Edthena + BloomBoard = The Future of Teacher PD
In the aftermath of the Chicago teacher strike, teacher evaluation is front and center when it comes to education reform. Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum concerning how to measure the effectiveness of a teacher, I think everyone would agree that the current approach to teacher feedback and development is problematic. Administrators and team leaders are pressed to find time to observe each staff member; most teachers receive the minimum required observations, and meaningful follow-up that is based on feedback is rare.
When I spoke with Adam Geller, founder of Edthena, he emphasized the importance of giving teachers the opportunity to have an “a-ha!” moment when it comes to their individual strengths and weaknesses. Enter Edthena – an online platform that allows teachers to upload videos and receive feedback. Instead of trying to schedule a common time for supervisors to visit classrooms to conduct observations, teachers can record videos using any digital camera (smartphone, webcam, Flip video, etc.) and invite others, including principals and peers, to offer feedback. The comments can be time-synched to correspond with teachable moments within the video, allowing instructors the chance to review exactly what happened and why the feedback is relevant. According to Mr. Geller, one of the biggest praises users are sharing about Edthena is the ease in which multiple video formats are supported. Its simplicity and anytime availability help to remove some of the most significant barriers to teacher feedback.
Of course, receiving feedback is only one part of the process. How teachers utilize resources to address areas of growth is another challenge. If you recognize that you struggle with small-group instruction, where do you go to hone your craft and see master teachers at work? I highly recommend visiting BloomBoard. As a one-stop shop to manage the entire feedback and observation process, BloomBoard gives supervisors a simple interface to schedule observations, record notes, identify strengths and weaknesses, and ultimately recommend resources for improvement. BloomBoard has an extensive library of essays, articles, and videos that teachers can reference, covering topics from classroom management and school culture to effective assessment and parent communication tips. When I had the chance to connect with Jason Lange, the CEO and co-founder of BloomBoard, and ask about these teacher resources, he emphasized the quality of the tools and the ability for teachers to rate the effectiveness of the materials. While users are encouraged to recommend additional resources to add to the library, the BloomBoard team carefully curates all of the materials in order to ensure quality. The tracking system incorporated into the site allows teachers to receive continuous feedback and observe their development across several observations, watching their weaknesses turn into strengths.
Ultimately, what I appreciate most about tools such as Edthena and BloomBoard are the ways in which they begin to mimic the contemporary approach to student assessment; identifying trouble areas, offering several resources that address multiple modalities, and tracking growth across time. When these same principles are applied to professional development for teachers, master educators are created.
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