Deepening Your Teaching Practice Using Video (C3 Connecting, Coaches, Cognition Podcast)

 

Getting started using video at your school and not sure how to begin?

Violet Christensen and​ Courtney Groskin are Learning Coaches with the Office of Professional Development in St. Vrain Valley School District in Colorado and hosts of the C3: Connecting, Coaches Cognition ​Podcast. They recently interviewed Edthena founder and CEO Adam Geller about video coaching and how best to incorporate using video in schools to support educators improving and deepening their practice.

You can listen to the full interview above, and we’ve shared some of the highlights below.

How did you get started in education and how did it get to where you are now with using video?

I started my career in education as a teacher. I was a science teacher in St. Louis, Missouri. And I think that experience as a first-year teacher really impacted how I’m doing what I’m doing today. I was in a building where my principal was very direct and open to me that she didn’t have a background in supporting a science teacher. I was a first-year teacher, and I was struggling. And my principal wasn’t well equipped to support me.

So, I’ve been there. I know what it feels like to want to be the best teacher you can be and not necessarily have someone that you can access to say, like, “Hey, how do you teach inquiry style learning in a middle school classroom or high school classroom?”

So, fast forward a little bit, I was on the national strategy team of a nonprofit, and thinking about how to build structures for coaching and support across lots of different contexts and even different states.

And suddenly, there was like a light bulb moment where I thought, “Wait a second, what if you could actually do some of the coaching, but actually do it online with video and a set of tools that enabled you to leave that really targeted specific feedback that you could do if you have been in there in person to tell the teacher what you had seen happening in his or her classroom?” So, that’s the seeds of how I ended up starting at Edthena.

How does using video improve teaching practice?

There’s actually research basis in the fact that teachers will actually improve by watching themselves on video. So, that’s even in an unstructured, unsupported context, that the actual process of just doing it and being able to step outside of yourself and really see yourself in some ways as others do, as your students do, as your coach or your colleague does. Because otherwise, we’re trapped inside our heads and looking at the world through our own two eyes.

But video gives us this incredible power to really observe ourselves. And that is shown too to lead teachers to change. Even if you don’t have some sophisticated coaching structure or willing coaches able to guide you in that process.

And video is not 100% representation of a classroom, I want to acknowledge that. I’m not suggesting that. But a video artifact of what happened is as close as we can get to enabling the teacher to directly observe themselves and come to a shared understanding about what is happening in their classroom, and that shared understanding could be between them and their students.

How do you build a culture of trust for teachers using video?

First of all, the important thing is someone who’s thinking about bringing video into a professional learning process or process where you are using video to strengthen, for example, the coach-teacher relationship, is talking about this idea of trust. Really acknowledging that, “What are the ground rules? We have to talk about that.” You can’t assume that someone feels safe just because you asked them to record a video.

So, I think talking about it first, and talking about how those videos will be used, talking about what they are used for, and more poorly, but they’re not used for, right? I’m hinting around, but I’ll put down my foot a little bit. It’s not that videos can’t be used for evaluative purposes. But our conversation here is about coaching and professional learning and growth, then that means those videos are not a high stakes evaluation, right?

And setting up that barrier and that mental wall and saying, “Look, if you put a video inside of Edthena, it’s for coaching, reflection, personal growth, and nothing else.” If you choose to do something else with that video, great. So, I think that’s the first big thing. The other thing is that I’m really adamant about. Even though there are some great examples of where this hasn’t been the case, to change teachers’ minds, but I’m really big on letting teachers record themselves. Don’t go in and do video to a teacher, right?

Part of this power is that they can actively participate. They can actively choose which video they’re sharing, which lesson they’re recording. That empowerment is so crucial to educators across so many things that happen in their professional day to day experiences. But especially in this when you’re asking them to trust you, to be vulnerable, to be open to a conversation about change, you don’t want to rob them of the ability to be in control, right?

I mean, for lack of a better word of saying. The other thing that I would say for building trust is, start small, start low risk, make it easy to get started. There might be any number of things happening in a classroom. And as you hinted, a lot of teachers have now experienced videoing themselves because they’re on their video conferencing platform of choice as part of teaching during the pandemic. So, it’s a lot easier for them to conceptualize being on video, being seen on video, pushing a record button inside of a piece of software.

Want to see more about how Edthena is being used? Check out our other posts here.

Transcript:

C3 Connecting, Coaches, Cognition, coaching with Courtney and Christensen. As the busy coach, you spend all day refueling, revamping and reflecting with educators. Now is the time to stop and recharge your batteries with some much-needed coaching for the coach.

 

Courtney Groskin:

Welcome back to another episode of C3. I’m Courtney Groskin. And I’m still here at a distance with?

 

Violet Christensen:

Violet Christensen.

 

Courtney Groskin:

Violet, what’s new in your world?

 

Violet Christensen:

Well, my world is back upright, which is really lovely. I am back on two feet. I look slightly less professional than normal with my tennis shoes on, but at least we got the dress, pants back in action. And I am back walking around. So, it’s just nice to be regaining some normalcy in my life. And my girls are back at school. They are very excited to see their teachers and be back learning in person. And just, I could barely hold them back the first day to walk slow enough to hobble with me to drop them off.

 

Violet Christensen:

So, that has just been really nice to regain some normalcy for sure.

 

Courtney Groskin:

And that’s awesome. We’re glad you’re up and running again.

 

Violet Christensen:

It’s just so nice and it’s interesting how you have coached me about self-care and about work and home balance for almost three years now, even prior to starting this podcast, and how if you don’t slow down, then life might actually make you stop like it did for me. And I think it was a great opportunity to stop and reflect, and find some more balance in my life, and be able to be even more appreciative for those little things every day.

 

Violet Christensen:

I think the year of COVID has made us all appreciate little things more. But even just being able to walk normal or take your kids to school is just such a blessing. And so, it’s been nice to be able to reflect and take some time to just be able to slow down intentionally instead of having life slow me down.

 

Courtney Groskin:

It’s amazing that universe just comes and hits you right in that face of that message sometimes. Funny how that works.

 

Violet Christensen:

Yeah, if you’re not going to listen, it’ll stop you right in your tracks. That’s for sure. So, I am glad. And I’m going to just take this as a learning moment and try to find more ways to slow down and be intentional about it. I even found one of my new favorite things, I found a new app that you take three seconds of video that day, and then it gets to be put together. And so, I’m not much of a journaler or just a person who can do a gratitude journal the same way.

 

Violet Christensen:

So, for me, because I’m so photo oriented, that has been something that has helped me remain mindful of my purpose and what I’m here for, which is my family and all those good little moments to capture. So, it’s been fun to collect little pieces of joy throughout the month, and be able to capture those at the end of the month to see what you got in front of you, right?

 

Courtney Groskin:

And what a gift for your girls as they get older to be able to look back and have all those little moments collected for them.

 

Violet Christensen:

It’s so fun. It’s their favorite thing to review. “Can we see our video of us?” And then, it helps them to be grateful as well. I talked about, well, “What did you see in there that you really appreciate? What was the most fun that you had?” And it helps as a good conversation point too. So, very fun. But what’s going on in your world, Courtney? What have you been up to lately?

 

Courtney Groskin:

Just sticking in my COVID bubble. We just got the announcement in Colorado the other day that educators have been moved up on the vaccination list to possibly as soon as next week. And we’ll be getting vaccinated through our districts. So, I’m really excited to see how that plays out and what the game plan is. And hopefully, in a month, we’ll have fully vaccinated educators amongst us. And I’m really looking forward to hopefully taking the edge off of some of that fear our educators have in the classroom.

 

Courtney Groskin:

We know it’s not foolproof, we’ll still be following social distancing and masking. But hopefully, just knowing at the end of the day that we had the opportunity to be vaccinated if you choose that, and that your percentage chance of getting COVID comes down exponentially, I think will help a lot of people sleep better at night. So, it’s exciting to watch the process from the testing of the vaccine to now the possibility of it actually ending up in my arm. So, that’s the day I’m looking forward to.

 

Violet Christensen:

I think you and quite a lot of educators will be put at ease both our hearts and our minds knowing that we have that option available. So huge.

 

Courtney Groskin:

Yeah, and it’s all about, I’m so thankful that we’re in a place where we have a district that is spoken up for us and is going to give us the opportunity to be vaccinated through them. I imagine the process will run quite smoothly, versus trying to get on these waiting lists and things, I’m hearing a lot of crazy stories. But you see how this past weekend was able to vaccinate 10,000 people in two days and is now pledging to ramp that up and do even more successful vaccination.

 

Courtney Groskin:

And that’s apparently who’s going to be running our vaccination protocol. So, I’m really looking forward too. For those of you that don’t know, I was an EMT in a former life when I was in college, so I’m a bit of a science medical nerd when it comes to stuff like that. So, I’m interested in logistics and things to see how that all play out. Aside from the excitement of getting those immunities from the vaccination.

 

Violet Christensen:

I love how you always keep us informed. We always know what’s going to be coming down the pike.

 

Courtney Groskin:

I don’t know if that’s a good or a bad thing, sometimes.

 

Violet Christensen:

It’s good to be well informed. It’s good to be well informed.

 

Courtney Groskin:

Speaking of well informed. Today, we have Adam Geller, who is the author of Evidence of Practice: Playbook for Video-Powered to Professional Learning, and the founder of Edthena. He started his career in education as a science teacher in St. Louis, Missouri.

 

Courtney Groskin:

And since 2011, Adam has overseen the evolution of Edthena from a paper-based prototype into a research informed and patented platform used by schools, districts, teacher training programs, and professional development providers. Adam has written on educational technology topics for various publications, including Education Week, Forbes, and edSurge. And he has been an invited speaker about education, technology, and teacher training for conferences at home and abroad.

 

Violet Christensen:

Adam, welcome to C3. We’re super excited to have you join us today. How are you doing?

 

Adam Geller:

I’m doing well. Yeah, so excited to be here.

 

Violet Christensen:

We are excited to dive in with you and learn more from you. So, thank you for being here. We wanted to start with getting to know a little bit more about you. Can you tell us about how you got into coaching and also your role in education?

 

Adam Geller:

Sure. So, I started my career in education as a teacher. I was a science teacher in St. Louis, Missouri. And I think that experience as a first-year teacher really impacted how I’m doing what I’m doing today. So, I was a first-year science teacher. I was in a building where my principal was very direct and open to me that she didn’t have a background in supporting a science teacher. So, I was there. I was a first-year teacher, and I was struggling. And my principal wasn’t well equipped to support me. So, I’ve been there.

 

Adam Geller:

I know what it feels like to want to be the best teacher you can be and not necessarily have someone that you can access to say, like, “Hey, how do you teach inquiry style learning in a middle school classroom or high school classroom?” So, fast forward a little bit, I was on the national strategy team of a nonprofit, and thinking about how to build structures for coaching and support across lots of different contexts and even different states.

 

Adam Geller:

And suddenly, there was like a light bulb moment where I thought, “Wait a second, what if you could actually do some of the coaching, but actually do it online with video and a set of tools that enabled you to leave that really targeted specific feedback that you could do if you have been in there in person to tell the teacher what you had seen happening in his or her classroom?”

 

Adam Geller:

So, that’s the seeds of how I ended up starting at Edthena. And maybe later, not the next question, you have to ask me at least one more question in between, maybe I can tell you how Justin Bieber plays into all of this. But the important thing here is, I got into coaching because I was a teacher myself.

 

Violet Christensen:

Oh, now you have this pulled in and intrigued to hear more.

 

Adam Geller:

Well, hopefully we’ll have your viewers pulled in to keep listening past at least one more question to hear why Justin Bieber has anything to do with coaching.

 

Courtney Groskin:

So, did you actually get the opportunity to use video in your classroom?

 

Adam Geller:

Yeah, I did, actually. But in some ways, a very different context. So, it wasn’t originally in a coaching context. I was recording videos so that students who were not in class for any number of reasons but especially for schools, for students that were an in-school suspension, it was just ripping me apart that they were there in school but not able to be in class with me. And so, I was recording my lessons and actually putting them online.

 

Adam Geller:

This is more than 10 years ago now, so that putting videos online was a big crazy thing. And I remember going home and having to compress the videos for hours, and then upload them and they be online in a way. The powerful thing was that, yeah, the videos were there for the students, but I had the opportunity to watch myself. And like many teachers, of course, the first things you start to notice are some of the more superficial things when you see yourself on video, “Oh, why am I standing there like that? Why am I wearing those types of clothes?

 

Adam Geller:

Why do I sound like that?” But very quickly, I was able to start to really analyze my practice. And hopefully, it made me a better teacher. And it allowed me to shorten those cycles of reflection and implementation to get something done.

 

Courtney Groskin:

You’re still ahead of your time, capturing video for students who couldn’t be physically in the classroom. And here we are in 2020, where now, every teacher across the country is experiencing this capturing of videos. And I wonder, it’s an interesting point, what reflection they’re getting just from hearing themselves on a video platform or seeing themselves in that light, and how that shifting their practice.

 

Adam Geller:

And you hinted at something really interesting there. There’s actually research basis in the fact that teachers will actually improve by watching themselves on video. So, that’s even in an unstructured, unsupported context, that the actual process of just doing it and being able to step outside of yourself and really see yourself in some ways as others do, as your students do, as your coach or your colleague does. Because otherwise, we’re trapped inside our heads and looking at the world through our own two eyes.

 

Adam Geller:

But video gives us this incredible power to really observe ourselves. And that is shown too to lead teachers to change. Even if you don’t have some sophisticated coaching structure or willing coaches able to guide you in that process.

 

Violet Christensen:

I love that idea that even if they’re just watching the video, they’re still going to be reflective in some manner. You’re always critiquing yourself in some way or getting in your own head of, “Oh, what’s happening here,” versus they’re just seeing the reality of what happened as opposed to how it felt as you were trying to teach it and balance the many, many tasks in what you’re trying to accomplish at one time while teaching, right?

 

Violet Christensen:

You actually see the reality, and be more reflective about it. You spoke in your book, Adam, Evidence of Practice, about building that culture of trust. And we know that so pivotal for video coaching. Can you share with our listeners some of your strategies for building this culture over time?

 

Adam Geller:

Yeah. So, I mean, I think that, first of all, the important thing is someone who’s thinking about bringing video into a professional learning process or process where you are using video to strengthen, for example, the coach-teacher relationship, is talking about this idea of trust. Really acknowledging that, “What are the ground rules? We have to talk about that.” You can’t assume that someone feels safe just because you asked them to record a video.

 

Adam Geller:

So, I think talking about it first, and talking about how those videos will be used, talking about what they are used for, and more poorly, but they’re not used for, right? I’m hinting around, but I’ll put down my foot a little bit. It’s not that videos can’t be used for evaluative purposes. But our conversation here is about coaching and professional learning and growth, then that means those videos are not a high stakes evaluation, right?

 

Adam Geller:

And setting up that barrier and that mental wall and saying, “Look, if you put a video inside of Edthena, it’s for coaching, reflection, personal growth, and nothing else.” If you choose to do something else with that video, great. So, I think that’s the first big thing. The other thing is that I’m really adamant about. Even though there are some great examples of where this hasn’t been the case, to change teachers’ minds, but I’m really big on letting teachers record themselves. Don’t go in and do video to a teacher, right?

 

Adam Geller:

Part of this power is that they can actively participate. They can actively choose which video they’re sharing, which lesson they’re recording. That empowerment is so crucial to educators across so many things that happen in their professional day to day experiences. But especially in this when you’re asking them to trust you, to be vulnerable, to be open to a conversation about change, you don’t want to rob them of the ability to be in control, right?

 

Adam Geller:

I mean, for lack of a better word of saying. The other thing that I would say for building trust is, start small, start low risk, make it easy to get started. There might be any number of things happening in a classroom. And as you hinted, a lot of teachers have now experienced videoing themselves because they’re on their video conferencing platform of choice as part of teaching during the pandemic. So, it’s a lot easier for them to conceptualize being on video, being seen on video, pushing a record button inside of a piece of software.

 

Adam Geller:

However, your first time out of the gate doesn’t need to be some huge lift, big observation, big, deep dive analysis. Start small. “Hey, Adam, why don’t you record the first five minutes of your lesson so we can just see how you’re teeing up objectives and Zoom behavior, expectations and norms for the beginning of a hybrid class?” I’m riffing there a little bit, but I’m just trying to say that first bite, take bite. Don’t try and gobble the whole thing all at once.

 

Violet Christensen:

I love your idea of don’t do video to a teacher of really letting them own that. And even just sometimes I find, like you were speaking of lowering that inhibition, and then turning it away from themselves and seeing what the students are doing first and then gradually building up and being willing to turn it down themselves overtime, almost that gradual release into video coaching is powerful, those small snippets.

 

Adam Geller:

Absolutely, I am very guilty of defaulting to saying, “Record a teacher.” I am guilty of saying that mainly because I am like teacher first, teacher first, teacher first. But I agree with you completely, that you need to be recording more than just a teacher when you talk about recording learning episodes.

 

Adam Geller:

Right? It is not about what is the teacher doing all the time. There’s such huge opportunity to use video. In the in-person classroom, I’d say put the camera near the kids doing small group work. And the Zoom Room classroom, I’d say, “Put it in the Breakout Room.” Right? But capture some of that student talk, and really use that opportunity to hear what students are saying. Like you said, what an easy way to build the on ramp to using video for a tool for reflection.

 

Courtney Groskin:

So, you touched on that a little earlier about the research base of why video is so important. Can you tell us a little more about why it’s so vital to put the video evidence at the center of professional learning or give teachers that mirror into their teaching?

 

Adam Geller:

I mean, I think that the real reason that… I mean, let’s even step away from the research basis, actually. Let’s talk about the world that we live in. We all for many years now have carried around high definition internet connected video cameras in our pockets. And it is completely normal in the course of a day for the average adult, let alone learner in one of our schools, but the average adult to have seen some internet content that was video-based.

 

Adam Geller:

That’s not by accident. Sure, the technology enables that. But we like video, right? It tells us so much more information than an image or an animated GIF image. So, I think there’s an aspect of this that’s like, “Okay, the world around us clearly is using video.” Then, “What else do I see in the world around me?” Like the idea of watching a sports game and having instant replay.

 

Adam Geller:

The way that if you are an athlete, you video your swim stroke and analyze your positioning in the water. So, video is used in those scenarios to, for lack of a better word, diagnose, understand, analyze, interpret. So, even just from a gut feeling, there’s this like, “Okay, so I see a lot of examples of video being used to help adults learn. Why don’t we do that in education?

 

Adam Geller:

Aren’t we supposed to be thoughtful about how humans learn?” A lot of times we talk about how students learn, but we also talk about how adults learn. We talk about professional learning and change management, and things like that. So, why aren’t we doing that? Right? So, I think it’s important to ask that of ourselves because it avoids needing to position the opportunity that video presents us as like this innovative, new whiz-bang, “Yeah, let’s do it because the researcher. Oh, let’s do it because we’ve never done it before.”

 

Adam Geller:

Maybe we should be doing it because it feels like, “Oh, yeah, obvious.” And then, we should absolutely justify why we’re doing it with the research. Right? The research does say that those video artifacts as these… and video is not 100% representation of a classroom, I want to acknowledge that.

 

Adam Geller:

I’m not suggesting that. But a video artifact of what happened is as close as we can get to enabling the teacher to directly observe themselves and come to a shared understanding about what is happening in their classroom, and that shared understanding could be between them and their students.

 

Adam Geller:

It could be that shared understanding between them and a colleague, on a team or in a department. It could be a shared understanding with a school leader or could be a coach, right? And I’m trying to avoid saying the word it represents a truth, right? But it does represent a clear set of facts that can be discussed, and it enables that conversation then about what teaching practice is looking like, or what student learning is looking like to be based in fact, rather than being based in remembrance.

 

Violet Christensen:

Can you explain about the idea of skill building sequence?

 

Adam Geller:

Yeah, yeah. So, skill building sequence is a strategy in the book that we have written about to give a name to the idea that there’s a linkage between having a video model or any model of what you would do, and doing the implementation in your classrooms. So, let’s roll back the clock five years. And some of your teachers are learning about the stand on your left foot method, right? And so, they went to a downtown workshop, and they watched somebody stand on his or her left foot, and then they practice doing standing on your left foot.

 

Adam Geller:

And then, they were let back into the classrooms, and they tried to stand on their left foot. And then, what happened? We don’t know. Nobody knows, right? And more importantly, the teacher didn’t know, where they standing on their left foot correctly? And so, skill building sequence really closes that loop of feedback between the example, whether it is an expert, or it could just be a colleague demonstrating the thing, right?

 

Adam Geller:

It doesn’t have to be an exemplar, it could just be an example. And building a representation in one’s mind about the thing you need to do. And then, putting it into practice inside of the learning environment where you’re the teacher. Documenting that with a video recording, and then being able to reflect on that implementation. Hopefully, I mean, I always advocate with others as possible.

 

Adam Geller:

But again, even being able to compare for yourself, how am I doing compared to that model that I was trying to implement. That side by side comparison is very, very powerful. So, that’s skill building sequence in a nutshell. And obviously, the nice thing with tools like Edthena is that you have a technical process and system to underpin moving all that data around, which are otherwise could present some logistical challenges for coaches.

 

Courtney Groskin:

Yeah, and that’s really what makes Edthena so powerful as a coaching tool, to be able to pull them and that data together in time, date, stamp it even and have that conversation all documented in there, it really brings it all together.

 

Adam Geller:

Good to hear.

 

Violet Christensen:

We’ve even been able to use it with some of our early career educators and the fact that it’s all recorded within Edthena, they’re able to almost coach and reflect with one another with some guiding principles. And then, we’re able to just help keep that process moving forward. So, that peer collaboration through Edthena is also a powerful tool because you can go back and reflect and come back with your coach, even if you’re with your teammate or your partner or someone in a job. It’s just that recording overtime and seeing your timeline of progress can be really helpful for people’s efficacy level for sure.

 

Adam Geller:

Well, I think you’re identifying one of the… you can call like a force multiplier or an unintended benefit of having a toolset like Edthena is that you as a coach are no longer restricted to the one on one style of coaching, right? You can coach a cadre of teachers to coach each other, right? Because ultimately, the system that you as a coach are a part of cannot… you can never hire enough coaches, right?

 

Adam Geller:

Every leader in a district says, “Oh, I wish I had double, triple, quadruple the number of coaches I have.” Right? So, there’s always this desire to have more coaches. Why? Because right now in a world where we’ve thought about coaching as in person, one to one as a very restrictive way of coaching, for lack of a better word of saying it, now we can rethink how coaches are using their abilities and efforts to amplify the changes that are happening among, like you’re saying, a whole set of teachers at once.

 

Adam Geller:

It’s like a coach on a team for a sports team, right? Rather than thinking of the instructional coach as the individual golf swing coach, right, you’re coaching that the whole team to achieve a goal together, which is I think more akin to what a school is really like. Because teachers that think of themselves as operating in isolation need to be having some other discussions about how schools work.

 

Adam Geller:

Anyways, I think let’s adjust our coaching to match how we actually think about serving students in our schools because they are in a school, they’re not in a classroom. They’re in a school environment, in a school community.

 

Violet Christensen:

It’s that meta coaching idea of, you’re coaching them to coach one another to build that capacity throughout your site and calibrating your reality versus the perception that we think or we’re feeling when we’re teaching in a specific lesson, right? You touched on this. Can you tell us more about how you might help someone who’s reluctant to this practice?

 

Violet Christensen:

We’ve heard this thread a little bit throughout our interview thus far. But how can you help them to be more open to these types of learning experiences? Or what do you draw upon when you’re trying to work with an educator who’s nervous about the video side and doing this reflective practice?

 

Adam Geller:

Yeah. I mean, I think that if we hold aside what I’ve said before, right, and let’s say you were asking me this fresh, you didn’t have any other context of what I’ve shared before, I would really break down the barriers to getting going into two buckets. One is, there is often a hesitation underlying the technology itself.

 

Adam Geller:

Because I mentioned, everybody’s watching videos on the internet, but most people haven’t uploaded a video to the internet. Maybe they uploaded a cat video, but they haven’t uploaded a 10-minute or a 15-minute or 20-minute video. And that can sound technically daunting until you’ve done it and realize that you can be successful. Just like with any technology, there’s some resistance, right? Because no teacher wants to get stuck on the technical pieces and look less competent to their colleagues. Right?

 

Adam Geller:

So, I think thinking about the technical experience as an important first barrier to the video reflection process, and building that, making that first experience low risk, right? So, we talked about recording the students, recording the beginning of the lesson in the “before times,” but I would suggest, I would say, “Look, the first thing you should have teachers do is do a classroom tour where they just walk around the classroom, and they narrate why they’ve set it up a certain way. And talk about what they hope the learning environment, how it will impact student learning.” Why is that so valuable? Because it’s really low risk, right?

 

Adam Geller:

There is no wrong version of that video. And it’s generative and productive for the actual coaching process, whether that’s colleagues doing a virtual visit, or an instructional coach doing a visit, it helps others have context for the classroom and learning environment. So, I think it’s not just low risk. It’s not a throwaway ask, right? It’s much more productive as an example, than asking teachers to upload a first video where they point the camera at their face and give you 90 seconds of what their teaching philosophy is or whatever.

 

Adam Geller:

That’s like, I don’t know, we don’t really need to do that. I mean, you need to know what people are thinking, but that’s not how you need to know what people are thinking. Okay. So, the first thing is the technical piece. I think the second piece is where we were talking about it before, where making sure they feel in charge, making sure that the trust is established. The ground rules, how will this be used? Making sure they feel safe, right? That the process doesn’t put them at risk. And risk can feel different to different people.

 

Adam Geller:

But I think communicating that, I mean, for example, from a technical perspective, one thing we’ve done with Edthena is this idea that you upload a video and it defaults to private. No one can see that video until you share it. You can share it, and then you can unshare it, right? That’s something on the technical side that we’ve taken a very firm approach on. And we do our best to communicate that to teachers, to communicate that the technology is helping to keep them safe.

 

Adam Geller:

And then, I think in the coaching relationship, make sure that you use those videos in a safe, lower risk way at first so that they don’t feel like the risks associated with having somebody talk about video with you are the same as if you had gone in in-person and only focused on everything that was wrong. And I’m not suggesting you need to focus on things that are right just to say like good job and mishmash the bad with the good, right? But I think it’s more like, you got to think about how you’re interacting with people.

 

Adam Geller:

Teachers are people, especially if we’re in a world where we’re maybe not sitting side by side in the same building anymore to talk about what we’re seeing in this video together. We just need to be really deliberate that we offer constructive praise and create those opportunities for them to start seeing avenues for improvement. There’s one other thing that I think an addendum to this, how do you keep people feeling good about video, which is, remember that video gives you, in some ways, all the information, right? It’s unfiltered.

 

Adam Geller:

So, in a world without using video, which I wouldn’t advocate to stop using video with teachers, but one of the biases that a coach or an observer brings to that conversation is that they’ve filtered out what information they’re going to report back to the teacher for the purposes of discussing it with the teacher. The video, everything’s there, which means that you need to be very deliberate and not trying to talk about everything.

 

Adam Geller:

Talk about a few things talk, focus on one area, focus on one segment, rather than trying to do the kitchen sink version of an observation and then somebody feels leaving overwhelmed, then that’s going to have created that negative experience. So, I think building those positive moments where they feel confident and secure and safe in doing a video reflection is really key.

 

Courtney Groskin:

There’s so many great parallels there that we do as students. You scaffold their learning, you build that trust with them, and then ask them to take risks. And it’s exactly the same with teachers. We have to build it with them slowly and build that trust at the same time. And then, the willingness will definitely come. Can you share with us a bit about the idea of video learning communities and how these might be implemented?

 

Adam Geller:

Yeah. So, I think the idea of a PLC is absolutely nothing new. And why our PLC is important… professional learning communities, for those who are unfamiliar and listening to this. They’re that opportunity to come and together and talk as colleagues. And it’s that structure of space and time.

 

Adam Geller:

A video learning community, VLC, really is saying, okay, in addition to thinking of your professional learning community as talking about student data or student outcomes, it’s really starting to really dig in and prioritize the idea of talking about the actual learning environments themselves, really using the evidence of learning, whether that’s students doing something, whether that’s teachers doing something. It’s all dependent on the particular focus of the professional learning community.

 

Adam Geller:

But making video a central unifying purpose of that, and that central activity of that. So, there’s an idea in the academic research that I want to pay a nod to in this explanation called video clubs, where you use a protocol to look at a video and talk about what you’re seeing. So, video learning communities are a video club idea, translated to the context and using that familiarity around PLC and saying, “Look, do the PLC, but this time with video.” So, there’s not much more, I guess hidden there in terms of a definition or explanation.

 

Adam Geller:

For those that are being introduced to this idea, I would hope that they would feel like, “Oh, yeah, I get it.” We do a PLC, but now we use a lot of video and we can spend our synchronous time reflecting on the asynchronous comments that we left each other, right? There are various ways to do it. But really using video as a central theme of discussing how is our community moving forward for our students.

 

Courtney Groskin:

And I really wonder in this time where teachers aren’t able to stop by and visit each other’s classrooms, if this would really help them feel connected by partaking in this club environment.

 

Adam Geller:

I mean, especially given that there’s this other layer happening for… I mean, I will paint with a broad brush here, but every teacher feels like a new teacher this year. Even if you’ve been in your school for 19 years, this year still feels like, you’re want to teaching all over again. Why is that? Because so many things have changed, right? I mean, I know in your district, you’ve got a hybrid model. Some districts are in fully virtual models.

 

Adam Geller:

Some are doing just a bunch of different configurations. And all these things are really having teachers question like, “Am I doing this right? Is this working? Is this effective?” And being able to see other representations of teaching right now is so important. And doing that work of seeing other representations of teaching and learning from your colleagues, I think really turns the flywheel of your ability to have impact with your students.

 

Adam Geller:

Because now, not only are you looking at ideas that you can maybe implement into your practice or reflecting on your practice and hearing about your practice from others, but it is in the context of… helping the people that you’re spending that time with, talking about what does practice look like right now actually are able to take that and implement that with the same set of students potentially.

 

Violet Christensen:

Absolutely. I’ve seen that with certain staffs where they’ll almost give a survey to themselves of what do you feel like is your area of strength? And what do you feel like is your area of need? And they almost make a chart that they could go triangulate, “Who could I go talk to? Is Courtney amazing in classroom management in a hybrid? Can I go bump into her room? At least know who I could ask to share some video with and be able to do some of those reflective practices as to how to elevate.”

 

Violet Christensen:

It’s amazing when they’re able to collaborate and be vulnerable with one another and have those deep, meaningful reflective conversations.

 

Adam Geller:

And you know what’s funny is that, I think that the use of video to answer that set of questions, right, that I would record myself and share my video with you, we’re doing it now because we have to. And I think there’s another important layer here as coaches and school leaders and district administrators, really thinking like, again, “Yes, absolutely, we should be driving forward fast on this idea right now because of the context.” But also, “Absolutely, let me bang myself against the head a little bit. Absolutely, we should continue doing this.”

 

Adam Geller:

Because this is the best way to ensure that we can amplify what’s working faster in our network of teachers. It is absolutely silly to put in your head a line of thinking that says, “Well, teacher Smith is a reliable source of exemplar teaching. She’s very flexible. She is very innovative. But next year or two years from now,” hopefully next year, “but when everyone goes back to normal, right, then we’ll make sure that we send teachers to go observe her in the classroom.”

 

Adam Geller:

How silly? How wasteful? Because not only is that absolutely inefficient, not only is there lost learning time for the teachers who leave their classrooms, not only is it logistically complicated, but you’re just giving away the ability to capture what’s happening right now and continue to learn from it over time. Don’t pass up this good opportunity to keep learning.

 

Violet Christensen:

Exactly. And it seems like it’s a year where we have more focus on that innovation and that flexibility. So, what better time to actually capture it, hit record while it’s easy to hit record, we’re already videoing anyway, and decide what we want to share with others and what we don’t, and just be able to be reflective in our own way. I always noticed that with video more than any other form of data, you have more cognitive shift.

 

Violet Christensen:

You see people’s face literally change when they’re watching their video back or when they see the student have a breakthrough on video. I’ve never seen a sheet of data have the same the reaction across people’s face that you can see the cognitive shift. So, just looking at that as a powerful data point as well is really important. And I want to drill in a little further with you. What unique ways are you seeing video and Edthena leverage during this pandemic year of teaching? What have you seen that’s different this year?

 

Violet Christensen:

Or how it’s being leveraged in a new way?

 

Adam Geller:

Well, I mean, I think one of the biggest changes is, what do the videos look like? I mean, a year ago, videos work almost all of in-classroom, in-person teaching. And today, videos are looking a lot different. The ability to record inside of that video conferencing system, I mean, I know we’ve pointed it out as, “Oh, yeah, it’s an obvious, right?” But it’s an obvious several months into the school year.

 

Adam Geller:

But even so, I have personally had conversations with district leaders where they’re trying to reconcile, like, “Oh, we don’t have in person teaching anymore. So, how do we use Edthena for our coaching process?” And it’s like, “What do you mean? It’s so much easier to have a coaching process that uses video artifacts now, because all you had to do was just click record. You don’t even have to set up a camera.” So, I think that’s one of the ways is different.

 

Adam Geller:

It’s surprising that we haven’t really… I mean, in this conversation, we’re accepting it as a widespread truth. And I think that for a lot of folks, there is still a bias that, “Oh, my coaches go in person. So, now they’re going to go synchronously to the 10:00 a.m. on a Tuesday classroom session.” And I think we’re working with school leaders and district leaders to really drill into that, and like, “Wait a second, if every teacher is teaching Tuesday at 10:00 a.m., it’s even less possible now for your coaches to do synchronous observation.

 

Adam Geller:

So, why are you putting up that mental barrier to just letting it happen?” And so, I think that’s a place where we’ve been working to just help people see that in some ways easier. Another thing that we’ve been focused on is actually just talking about, again, some of the strategies, like video learning community, like skill building sequence that you asked me about, and translating that to a world where you’re using virtual interactions between students and teachers.

 

Adam Geller:

So, one that we’re working on currently and probably will be available by the time folks are listening to this, we’re actually talking about the idea of virtual office hours. So, how powerful that is as an idea, of course, right now, and students may have questions, “I want to ask teachers,” and you need to build student-teacher relationships in this, a long list of reasons why this is a good idea as a strategy in a school setting, but actually saying, “Wait a second, those office hours, you could record them.

 

Adam Geller:

And they could be powerful opportunities to observe student talk and get a rich source of data then for the teacher and the coach to really talk about like, ‘Well, what are students thinking?'” And so, helping connect the dots between what was important before, listening student understanding as part of a lesson, and thinking creatively about how you’re going to do that using the technology in some ways to make it easier, as long as you know or have the idea that it could be possible.

 

Courtney Groskin:

Yeah. So, really leveraging the moment we’re in and having this technology in our hands, where’s that going to further video and the new coaching model that we’re using, it’s an exciting time when you can step back and look at the progress.

 

Adam Geller:

And I think I’m getting better at asking, what was important to you before the pandemic started? And drawing the line between those values that someone had for their classroom or their school or their district, and how they’re probably still the same values today. Because I think we’re in a mode where we’re so used to talking about how everything has changed.

 

Adam Geller:

And sure, absolutely, some things are changed. But maybe instead of being caught in this feeling of everything has changed, we should really find out if the things that were important to us are still important to us. Because in fact, those things may have stayed the same. And whether that’s an operational priority of what kind of things you’re focusing on as part of coaching conversations, or just school and community values, whatever it is, those truths are probably still true.

 

Adam Geller:

And if you can anchor against those, then it’s not about, we’re using technology in a new way, or we’re teaching differently, it’s just really about continuing to live that same set of priorities and vision and mission as a community of learners and teachers and orient… it gets anchoring against that, right? So, rather than orienting it against the change, orienting it against what’s still the same, you got to be… adapting is hard, it takes work, it takes effort, it takes energy, but adapting how we continue to live that goal.

 

Courtney Groskin:

Thank you for sharing that. I think that’s something that educators and coaches need to hear over and over again because it’s easy to get stuck in that dialogue of what has changed versus anchoring against that. I really appreciate it. But I’m dying to know about Justin Bieber and how this all ties in.

 

Adam Geller:

And that was definitely more than one questions. I think you were tricky, trying to make sure your listeners stay. Okay. So, the idea for Edthena happens because of Justin Bieber. So, this is 2009, maybe. And I mean, it’s funny because this just isn’t how you share things anymore. So, a “viral post” actually was a link to a blog article that someone had shared via email or something. And the blog post was, “Listen to this Justin Bieber song slowed down 300x.”

 

Adam Geller:

And I went to this webpage, and it was the first time I had seen the SoundCloud music player. And in a lot of folks, I’ve heard of SoundCloud, maybe if you go to their website, they’ve got a music player that allows the audience to comment at specific moments in time on audio. It’s one of the kind of things that they offer. And I just, that was the moment where I was having this aha related to the thing that I was listening to, right? Because the aha was hidden inside of this audio file.

 

Adam Geller:

And so, at two minutes and 12 seconds, when it sounded like for some reason a symphony coming in unison… or I don’t really remember, right, but it was very symphonic and grand. And you can mark that. You can really highlight that moment. And it was that combined with the other context of what was changing technology, there was at the time flip cameras were the new hotness. So, it was like, “Okay, if people got flipped cameras to record the videos, and then we build tools where you can leave comments on the videos.”

 

Adam Geller:

Of course, technically, we had to figure out how to get the videos online and all that stuff. But that was the aha for me, that I was like, “Okay, maybe then you don’t have to have the right person in the right place at the right time in order to do that observation. You could talk about what’s happening in classrooms, and do it asynchronously so that the time you do spend together, you focus it on making meaning about what you saw, rather than trying to convince each other about what you saw.

 

Violet Christensen:

My mind is blown. It all goes back to the Bieber, oh my goodness. So, being able to slow down his video or his sound and being able to hear those insights, and it just popping off in an educational realm for you. That’s unbelievable.

 

Adam Geller:

Yeah.

 

Courtney Groskin:

[crosstalk 00:47:16] just a little bit more now.

 

Adam Geller:

At the time, I would have told you I hadn’t heard a Justin Bieber song. But now, I absolutely have heard Justin Bieber songs, not ashamed to tell you. The Biebs, a big influence on what I do every day.

 

Courtney Groskin:

Wow.

 

Violet Christensen:

He started [crosstalk 00:47:34] your right to Edthena. Unbelievable. Well, we want to be able to hear a little bit more from you. Where can we learn more from and with you, Adam? And what other projects do you have coming down the pipe to share with us?

 

Adam Geller:

Yeah. So, if you’re interested in resources about coaching, reflection, how to use video as part of that process, head to the Edthena website. We’ve got a blog there. So, go to www.edthena.com. That’s E-D-T-H-E-N-A.com. So, you go to the blog. We have really regular posts where we talk about things like using the office hours to hear student talk. We talked to a bunch of experts and summarize those on our blog as well. Monthly resources for coaches. Go, go.

 

Adam Geller:

Go check it out. Also, in addition, if you want a more in-depth resource, you were mentioning the book that we have, so that’s evidence of practice. You can buy that at your favorite online retailer. We also have some blog posts that highlight some of the big ideas and some of the strategies from that. So, if you’re cruising around, you can find it on the internet for sure.

 

Adam Geller:

And the other thing is that as part of our response to the pandemic and really trying to create resources that were valuable for, certainly for teachers, but also for coaches and school leaders, we have been working on a project called, PL Together. And the idea is that we interview education experts out there.

 

Adam Geller:

So, we’ve talked to Deborah Ball, we’ve talked to Jim Knight, we’ve talked to Elena Aguilar, and really just trying to learn from them about how to adapt some of their ideas that maybe we’re familiar with, but to a COVID and pandemic context. So, they’re all bite sized chunks, 10 to 12 minutes, easy to listen to a bit here and there. And you can find that at pltogether.org.

 

Violet Christensen:

What a wealth of amazing resources for us to dive into. We love that, and we’ll be linking all those things for you guys to be looking at further. And Adam, we’re going to jump to the 30 seconds rapid fire questions today. So, if you can think, what is your tagline or bumper sticker for coaching?

 

Adam Geller:

So, I did not come up with this, but I think that you got to ask, how are you doing really? And making sure that you create that opportunity for someone to feel like they can tell you authentically what’s important from their perspective, not from your perspective.

 

Violet Christensen:

Absolutely. How many times have we have educators say thank you for just asking, how really am I? I mean, what a beautiful way to start a coaching conversation. And lastly, tell us what is your secret coaching superpower or your go-to move?

 

Adam Geller:

I, and almost all conversations by asking, is there anything else I can be helpful with? Similarly, depending on the context, sometimes context dependent, I might say, “Are there any questions I should be asking, but don’t know to ask?” So, either of those, but often in a coaching style conversation, I would say, it’s more in the realm of, “Is there anything else I can be helpful with?” Because again, I think it creates that, it opens the door for something else to be shared that’s on the other person’s list that they may not have revealed.

 

Adam Geller:

And it’s again, oriented around this idea of supporting and enabling someone else’s success as, as you said, that coach role, right? You’re supporting someone else, you’re not doing the work for them necessarily. You’re trying to help them be successful. And it just gives them an opportunity to highlight any additional barriers that may not have already been talked about.

 

Violet Christensen:

It’s beautiful, the bookends of the conversation, starting with the social emotional, how are you, and ending with, how else might I be able to help you? Adam, thank you so much for joining us today. It was wonderful to be able to have you join us today and share so many of your wonderful insights with our listeners.

 

Adam Geller:

Thanks so much for having me. I really appreciate it. You guys are building this set of resources for coaches. It makes difference. You guys make a difference with your teachers, too. I didn’t get a chance to say that, but I know that since I’ve had an opportunity to interact with you guys before. So, thank you.

 

Courtney Groskin:

Thank you.

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