Wednesday, January 9, 2013

SmarterCookie: A Great Source for Reflective Practice

I found this amazing site in my Twitter feed and had to blog about how I am going to use it with my student teachers (S/T) to promote deeper self-reflection and collaboration. 

 The Tool: Smartercookie is a video hosting site for teacher's to use to promote collaboration and reflection on lessons and teaching practices. Individual teachers can sign in for an individual account. For larger accounts they have great pricing and scaling plans for cohorts, schools, and districts. Registration was painless and the tutorials quickly sold me on the idea. With Smartercookie, I am able to upload 10 minute videos of my student teachers in direct practice. Moreover, it allows me to invite anyone I want through email to view and comment on the video. 

The Problem: I've been looking for a site to host the videos I record using my iPad while I am observing, but because of the file size I would have to use a pay service to host the videos. Currently I use where I have 50GB of space. is a file sharing site I use to share sources, pictures, evaluations, discussions, and limited video through community and private folders. Because of the data upload limit, I am only able to grab snippets of my student teachers in action, and student teachers are limited in their reflective practice.

The Goal: Self-reflection in any field is positive, but in the practice of teaching I see it, as do many others, as a key component to growth. My goal is to enhance the quality of the student teacher's reflection. Comments on the back of lesson plans tend to be list and less specific on practice and pedagogy. By implementing the Smartercookie component, it will allow me to create a safe environment that is secure and supportive while at the same time being collaborative, and hopefully creating a richer more rewarding opportunity for reflection and growth.

The Plan: Most student teachers have two placements, so the plan is developmental. During the first placement, I intend to maintain my own account where I will upload observation videos of my student teachers. For each uploaded video, I will have the observed student teacher complete a Video Reflection Form (still in the creation stage) that I created using Google Drive. Typically I see a student once a week, so potentially the student will have at least 7 opportunities for reflection during the first experience. Smartercookie allows me to invite through email other student teachers to view and comment on the video. After the first observation, all student teachers in my cohort will have access and be required to view one other member's video. During the second placement, I will have the student teachers create their own Smartercookie accounts where they will upload two videos a week to reflect on and share with the cohort. 

Now some foreseeable problems to address. Depending on the size of the cohort, a S/T could potentially spend over two hours watching and commenting on other member videos. This is not practical and becomes detrimental to the process. So, I will assign weekly grouping strategies to minimize the time component: same grade, same subject, complementary subjects, demographic difference, or pedagogical demands. Another issue we may run into is recording devices. Smartercookie has simple integrations for Smartphones and iPad, but S/T data plans may be prohibitive. I do have access to a few flip camera that I can loan out, but to make this a consistent endeavor, I will need to make sure some type of video recorder is available within the classroom. 

The cohort forms at the end of January. Stay tuned for updates and student responses. 

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