better teacher you will become.”
Members of the department hope that in addition to building practical knowledge, having experience teaching in front of a camera will empower students when they reach that point in the certification process. “This will allow students to have that comfort well beforehand, making the actual certification a less high-stakes prospect,” says Gibbon.
“Mellon grants provide universities with the opportunity to incubate ideas and try new things,” says Kelly. “So much communication takes place online, it would be wonderful to use that technology to our advantage. I don’t see anyone else doing this, piloting a program like this. We’re excited to see how it works and to share our experience with others.”
The education department plans to roll out the program over the next year, beginning with the eight students this semester, eventually expanding to include the 150 students enrolled in the Teacher Education Program.
In the photo above, Kathryn Moloney ’13, MAT’14 teaches a class at West Street Elementary School in Geneva, N.Y.