How Video Coaching Has Replaced Airplanes For Teachers in Alaska

For the first 13 years of teaching, it was routine for Angie Alston to hop on a plane to observe a teacher in another school.

This is because her school — Brevig Mission School — is located in a small, isolated town on the Seward Peninsula in Alaska. The town is closer to Russia than it is to more populous Alaskan cities such as Fairbanks or Anchorage.

“You are looking at three days of missed instructional time just to watch one day of teaching,” said Angie.  “It was just so complicated. There was a lot of resistance to the extra work of making substitute plans and getting out of the classroom. Even though I really believe that peer observations are valuable and important, I found myself not wanting to do it.”

Most schools are only accessible via plane

The Bering Strait School District has 15 schools across a physical area the size of the state of Minnesota. They serve nearly 1,800 students, almost all of whom are Alaskan Native Inupiat, Yup’ik, or Siberian Yup’ik Eskimo. Most of the schools in this district have only one teacher per subject, so visiting another school was previously the only option for observing someone teaching the same subject matter.

Now, instead of hopping on a bush plane to visit another school, Angie and her colleagues use Edthena to visit virtually.

Angie credits Edthena and the concept of video coaching as something that has given her time back.

“Enter Edthena, and suddenly I didn’t have all of this extra work anymore. All I had to do was set up my laptop or my phone and record whatever segment of my lesson I wanted to be observed,” she said. “I am not spending time making substitute plans for my classroom anymore. I can actually use that time to perform the observations and learn from my colleagues.”

Video coaching saves time and money

Not only has saved time been a premier benefit for Angie while using an online video coaching platform, but saved money for her school has been another unintended benefit from this service as well. The cost of booking travel to a separate town by plane is a burden that the district has seen lessened due to the use of video coaching, according to Angie.

Outside of the time and cost saving benefits of Edthena, Angie has also seen tangible progress in her own practice due to the use of video.

“The more you get comfortable with video as a medium,  the more you start to focus on your teaching, and on your students’ reaction to your teaching,” she said. “When you’re looking at a video, there is no way to make excuses for what you see because it illustrates how the students have responded to you. Being able to learn from this is just really valuable.”

Watch our full interview (8 minutes) in the video above. You can also learn more about Angie’s experience on her personal blog The Alaska Teacher.