Author: R


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.

About Life, Play

Someone Like You – Original Voice Recording – Shone

Shone is a remarkable student in my Digital Moviemaking grade 12 class. She first came to me with the idea of being able to voice her own song recording to then make a music-video for. As this is part of our class projects I told her I’d be happy to help her record. She took me to task. After several short-and-some-looong recording sessions she has put together this video music to Adele’s Someone Like You hit. Shoe provided the pre-recorded piano track and she sang her own version of the song. She used the track to back the video story she tells in the following video:


Making the switch to Vodafone phone system on the cloud


Yet another addition to our cloud-holdings…

Our campus was a normal wired campus. We had all ES classrooms wired to have a phone, as well as all administrative offices. MS and HS classrooms did not have a phone, and this presented a safety issue should one of the students need assistance. After some time investigating whether it made sense to take advantage of the already existing networking cabling in all classroom and add a Cisco IP telephone system on top of it, it became clear this would be a very pricey solution. I love Cisco’s IP telephone system, but frankly it is a bit much for a school our size and with our basic communications needs.

I had seen a system in Mexico some years ago that allowed many flexible options to be configured online via the Telmex configuration application online. It looked great, but at the time it was not mature enough to contract where I was working. Vodafone came to us last spring showing us a system very similar where all phones are regular office-type telephone sets with one major difference; the have a SIM instead of cabling. In essence the whole system is a set of mobile phones which look like regular office phones. All they really need is an electrical outlet to ensure the battery is charged, while the connection is via 2/3G.

Since this past summer we’ve been using Vodafone’s system, and it has proven to be the best solution given our across-the-street expansion project and our mobile administrative staff. A virtual network is set up where all our phones are interconnected. Calls from one of our school-owned lines to another school-owned phone cost fractions of pennies, and local land-line calls are also very low cost. Calls from our phones to other mobile phones get a preferential fee, thus making our system much cheaper than running our old traditional wired phone system with about half the phone lines available. Now we are paying a much less for about 3-times the amount of phones on campus, since all our MS and HS classrooms and all additional administrative offices are now connected by this system. Our administrative team have smartphones. The great thing about this is that office staff need only dial a three-digit extension to reach them as all phones either have a short three-digit extension along with their normal “long” mobile phone number. So parents do not call phones inside classrooms, whenever an outgoing call is placed using a classroom telephone out school phone number is shown in the caller ID information. Roaming, outgoing, incoming, SMS, internet, extension number and a number of other configuration options can be manipulated online. Billing is also handled online. When summer comes, we’ll go online to disable all phones in classrooms that will not be in use, just to be sure we’re not leaving the system open.

One of the major drawbacks, as with any cell phone, is that some times we get hit with bad reception and calls may be dropped. It is not a major issue, but it does get frustrating. Vodafone is carrying out a site-study to ensure we are enough capacity in our area for the number of phones we are using day-to-day.

In all, I am very pleased with the system.