Giving parents evidence of progress

I propose all teachers in the lower grades of Elementary School should have a video camera at the ready in their classrooms. Not so much to take random videos of classroom events such as b-day parties or the occasional parade for some reason or other. Rather I propose video cameras so that providing families with video-evidence of their child’s progress becomes an end-of-year process of the school.

After all, it is in the lower grades where most visible change in children happens. There’s nothing stopping this practice from happening at all grade levels in matters such as language acquisition, art, music, public speaking, etc., but in the lower grades a child’s development in recognizing their body, manipulating things with their hands, coordination, language, speaking, reading, dancing, and even group participation and collaboration is most evident.

Every two-to-three weeks the classroom teacher, or associate teacher, will take a 1-5 video snippet of a child. Over time an e-portfolio showcasing particular abilities of that child will build. At the end of the year the family will get their expected report/grade card and will also receive a DVD with their child in the classroom as evidence of their progress – or lack thereof. I see this as a win-win for parents and the school. Parents get a magic time-lapse-window into the classroom and their child’s development while the teachers have evidence of their effectiveness in the classroom. Also, it is an additional tool to justify not inviting a family back the following year if need-be.

This should not serve as an evaluation tool for the administration with the teacher, but rather help the teacher observe and learn from their own practice. Having good video evidence of one’s teaching serves as much purpose as a viewfinder does for photography/video or headphones in audio recording; if you can’t see/hear what you’re recording you can’t tell how good/bad you are at it.

It would be a simple process to put into place. Each classroom should be equipped with a laptop with an integrated video camera and microphone. Teachers would get ongoing professional development to ensure they know what to do with the video generated, though initially there would be a part-time person available to walk them through the entire process of taking video, storing it, editing, and producing a final DVD. A mobile phone or a tablet would do just as well as any laptop in the classroom.

Of course, we must be aware of the legal framework around this practice. I know for sure in Spain we can do this as long as the video is not displayed in public without the family’s consent. I am sure as long as the video is safeguarded and stays within the classroom and only one to see it at the end of the year are parents that there may not be huge legal hurdles to overcome in other places.