In 2016, Douglas ESD decided to invest in the IRIS Connect platform because our county in Oregon is pretty rural. We have a lot of teachers that are the only one in their grade level, or the entire science department and it gave us a platform to be able to capture and share our classroom practice over distance.
Most teachers long to collaborate with like-minded educators, and learn quickly by watching others in action, so video seemed like a good option. We purchased 2 kits as an ESD (Education Service District) to support our county.
Gaining staff buy in
To begin with, getting this program in motion was all about comfortability. Most teachers do not want to video themselves, unless they are already very confident in their practice. Since a lot of the teachers we wanted to develop were not so confident putting a camera in their classroom would only brings tension. The coaches at the ESD and surrounding districts knew that if we wanted it to be successful, we would have to lead by example and model it first, if we wanted any of our teachers to use it successfully.
Our first year was just using the tools as coaches; setting it up and recording ourselves whenever we were providing PD, or modeling lessons. This made it easy for us the following year when we asked teachers to start doing the same.
Capturing and sharing practice
Our second year was much more teacher-focused. Coaches and mentors would record teachers and use the platform to provide time-stamped feedback from the lessons. We also started capturing clips of exemplary teachers to show during our regional workgroups. If we were discussing trauma-informed practices, then we’d record a teacher building her students’ working memory. If we were discussing call and response cues, then we’d capture that, and so on. It made it far easier to capture and share practice with all the teachers in our District.
Our third year saw some innovative and interesting uses that teachers and admins created on their own.We had some professional learning communities (PLCs) created and teachers were recording each other practicing strategies and giving each other feedback. Not only were people beginning to feel comfortable with using it, but they were definitely seeing the benefits in the practice, as well as their confidence.
One of the principals even used it to capture behavior triggers between students and staff to spark conversations. Another staff member, a curriculum specialist, started recording themselves during training sessions in case any of their staff couldn’t attend and missed it.
Award winning video-based PD
In May 2019, we won an award for innovation from the OAESCD for our work in expanding PD tools throughout the county.
The purpose of the OAESD New Ideas in Education Awards is to both recognize innovative ideas, projects or programs initiated by member ESDs as well as to stimulate a culture of innovation and creativity within each Oregon ESD.
“Douglas ESD purchased this system to serve our component school districts” said Analicia Nicholson, Douglas ESD assistant superintendent. “Ryan was instrumental in not only supporting teachers as they tested out the program but in ensuring teachers truly embraced the program’s capabilities for professional development.”
To date, the system has been used by all 13 component districts. Douglas ESD has seen:
- Teachers recording themselves to share best practices in regional workgroups.
- A trauma-informed coordinator recording professional development sessions to meet the needs of all staff.
- Instructional coaches recording their clients and providing time-stamped feedback digitally.
- An elementary school principal recording behavior triggers between staff and students to target specific management strategies.
- Mentor teachers recording themselves and mentees for objective reflections of lessons.
- Professional Learning Communities modeling specific strategies and recording themselves to refine their teaching.
We are now in our fourth year and hope to continue see these ideas grow and deepen to connect teachers within our schools and collaborate within our county. While the measured impact so far has been solely qualitative, it can certainly be felt. Teachers are definitely more comfortable recording themselves and the school communities that have been using Iris Connect are overall more open to reflection and growing within their practice.